The Silk Routes

From the ancient former capital of Xl'an, famed for the modern rediscovery of the Terracotta Warriors, trade routes ran in all directions, but most famously (because they were given a clever name in the 19th century) west and northwest through Gansu and Xinjiang, and on through the Middle East. Under the control of Tibetan, Mongol, Indo-European, and Turkic peoples more than of Chinese, these regions are still populated with Uighurs, Tajiks, Kazakhs, Tibetans, and others, some in tiny oasis communities on the rim of the Taklamakan Desert which seem completely remote from China. The Silk Routes are littered with alien monuments and tombs, and with magnificent cave-temple sights such as Dunhuang, which demonstrate China's import of foreign religions and aesthetics as much as the wealth generated by its exports of silk.

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