The remarkable story of the world's oldest printed book begins in a meditation cave on the edge of the Gobi Desert. In 1900, a monk who guarded the sacred Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in western China discovered a hidden library that had been sealed for more than a thousand years. When explorer Aurel Stein arrived during a dangerous and secret journey in 1907, he persuaded the monk to part with some of the treasures, including a copy of the Diamond Sutra - dated AD868. Printed 500 years before Gutenberg's famous Bible, the discovery has illuminated the spread of Buddhism along the Silk Road and coincided with the growing appeal of this ancient tradition in the West. The Diamond Sutra, a key teaching of the Buddha, has influenced Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation and continues to inspire the Dalai Lama.
Written by respected journalists Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters, Journeys on the Silk Road is an explorer's tale, a literary investigation, an evocation of the travelling power of the book and of the impact of a spiritual tradition that has resonated with the modern world.
In 1907, Hungarian explorer and archeologist Aurel Stein and his terrier, Dash, reached a remote Chinese cave housing a cache of ancient Buddhist scrolls. The grotto had been sealed off in the 11th century, and was being guarded by a Tibetan monk who allowed Stein to remove several specimens, including a woodblock-printed copy of the Diamond Sutra dating back to 868 A.D.; it is the world s oldest printed text. Morgan and Walters s narrative is a captivating biography of the intrepid Stein, an intriguing history of the Sutra and the political and social upheavals that surrounded it, and an enthralling travelogue in its own right. Stein's expeditions across scorching deserts and through frigid mountain passes are described in detail, as is the journey of the Diamond Sutra from Stein's possession, to the British Museum in Bloomsbury (where, ironically, it was consigned again to a cave of sorts the museum s basement), to a stint in Wales during WWII when Britain funneled its most precious treasures out of the country for safekeeping. Both experienced journalists, the authors do an impeccable job of bringing readers into the action and situating the story in a broader though no less riveting historical context.