I have always been fascinated by the Silk Road, and the adventurers who travelled along it, often taking their lives into their own hands when doing so, but somehow managing to go places and see things many others hadn’t.
The highlight on that remote road for me has always been the Dunhuang Thousand Buddha caves on the edge of the Gobi desert, which is often referred to as the Longest Art Galley in the World, and about which I have often posted videos about on my Dharma Documentaries site.
In the early 20th century the Hungarian-born archeologist Aurel Stein traveled all along the Silk Roads seeking signs of the ancient Buddhist cultures that used to reside there, and almost single handedly managed to open up many lost civilisations.
Almost as far east as he got was to the Thousand Buddha caves in Dunhuang, where he discovered a recently found treasure trove, mainly of manuscripts, but also of ancient paintings on silk and paper. Many of these he brought back to London and the British Museum.
He often wrote a popular account of his expeditions and the one in which he described his finds at Dunhaung is included in Volume II of his Ruins of Desert Cathay. which is an amazing account of his journeys.
After he had brought back his collection they were given a long scientific description in his Serindia, and he later wrote an introduction to some of the most significant of his finds under the title The Thousand Buddhas.
It is a version of this latter work which I have prepared for online publication now. In this new version I have added many new colour photographs, and sometimes been able to include more materials than Stein himself could do, given the costs of colour reproduction on paper in those days.
The work really enabled me to get a close up look at some of the finest works of art that Stein managed to collect, and it has been a wonderful experience to look at these works in detail through the eyes of trained experts in the field.
Unusually for my Photo Dharma site this work contains long descriptions and discussion of the works involved, something I have become more interested in preparing as I have been working on the site, and I hope to prepare some further works of this sort soon.