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  1. The Extraordinary Enigmatic: Kathryn Davis’s ‘The Silk Road’ - The Millions
  2. Curtis Green Shares Silk Road Experience
  3. Italy joins China's New Silk Road project

The Extraordinary Enigmatic: Kathryn Davis’s ‘The Silk Road’ - The Millions

He placed them in the mouth of the stone horse, who tossed her mane and ate the red berries. The boy climbed on her back and the horse sprang forward. Through the valley of fire they passed, and though the flames licked about the boy and his skin and hair were scorched, not a flicker of fear showed on his face. Over the cruel, churning ocean they galloped, where the waves towered high and thundered about them and the wind whipped the youth's skin raw with its sharp, icy breath.

But he neither shuddered nor cried out. Then, looming ahead of them, he saw the Sun Mountain at last, rising golden and glowing on the far shore. On the slopes of the Sun Mountain lay a grand palace. As the horse drew nearer, the youngest son thought he could hear tinkling laughter and musical voices. He dismounted and stepped inside the palace, where his eyes fell at once upon a group of sun maidens. They were the most beautiful women that he had ever seen.

Like shafts of light they danced about the hall, their gentle laughter echoing sweetly. Then he saw something hanging on the far wall that caused a wave of joy to sweep over him. It was none other than his old mother's brocade! At this very moment she lies wrapped in a grief that eats away at her for the loss of her brocade. Once it brought her such joy, but now, without it, she will surely die.

We, too, were spellbound by its beauty.

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The youngest son looked about the room again and noticed for the first time a silver loom standing in the middle of the hall. On it was stretched a copy of his mother's brocade. The sun maidens ushered the youngest son to a table at one end of the hall. Sweet fruit and cool wine were brought to him. He was hungry and ate quickly.

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The wine made his head heavy and soon he fell into a deep sleep. While the boy slept, the maidens continued to work on into the night. A large pearl hung from the ceiling and they worked by its pale glow. One maiden worked more quickly than the others. She completed her part of the brocade and stood back to admire it.

Curtis Green Shares Silk Road Experience

But as her eye moved from the copy to the original brocade, her heart sank. For it was clear that the old woman's handiwork was far superior. How wonderful it would be if she could live in a place like the one in the brocade, the maiden thought to herself. Picking up a needle and thread, she quietly approached the old woman's brocade. Then, while no one was looking, she embroidered a figure standing by the pond—a girl just like her, with a bright pink dress and long black hair. Much later that night, the youngest son awoke. He was surprised to find the hall empty.

But there, by the light of the pearl, he could see his mother's brocade and not far from it the uncompleted work of the sun maidens. The boy walked over to his mother's brocade. He stood there running his fingers over the silky fabric. He thought of his poor, ill mother and how pale and frail she had looked when he had last seen her.

Fearing that she might die before he returned with her precious brocade, he suddenly snatched up the cloth and ran from the hall. The horse was waiting for him patiently outside. In the dark of the night, the two of them stole quickly away. Back across the icy ocean and the valley of fire they flew until they were once again standing outside the cave at the bottom of the mountain. They were greeted by the old woman. She reached up and helped the youngest son dismount from the horse. Then, taking from the horse its two front teeth, she replaced them in the boy's mouth.

Instantly the horse turned back into stone. Finally she presented the youngest son with a pair of deerskin moccasins, wished him well and sent him on his way. Before he knew it, the magic shoes had whisked the boy straight to his own front door. He ran into the house and up to his mother's bed.

But they would focus on, usually, assemblages of objects, rather individual pieces. Susan Whitfield has with Silk, Slaves, and Stupas: Material Culture of the Silk Road extended this way of presenting history and given it a more strictly academic approach. The most interesting of these, at least to the layperson, are those with some humanity to them, those than one feels had passed from hand to hand and perhaps used along the way. The woman was probably a member of the Xiongnu elite, steppe people who are now commonly believed to be the same as the Huns who later sacked Rome.

The earrings might be of Chinese or steppe manufacture or possibly both and illustrate the contacts between the two peoples and ways of life. The next item is a Hellenistic glass bowl found in a tomb South China; its origin is uncertain but the best guess seems to be the Levant. Although the Chinese did make glass, Whitfield notes that it had an on-again, off-again history. The reasons are unclear; some speculate that high-fired pottery filled the same functional and esthetic need as glass.

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  • A must read. Beautifully written and heart-rending, this has a magical setting with a real sense of period. Dinah Jefferies has once again created a gloriously atmospheric and tension-filled novel. Immensely enjoyable, poignant and compelling. My ideal read; mystery, love heart-break and joy - I couldn't put it down. The ideal book Dinah Jefferies was born in Malaysia and moved to England at the age of nine. Her idyllic childhood always held a special place in her imagination, and when she began writing novels in her 60s, she was able to return there - first in her fiction and then on annual research trips for each new novel.

    She lives in Gloucestershire. For the latest books, recommendations, offers and more. By signing up, I confirm that I'm over View all newsletter.

    Italy joins China's New Silk Road project

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