Susan Whitfield writes Life along the Silk Road based on character stories occurring between the eight and tenth century, all living at different times. She writes this history for several reasons. First, she writes it to change the negative perception of the history of Central Asia that we know through the annals of its neighbors. By explaining the history of the region through the eyes of its own occupants, it rids the history of any distorted views from neighboring civilizations. She uses the comparison of trying to examine the life of the Atlantic Ocean by studying the ecology of Europe. Another perception Whitfield attempts to overcome is that of the present day Silk Road. Today, it is largely Islam, and it is occupied by Turkic Uighurs and Chinese colonists. During the time of the book, it is occupied by Indo-European people who were largely Buddhist.
Another reason she wrote this novel is simply to tell of the extremely eclectic history of the area. The Silk Road resulted in interaction between numerous religions, languages, and people. Africans, Semites, Turks, Indians, Chinese, Tibetans, and Mongolians were a few of the people you may have come across on the Silk Road. Religions such as Manichaeism, Judaism, Zoroastrianism, Islam, Nestorian Christianity, and Buddhism were the dominant religions you might encounter. So the people were very diverse, and the trade of the Silk Road was the one unifying factor between all these different cultures.
Another minor reason she wrote the book was to explain the intense conditions that travelers faced on the Silk Road. For many, it was an epic journey. People would travel as far as 3,000 miles through many geographical obstacles. In one trip, one might encounter the cold and snow of the mountain ranges, the dry heat of the desert, or the wetness of the marshes. Explaining this entire history through the eyes of several individuals makes it more interesting for those who find straight histories a little on the...
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