Follow the Silk Road, Book by Book

Compiled by our contributors, a studying checklist for recreating the historical commerce route from the consolation of residence.

This yr, T’s spring Travel difficulty is devoted to simply 5 tales, every an account of its author’s journey alongside a special part of the Silk Road — the historical community of commerce routes that till the 15th or 16th century spanned some four,00zero miles of the globe, from Central Asia throughout the Middle East to Southern Europe, and shaped an important conduit for each new commodities and new concepts. While venturing to faraway locations would possibly look like a distant risk now, a yr after this difficulty started to take form, as we reckon with the world pandemic, these items are a strong reminder of our innate need to maneuver and discover.

This starkly beautiful, unsettling film, set in the desolate reaches of the Huangtu Plateau in rural Shaanxi Province, was a breakthrough in Chinese cinema: Elliptical and true to the sufferings of life in the countryside, it shows peasants unexalted by Communism. Half the glory is the work of the cinematographer, the Xi’an-born Zhang Yimou, who imbues the landscape — thirsty and relentlessly open — with a kind of fatalism.

Alongside Chen, Zhang is the most heralded of China’s fabled fifth generation of filmmakers. He returned to Shaanxi, where he was born, for this film about a village woman, heavily pregnant, who stubbornly travels across the province to fight for justice for her injured husband. The film was shot in winter, in subzero temperatures, and many of the street scenes were captured with a concealed camera, giving them a documentarian sting.

In 1998, the American cellist Yo-Yo Ma started to wonder if the Silk Road could offer a model for an alternate form of globalization, in which strangers from the lands crossed by ancient trade routes might make a new kind of music out of the encounter of different cultural traditions. This documentary spotlights the individual journeys of musicians in Ma’s ensemble, including the Chinese pipa player Wu Man, who says, “There is no East or West; there is just the globe.”

Recommendations by Ligaya Mishan.

It’s easy to forget that the land encapsulated by Pakistan was once Buddhist. The Lahore Museum is a stunning building that holds one of the marvels of Gandharan art: a stone sculpture known as the “Fasting Buddha.” The sight of the emaciated Gautama, his eyes turned to deep hollows, is utterly haunting and will remain imprinted on your sensorium forever.

Recommendations by Aatish Taseer.

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