Journeys on the Silk Road by Joyce Morgan
A Desert Explorer, Buddha's Secret Library, and the Unearthing of the World's Oldest Printed Book

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When a Chinese monk broke into a hidden cave in 1900, he uncovered one of the world’s great literary secrets: a time capsule from the ancient Silk Road. Inside, scrolls were piled from floor to ceiling, undisturbed for a thousand years. The gem within was the Diamond Sutra of AD 868. This key Buddhist teaching, made 500 years before Gutenberg inked his press, is the world’s oldest printed book.
The Silk Road once linked China with the Mediterranean. It conveyed merchants, pilgrims and ideas. But its cultures and oases were swallowed by shifting sands. Central to the Silk Road’s rediscovery was a man named Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-born scholar and archaeologist employed by the British service.
Undaunted by the vast Gobi Desert, Stein crossed thousands of desolate miles with his fox terrier Dash. Stein met the Chinese monk and secured the Diamond Sutra and much more. The scroll’s journey—by camel through arid desert, by boat to London’s curious scholars, by train to evade the bombs of World War II—merges an explorer’s adventures, political intrigue, and continued controversy.
The Diamond Sutra has inspired Jack Kerouac and the Dalai Lama. Its journey has coincided with the growing appeal of Buddhism in the West. As the Gutenberg Age cedes to the Google Age, the survival of the Silk Road’s greatest treasure is testament to the endurance of the written word.



About Joyce Morgan

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Joyce Morgan's work has appeared in The Australian, The Guardian, The Bangkok Post, and The Sydney Morning Herald. She has also worked as a producer with ABC Radio. Conrad Walters is a feature writer and book reviewer at The Sydney Morning Herald. They live in Sydney, Australia. Visit their website at
Published September 4, 2012 by Lyons Press. 336 pages
Genres: Biographies & Memoirs, History, Travel. Non-fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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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)...

Aug 06 2012 | Read Full Review of Journeys on the Silk Road: A ...

City Book Review

They found revolutionary artifacts that forever changed history books and challenged people’s perceptions about history and Asia.

Oct 09 2012 | Read Full Review of Journeys on the Silk Road: A ...


Somehow that seemed appropriate, as the subject of the book was the discovery of the Dunhuang Diamond Sutra, the oldest known printed book, published as announced in a colophon to the book, in 868, together with a treasure trove of other documents, mostly, but by no means exclusively Buddhist.

Oct 03 2012 | Read Full Review of Journeys on the Silk Road: A ...

The Best Reviews

Here is the account about Aurel Stein, the archaeologist, and his dog, Dash, and their astounding journey across what is known as the Silk Road, a journey traversing China, Tibet, India and more lands.

Sep 04 2012 | Read Full Review of Journeys on the Silk Road: A ...

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