Vast territories of Central Asia, which were referred to as Eastern or Chinese Turkestan in the Western tradition of the 19th and early 20th centuries, used to be called Xi yu (Western Regions) in Chinese historical records beginningfrom the times of the Han Dynasty (206 B.C.—220 A.D.). Over thousands of years numerous civilizations superseding one another existed in the region, differing in languages, ethnic composition and religions. The Silk Road, a transcontinental trade route from China via Central Asia and further through Asia Minor into Europe went across the oases of Khotan, Shule (Kashgar), Kucha, Yanqi (Karashar), Loulan and Gaochang (Turfan), sparsely scattered in the desert. The oases states were not only important economic centres of the northern and southern routes of the Silk Road — through them the Western cultural influence penetrated into Eastern Asia and, conversely, Chinese culture found its way to the West. A whimsical combination of various ethnic and religious components made each of the states a unique phenomenon...
[To the edition - Russian Expeditions to Central Asia at the Turn of the 20th Century]
The entire paper
Source: Institute of Oriental Manuscripts. Saint Petersburg