Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Mongol (Golden Horde) Fashion Statement

(Courtesy Zvezdana Dode)
Mongol hat, shown upside-down, depicting Jesus and archangels
From  6 April 2015. by Eric A Powell

The Golden Horde, a group of Mongols who conquered much of Eastern Europe in the thirteenth century, was famously tolerant of foreign religions. Recently, however, archaeologist Zvezdana Dode of the Southern Scientific Center of the Russian Academy of Sciences completed a study of rare textiles that suggests the Mongol attitude to Christianity was sometimes more complex than simple indifference. She examined pieces of fabrics found in Mongol burials that represent Christian subjects but had been repurposed as clothing, such as a hat that depicts an upside-down Jesus flanked by two archangels. She suggests that these fabrics, likely seized from Russian churches, were not merely the spoils of war. “The Mongols were able to observe employment of icons and banners with Christian symbols by the Russian military,” says Dode. “It’s possible they interpreted these symbols as devices for supernatural warfare.” By wearing an inverted Christian motif into battle, a Mongol warrior may have thought he was neutralizing that threat.

Tuesday, 28 April 2015

7-8 May 2015 Int. Conference in Leiden on the Golden Horde

Venue 7 and 8 May 2015
Conference Room Vossius
Leiden University Library
Coordinators Gabrielle van den Berg (LIAS)
Marie Favereau (Oxford University – Leiden University, Institute for History)
Alfrid Bustanov (European University at St Petersburg)


For the first time in Europe, a conference is dedicated to the study of the Golden Horde. As a result of this joint initiative of LIAS, the Institute for History and the European University at St Petersburg, researchers in archeology, history and numismatics will convene to debate and exchange theoretical issues about nomadism, empire and Islam, recent archaeological results, as well as the modern perception of the Tatar imperial legacy.
Recent researches about empires have shaken the common view of the “predatory nomads”. They show that the opposition between nomadic rulers and sedentary populations was not so clear-cut and that the traditional antagonism between the conquered inhabitants and the exploiting military elite has to be challenged. The social integration of the sedentary populations in a nomadic context was deeper than we used to think and their interaction with their rulers exceeded the frame of the central administration where conquerors and conquered, warriors and civilians, nomadic and sedentary office holders collaborated. In many cases the sedentary elites were the active supporters of the nomadic rulers. They agreed on being part of a larger political structure beyond the pressure of its coercive potential because they shared common interests.
The Golden Horde is a case in point. In the thirteenth century, the Mongols created a vast transcontinental empire. It emerged from the unification of the Mongol and Turkic nomadic populations through the leadership of Chinggis-khan. The yeke mongghol uluslasted as a unified structure until the 1260s. The westernmost part of the empire was then under the domination of the Jöchids, members of a dynasty that goes back to the eldest son of Chinggis-khan: Jöchi (d.1227). At its height, the ulus of Jöchi, known later as the Golden Horde, was stretching from the Aral Sea to the Black Sea and from the Ural River to the Danube River. It covered great parts of modern Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Tatarstan, Russia and Ukraine. This workshop aims at examining the imperial structures of the Golden Horde. We intend to show through concrete examples that statecraft and centralized administration were not exclusively produced within sedentary cultures. Under the Jöchid dynasty many regions and populations were unified for the first time. The nomadic khans were able to rule an empire for three hundred years over territories which had never experienced such a politico-economical development in the past. The legacy of the Golden Horde in Russia and Central Asia was very deep in terms of legal practices, religion and culture. Still in the nineteenth century, while the main Jöchid lands were part of the Russian empire, people would keep in their family archives documents issued under the khans for legal reason – often as proof of property – or in connection with their Islamic beliefs.


The conference is sponsored by the Leiden research areas Leiden Global Interactions (LGI), Asian Modernities and Traditions (AMT), Leiden University Centre for the Study of Islam and Society (LUCIS), Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie van Wetenschappen (KNAW), European University at St. Petersburg and TAIF company.

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Ancient ships in the Song Dynasty

BON.TV   March 20 , 2015
In 1973, several fishermen from Quanzhou found some wooden blocks on the beach. Originally, they thought they could use them as firewood; however, they found them hard to light. Such an obscure find revealed the mystery of an ancient ship from the Song Dynasty.It fell to deep sleep more than 700 years ago. Now this ship, which was unearthed in Qunzhou more than 40 years ago, is in the Quanzhou Bay Exhibition Hall of Ancient Ships at the Kaiyuan Temple, Quanzhou.

Watch this video of   and click HERE

Saturday, 25 April 2015

Travelling China's Silk Road

Nick Holdstock, author of forthcoming book China’s Forgotten People, will offer his perspective on Xinjiang. 
Holdstock will be in conversation with Ablimit Baki Elterish, who is originally from Xinjiang and teaches Chinese language at University of Manchester and conducts research on Xinjiang Studies including aspects of the Silk Road. 
Chairing the event is Michael Dillon, who has written several critically acclaimed books on the region.
Complimenting the talk will be a display of British Library images on the Silk Road, thus giving face to a fascinating region.
Date: May 14 2015
Time: 18:30 - 20:00
Organizer: Asia House 

Venue: Asia House 63 New Cavendish Street,  London,  W1G 7LP United Kingdom

Marco Polo: the women

-Thoughts on John Fusco’s Marco Polo, post 1-

Chabi with a sword at Mei LinThis interview with Marco Polo actors Joan Chen and Zhu Zhu asks how they present the women — whom the interviewer finds ‘the most fascinating people we meet’ in the show, with surprising lives for the thirteenth century. As usual, people aren’t so acquainted with the Mongol thirteenth century when they say this; though as he goes on to say, truly, women remain underwritten in the history books.

Song empressI too thought the women were a strength, and interestingly treated. Late Song was notable for strong empresses, and our empress dowager is one of those, as she and Khubilai try to negotiate a peace against the war parties at each court. Khubilai’s empress Chabi (Joan Chen) had a strong political involvement, and that is also done justice to. The personal interactions of Khubilai and Chabi were a highlight, and the makers take the opportunity to explore their marriage situation, this well-loved wife alongside Khubilai’s total self-indulgence in concubines. Then the concubines: two whores, as they are frequently called and self-called, friends, at the Song court. These two, who live on sexuality, are heroic in their victimization; it’s them and the empress we see in Song, active against the chancellor. I thought their exploitation well-explored. Jing_FeiI can’t forget the scene when the Song chancellor paints on her rosebud lips and turns her into a doll-face, with tragic eyes. Having her wide mouth suddenly made toy-size by the brush, was telling. Then, when the chancellor breaks the child’s feet – footbinding – that was equal-horrific with the scene of atrocity in war. The sexualization of women is not just on-screen for your enjoyment, but is explored.
KhutulunChabi and the Blue Princess (Zhu Zhu) grew up with a Mongol lifestyle, and now live in a semi-Chinese environment; at unexpected moments such women can whip out a bow and remind you they still are Mongols. Qutulun – you know her; the wrestler – is everything you want (‘I love that girl,’ says Khubilai when she swaggers in in war gear), including a freedom of sexuality that isn’t unhistorical. The second season is nicely set up for more of her, with her father and Khubilai now in conflict. 

Dig shines new light on ancient Singapore

The Straits TimesFriday, Apr 17, 2015


Dig shines new light on ancient Singapore
Archaeologist Lim Chen Sian (C) and his team: Volunteers (left) Natalie Khoo (L), and Young Wei Ping (R)
ANCIENT Singapore - or Temasek as it was then - could have had an established government with a head ruler or chieftain as early as the late 14th century.
The first evidence of this was unearthed in a 10-week-long archaeological dig, the biggest ever here, that wrapped up on Sunday at Empress Place.
A team led by archaeologist Lim Chen Sian discovered Chinese imperial-grade ceramics produced between 1375 and 1425 which were bestowed by the Ming Dynasty emperor Hongwu on overseas leaders.
The ceramics, which include a large porcelain platter, are part of a 2.5 tonne haul from an excavation organised by the National Heritage Board (NHB) in partnership with the Nalanda-Sriwijaya Centre of the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas).
The NHB's group director of policy, Mr Alvin Tan, said the board is "very happy with the results".
"We hit the archaeological jackpot in terms of quality and quantity at this site," he said.

The Urban Redevelopment Authority had given the NHB the nod to conduct the dig, alongside works to develop an integrated arts, culture and lifestyle precinct there for Singapore's jubilee year.
Other artefacts uncovered since digging started on Feb 2 include 700-year-old timber planks that could have been part of a ship. They are the first physical evidence of maritime activity in the Temasek period (the 14th century to 17th century), according to Mr Lim. "The timber was likely part of a structure of an ancient ship and the workmanship is typical of the South-east Asian style of ship building," he said.
Other highlights include thousands of 700-year-old Chinese coins, stoneware used to store condiments, porcelain pieces fired up in the Yuan Dynasty, a gold ring, a rare gold coin from the 16th- to 17th-century Johor Sultanate and Buddhist figurines across the site.
Mr Lim believes the range of artefacts found at the Empress Place dig site, near the Singapore River, suggests that the area could have been home to a bazaar or marketplace.
Due to the large volume of artefacts, and the complexity of the dig, the team was also given a month's extension to continue working on three zones in front of Victoria Theatre and Victoria Concert Hall. This came after officials were persuaded that the site was a treasure trove of ancient artefacts, said Mr Lim.
The 1,000 sq m site - the size of about 10 four-room HDB flats - had been divided into a total of 13 excavation zones.
NHB said that work on seven of the site's excavation zones has been completed. The Iseas team of archaeologists managed to cover about 70 per cent of the remaining six zones.
A team of five Iseas staff, 10 volunteers and a handful of foreign workers worked on the project - sometimes in the rain and until close to midnight - to complete the project, which was budgeted at about $70,000.
The archaeological team will spend the next two to three years cleaning, sorting and analysing the artefacts. The NHB will decide thereafter if they will be put into the National Collection and displayed in museums, or at exhibitions.
- See more at:

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Silk Road Diplomacy – Twists, Turns and Distorted History

In foreign policy initiatives, China’s leaders promote an idyllic version of the Silk Road network of land and maritime routes stretching from Europe to Asia’s eastern coast, linking diverse cultures in trade. The goal is to link China’s historic and modern roles in promoting peace and prosperity for Asia. But the history of ancient expeditions is complicated, with goals and practices unacceptable in the modern context. “Not mentioned … are the backdrops of conflict and the push to spread a Sinocentric world order,” explains Tansen Sen, associate professor of Baruch College, City University of New York, who specializes in Asian history. Sen quickly reviews the history of travels by China’s 1st century BCE Western Han envoy Zhang Qian and 15th century Admiral Zheng He. “The Silk Roads initiative of the Chinese government, with substantial influx of money and investment, could boost the economies of several countries in Asia and Europe that are willing to claim ancient links to the Middle Kingdom,” concludes Sen, who adds that such historical revisionism has geopolitical implications. – YaleGlobal

Silk Road Diplomacy – Twists, Turns and Distorted History 

China harkens the Silk Road in foreign policy initiatives, but the history is less benign
Tansen Sen
YaleGlobal23 September 2014
Silk Roads by land and sea: China’s 15th-century Admiral Zheng He is celebrated for ocean expeditions (top); more ancient Silk Roads witnessed traders like Marco Polo as shown in a 14th-century illustrated Catalan map
NEW YORK: The romantic concept of a historic Silk Road by which camel caravans wend among the mountains and deserts of Central Asia is back in the news. So is talk on reestablishing the maritime networks by which the Chinese Admiral Zheng He steered his naval armada across the Indian Ocean seven times. China’s leaders promote the ancient trade routes, most recently during the Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visits to countries in Central and South Asia, to emphasize the nation’s historic role as a harbinger of peace and prosperity.
One minor problem in China’s history-based campaign – the history is distorted.
In September 2013, less than a year after assuming the position of general secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, Xi launched new foreign policy initiative known as the “Silk Road Economic Belt.”  In an address at Kazakhstan's Nazarbayev University, calling for cooperation and development of the Eurasian region through this new Silk Road initiative, Xi presented five specific goals: strengthening of economic collaboration, improvement of road connectivity, promotion of trade and investment, facilitation of currency conversion, and bolstering of people-to-people exchanges.
A month later, at the 16th ASEAN-China Summit held in Brunei, Chinese Premier Li Keqiang proposed the building of a 21st century “Maritime Silk Road” to jointly foster maritime cooperation, connectivity, scientific and environmental research, and fishery activities. A few days later, in his address to the Indonesian Parliament Xi confirmed this idea and stated that China would devote funds to “vigorously develop maritime partnership in a joint effort to build the Maritime Silk Road of the 21st century,” stretching from coastal China to the Mediterranean Sea.
China promotes the notion of a Maritime Silk Road, stretching from China to the Mediterranean.
In both speeches, Xi underscored China’s historical linkages with the respective regions and suggested that his proposals were intended to reestablish ancient friendly ties in a modern, globalized world. In Kazakhstan, Xi credited the Western Han envoy Zhang Qian with “shouldering the mission of peace and friendship” and opening up the door for east-west communication and establishing the “Silk Road.” In Indonesia, he praised the Ming dynasty Admiral Zheng He for bequeathing “nice stories of friendly exchanges between the Chinese and Indonesian peoples.”
Not mentioned, however, are the backdrops of conflict and the push to spread a Sinocentric world order. In trying to portray the past as a utopian epoch, the purpose of Zhang Qian’s mission to the so-called Western Regions was misrepresented. The Han emperor dispatched Zhang to find an ally to fight the powerful Xiongnu Confederacy, the leading adversary of the Western Han Empire. Because of its expansionist policies, the Han Empire was responsible for transforming the originally nomadic Xiongnu people into a semi-state entity that offered resistance to the Han forces. In 138 BCE the empire sent Zhang to Central Asia to locate the Yuezhi people, previously routed by the Xiongnus. His mission was a failure, however, as he was captured by the Xiongnu and forced to marry a local woman. Escaping after 10 years of captivity, he found that the Yuezhi were not interested in a military alliance. Zhang Qian’s only contribution was to inform the Han court about the polities and people in Central Asia. 
Similarly, the portrayal of Admiral Zheng He as an agent of peace and friendship is problematic. In reality, Zheng’s seven expeditions between 1405 and 1433 included use of military force in what are present-day Indonesia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and India to install friendly rulers and control strategic chokepoints of the Indian Ocean. He intervened in dynastic politics of Sri Lanka and Indonesia and brought back prisoners to Nanjing, the Ming capital. Ming Emperor Yongle originally dispatched Zheng to the Western seas to look for his nephew whom he had deposed from the throne and to promote the virtues of the Chinese civilization. In the course of these expeditions, Zheng brought back many kings and princes to kowtow to the emperor and exchange gifts. The voyages were abandoned when it turned out to be too expensive and gave excessive power, in the view of the Confucian court officials, to eunuchs such as Zheng He.
The portrayal of Admiral Zheng He
as an agent of peace
and friendship is problematic. 
The Han Empire used similar tactics in Central Asia, especially at strategic locations of the trade routes. Thus neither the overland route nor the maritime channels, termed collectively as the Silk Routes, were peaceful or fostered friendly exchanges through Chinese presence, as modern narratives would suggest.   
There is also a problem with the term “Silk Road” or “Silk Routes.” German geographer Ferdinand von Richthofen coined the term in 1877 for the ancient overland trade route through Central Asia. Since then, many routes that linked China to the outside world have been called “Silk Roads” or “Silk Routes” despite the fact that silk was neither the earliest nor the most commonly traded commodity on any of these routes. Additionally, the term, enthusiastically employed by Chinese scholars, places unwarranted emphasis on the role of China in pre-modern intraregional interactions. This comes at the expense of neglecting external influence on Chinese societies and economies throughout the past 2000 years.
Perhaps, like many Chinese, Xi’s views about the Silk Roads were shaped by the PRC educational system that prevents critical analysis and proper deconstruction of historical sources. It’s also possible that Xi was genuinely influenced by the fact that his family hails from near the ancient Chinese capital Xi’an, known in history as Chang’an, a place recognized in history books as the starting point of the overland Silk Road. Either the president is unaware of the negative reactions that use of Chinese cultural symbolism in the arena of foreign policy induce among some foreign states or is adamant about pushing these through with the economic muscle China has toned over the past several decades.
Several countries are willing to accept these distorted historical narratives for economic reasons.
China’s Silk Road initiatives could boost economies of those in Asia or Europe willing to claim ancient links.
The Sri Lankan government, for example, last year received a gold-plated statue of Zheng as a gift from China's International Tour Management Association. The two sides declared that Zheng He and his expeditions represented ancient commercial and peaceful relations between China and Sri Lanka. Neglected were the details that Zheng had instituted regime change in the region; abducted a local ruler, Alaskawera; and brought him to Nanjing as a prisoner. Zheng also carried off the famous Tooth Relic of the Buddha at Kandy, long a symbol of Sri Lankan political sovereignty.
Military conflict also took place in Indonesia, where some local newspapers applauded Xi’s proposals noting that they could bring “enormous opportunities for regional development.” Not of concern was the fact that in Sumatra, in 1407, Zheng had instituted a regime change by abducting a local ethnic Chinese leader named Chen Zuyi, whom the Ming court portrayed as a pirate. After Chen was publicly executed in Nanjing, he was replaced by a person representing the Ming court’s interest in the region. In the same year, Zheng also intervened in the internal affairs of the Majapahit polity in Java, seemingly to weaken the main regional power in Southeast Asia. 
These military interventions like those in others regions that used the pretext of ushering in a harmonious world order under the Chinese Son of Heaven were objectives of the Zheng He expeditions. 
The Silk Roads initiative of the Chinese government, with substantial influx of money and investment, could boost the economies of several countries in Asia and Europe that are willing to claim ancient links to the Middle Kingdom. For China, the success of the initiative will open new avenues for investing its vast monetary reserves. It will also mark a major step towards recreating the Chinese world order of the ancient times known as tianxia, that is, all regions of the known world that belonged to the heavenly-mandated emperor of China. This new world order will not be simply rhetorical, but could impose significant geopolitical implications.        

Nicola Di Cosmo, Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002. 
Edward L. Dreyer, Zheng He: China and the Oceans in the Early Ming, 1405–1433. New York: Longman, 2007.
Étienne de la Vaissière, Sogdian Traders: A History. Leiden: Brill, 2005.
Louise Levathes, When China Ruled the Seas: The Treasure Fleet of the Dragon Throne, 1405-1433. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
Tansen Sen, “Changing Regimes: Two Episodes of Chinese Military Interventions in Medieval South Asia.” In Upinder Singh and Parul P. Dhar (Ed.), Asian Encounters: Exploring Connected Histories. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
Geoff Wade, “Ming China’s Violence against Neighbouring Polities and Its Representations in Chinese Historiography.” In Upinder Singh and Parul P. Dhar (Ed.), Asian Encounters: Exploring Connected Histories. New Delhi: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
Tansen Sen is associate professor at Baruch College, The City University of New York. He specializes in Asian history and religions and has special scholarly interests in India-China interactions, Indian Ocean trade, Buddhism, and Silk Road archeology. He is the author of Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian Relations, 600-1400” (University of Hawai'i Press, 2003) and co-author (with Victor H. Mair) of “Traditional China in Asian and World History” (Association for Asian Studies, 2012).

Comments on this Article

30 September 2014
Congratulations to Professor Sen for this impressive article debunking Chinese claims of a silk road to bolster the Beijing leadership's claim to have been the center of world trade in the past. Being then builds on thus specious past, averring that if confers on China the right to "reclaim" primacy in today's world. Recently, they've laid claim to a maritime silk route as well, accompanied by the by now familiar ancient parchment maps and documents. Never mentioned are other countries' maps and documents. All this is part of a larger claim of entitlement that seems to be accepted by numerous Westerners, including many in the US government----whom I have personally heard saying "as China reclaims its rightful place in the world......" The implication is that other states must accept the inevitable.
There is also a movement to resuscitate an alleged golden age when a benevolent Confucian emperor ruled all-under-heaven in a Confucian great harmony (da tong) that Westerners might call a pax sinica. The problem is that none of it is true. And surely it's a stretch too far to imagine Xi Jinping or any of his predecessors or likely successors as a benevolent Confucian emperore. My thanks to Professor Sen for setting the record straight. This article should be widely disseminated.
-June Teufel Dreyer , Silk Road
29 September 2014
Howard says he is a "lettered person", but "semi-literate" seems more accurate. His comments show multiple basic errors of writing (he spells "bare" twice for "bear" and writes "journey's" for "journeys") that any good school teacher would correct. In fact, Howard's comments expose him as yet one more of that all too familiar type of gullible Westerner who eagerly suspends the skeptical disbelief that he normally applies to contemporary events, when indulging in the feel-good high of contemplating glorious tales of far-away lands and ancient peoples. Howard wants to be "fascinated", as is so often said, by such things, because he thinks it is safe and pleasant to do so. The spurious fictions about Zheng He's voyages that made Gavin Menzies rich are of this kind. So Howard is distressed and resentful when well-informed scholarly criticism and analysis are applied in a way that dilutes the glamor of such narratives. Howard is precisely the kind of worshipful audience whom the master self-promoter Ferdinand von Richthofen had in mind when he invented the term "Silk Road" in the 19th century. (That kind of grand-standing ran in the family: this von Richthofen's nephew was the famous daredevil pilot, Manfred von Richthofen, glorified as the "Red Baron" during World War I.) In fact, there is no expression corresponding to "Silk Road" in any ancient historical Chinese documents; the name was simply unknown anywhere, East or West, before the late 19th century. The term Silk Road does not appear in online descriptions (Encyclopedia Britannica and Wikipedia) of the Arabic geographer al-Masudi's writings about the overland route to China. But modern Chinese propagandists, recognizing the effect of this name on gullible Western audiences, have borrowed the name and extended it far beyond anything ever known in pre-modern times. Ancient Chinese dynasties did, indeed, designate routes from the entry points of the Great Wall to the dynastic capital, for travel by tribute bearing missions under official escort. But modern Chinese propagandists obscure the awkward reality of political submission to China by tribute bearers when referring to the Silk Road. Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin were promoters of foreign influences in China, whose interpretations have been criticized in China today. Susan Whitfield's lecture at Stanford a few months ago went to the absurd extreme of using "silk road" to refer to a route by which lapis lazuli was brought from Iran to Egypt in the 3rd millennium BCE. The scholars, Edward Dreyer and Geoff Wade, cited by Professor Sen, are authoritative writers. Professor Sen is absolutely right in saying that the name "silk road" grossly distorts the nature of ancient commerce between China and other countries.  
-Onymous , Howard says he is a "lettered
29 September 2014
Tansen Sen has written a brilliant piece assessing Xi Jinping's "Silk Road" initiatives in the light of history. Professor Sen's work on maritime communications between China and India and beyond to the Middle East is absolutely first rate and at the cutting edge of current scholarship. Moreover, together with Geoffrey Wade, he is carefully and meticulously exposing the true nature of Zheng He's massive, multiple expeditions, which might better be thought of -- in the best light -- as "pacification" campaigns rather than as peace missions or trading voyages.
As for Professor Sen's treatment of the overland "Silk Road", it is fully compatible with the best recent research that has been done on this subject, for which see, among others:
The Silk Road: A New History by Valerie Hansen (Yale University)
The Silk Road: A Very Short Introduction by James Millward (Georgetown University)
Together with Jane Hickman, I myself have very recently published an edited volume entitled Reconfiguring the Silk Road: New Research on East-West Exchange in Antiquity, with eight chapters by distinguished authors and a Foreword by Colin Renfrew, all of which demonstrate the necessity to rethink the "Silk Road" precisely along the lines described by Professor Sen.
I should note, in closing, that the Sources listed at the end of Professor Sen's article are the best and most up-to-date for the subject of his inquiry; he has used them responsibly and to good effect.
-Victor H. Mair , Professor Sen's article
28 September 2014
Prof. Sen seems intent upon discrediting the initiatives in play for the 'Silk Road Economic Belt' & the 'Maritime Silk Road'.
His highlighting of 'events' surrounding the journey's of Zhang Qian & Zheng He in their 'negative', is disingenuous to a fault. He utterly fails to balance such endeavors with their lucrative and most positive cultural [ in total ] and economic benefits .. for all participants.
Zheng He's navigational exploits alone bare commentary, as does the unheard of size of vessel, crew and hold capacity. The ports alone bare witness to the 'communities' of peoples opened to such rare international intercourse.
As a lettered person, I fear Prof. Sen has failed to project his specialties of Asian History & Silk Road Archeology to the promise of his studies nor the expectations of his readers. As for the moniker 'Silk Road' and its 'SILK' implications, such usage has been accepted without discord since discussions have been forthcoming about the 'Roads'.
Such renowned personages as Sir Aurel Stein, Sven Hedin, your own Victor H. Mair, Elizabeth Wayland Barber and Susan Whitfield all give testament to the enormity of the contributions made by all travelers of the 'Silk Roads' --
I failed to extract the 'twists' and 'turns' alluded to in the heading.
Prof. Sen has missed so much and crafted so little of meaning and usefulness. A shame!
-howard , Prof. Sen's article: Silk Road Diplomacy
26 September 2014
Excellent article; worthy of being widely circulated. The "Silk Road" mania needs to be criticized.  
-Onymous , Excellent article; worthy of
25 September 2014
Professor Sen has articulated very important points that are highly worthy of circulation and attention by people who aim to comprehend China's ambitions. His understandings, of the ancient history, the modern distortion, and its implications for policy, are spot on.  
-Onymous , Professor Sen has articulated