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European Explorers along the Silk Road, 02 Marc Aurel Stein. Treasure buried in the Sands

This is the 2nd in a series made for Chinese TV called Century-Old Adventure Diaries, which looks at the European Explorers along the Silk Road in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

The first, which is not posted here, is about the Finnish explorer Mannerheim, who acted as a spy for the Russian Tzarist Government, when they were seeking influence in China.

This one is more on topic, as the Hungarian Aurel Stein must rank as one of the greatest cultural explorers of all time, and his discoveries in Central Asia changed the way we view history, and particularly Buddhist history.

The film shows how Stein was inspired by the great Chinese monk Xuanzang, and equipped with a copy of his book, managed to retrace some of his jouneys in what is now Xinjiang, and confirm his reports.

His first visit, which was to the Oilik Ruins in 1900, was a groundbreaking expedition, which showed that even 1,500 years ago there was a long established contact between East and West.

Later Stein was to find some of the most important documents written in Karosthi script from the extensive Niya Ruins, which are still at the center of Gandhari studies today.

Stein also managed to prove that some documents that were thought to be sensational finds in the Taklamakan Desert were, in fact, forgeries, made by a poor, but enterprising farmer, Islam Akhun.

On a further expedition Stein visited the Miran Ruins, where murals showed decisive Greek influence; before making it all the way to Dunhuang, where he got his biggest haul, in the 1,000-year hidden manuscript treasures at the Mogao Caves.

In the West Stein has always been considered as great explorer and scientist, who did much to throw light on Buddhist history, but in China he has often been regarded as an adventurer and a thief.

The film closes with a look at modern day excavations led by Chinese scientists taking place at Damagou, which are held up as an example of how archeology should be done.

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