Shadow of the Silk Road
by Colin Thubron
Quotes & Notes
by Stephen Balbach, September 2007
See main review at Cool
"A hundred reasons clamour for your going. You go to touch
on human identities, to people an empty map. You have a notion that this
is the world's heart. You go to encounter the protean shapes of faith.
You go because you are still young and crave excitement, the crunch of
your boots in the dust; you go because you are old and need to
understand something before it is too late. You go to see what will
(Ch "Dawn", pp.2-3)
"I'm afraid of nothing happening, of experiencing nothing.
That is what the modern traveller fears."
(Ch. "The Capital",
"Bento de Goes, the Jesuit lay brother, who was cheated of
his money and died here destitute in 1607. His remains lay somewhere
under the wheatfields and run-down factories. Even now this is the kind
of death - not by sickness, but by heartlessness - that sends a chill
through travellers' bones."
(Ch. "The Last Gate Under
Thousands of miles from anyone who knows you, you have the
illusion that your past is lighter, scarcely yours at all. Even your
ties to love have been attenuated (the emergency satellite phone in my
rucksack, and nobody calls). Dangerously, you may come to feel
invulnerable. You fear only your failure to understand or to reach where
you are going."
(Ch. "The Southern Road", pp.114-15)
On changing China:
"Responsibility could no longer be displaced upward, but had
come to rest, with guilt, in the confines of the self. Implicitly
Mingzaho is announcing the death of the whole Confucian order, which
places in an immutable hierarchy every person under heaven.. I imagine a
huge, tetonic shift beneath the Chinese surface, as the timeless
submission of selfhood to the group loosens into the individual life."
(Ch. "The Capital")
"..what hallmark identifies religion.. in Christianity it is
love.. in Islam perhaps Justice.. in China it is Integrity"
"When I approach, a soldier raises his arm and waves me
away. It is the gesture of somebody wiping a plane of glass. It washes
the air clear of anything I have witnessed. This does not exist, it
says, this you will not remember."
"The old woman believed the boy's illness sprang from
anxiety. Sickness, to her, was fear."
(Ch. "The Mountain Passage",