For a change we had some spare time during our mission so it was decided that we would go on a short tour of the Xinjiang desert south of Urumqi. There was myself, Fei Deng and Jean-Marie Braun. We were joined by several people from the project office who would be our hosts for the trip. The plan was to drive to the ‘Flaming Mountains’ and then to the ‘Cave of the Thousand Buddhas’. We would then visit the ‘Gaochang Ruins’ and the ‘Grape Valley’ before the others would head back to Urumqi. I would spend the night in Turpan before catching the bus back the following morning.
The ‘Silk Road’ was a set of interconnected trade routes which connected the mediterranean to China. Extending over some 8,000 km, it was a major contributor towards the development of China, India, Persia and even ancient Rome. While there were several routes for the silk road, they all ended up at Chang’an, the ancient capital of China (see map below). Although I had worked in China for almost four years I had never managed to visit this place until I found that I was passing through nearby Xi’an on my way west. That called for a short visit to see one of China’s greatest treasures: the terracotta army.