This film is part of National Geographic’s Treasure Seekers series and looks at the travels of Aurel Stein and Xuan Zang, two people who are often connected to one of the most dangerous deserts on earth: the Taklamakan in Turkic China.
The film opens by quickly tracing how Aurel Stein became interested in the lost parts of Central Asia and gradually worked his way into a position to lead an expedition there, something he did four times during his career.
The results were spectacular for the time, virtually a whole lost Buddhist civilisation in Central Asia unearthed and made accessible to scholars again. His various journeys culminated in his discoveries at Dunhuang on the eastern edge of Turkic China, where he found the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas, and innumerable scrolls and paintings.
Stein’s patron saint was always Xuan Zang the Chinese pilgrim who traveled to India in the 7th century, and whose work documenting his travels had led to the identification of numerous Buddhist sites in India in the 19th century.
The second part of the film traces his adventures and difficulties, and how he overcame great hardships to attain his heart’s desire: copies of original scriptures from the homeland of Buddhism.
Given the immense scope of the topics covered and the severely limited time given to them, the film gives a fairly good overview and may stimulate people to look deeper in the subjects presented. For those interested in learning more, there are many good documentaries on these two characters. Follow the links for: Aurel Stein and Xuan Zang.
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