The Kingdom of Lou-lan was an ancient Buddhistic kingdom which used to house 4,000 monks, a quarter of the population, but the remains are sparse indeed, as it disappeared into the desert it arose in, long ago. This was once an important outpost on the Silk Road, and whoever controlled this garrison, effectively controlled the Road itself.
It is situated on the eastern tip of the Taklamakan desert around 3,000 kilometres from Chang-an where the journey began. The expedition goes in search of the Nop-nor Lake, which has a habit of moving around, and but when the team get there the whole Lake and part of the rivers that feed it had already dried up.
Although from an archeological and artistic point of view this is the least interesting of the series, nevertheless it serves a real purpose in bringing home the difficulties the ancients faced in getting from East to West or the reverse. This was the route, after all, that many of the great names in Chinese Buddhist history had to take in order to find and bring back scriptures from India.
The whole episode is permeated by a sense of death, from the killing of a gazelle by the crew for food at the beginning, to the end where there is an excavation of some graves and a digging up of 2,000 year-old mummies, including that of what was probably a King, a rich lady and also a child.
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