The Silk Road - Episode 9
Through the Tian Shan Mountains by Rail
The 470 km. trip from Turfan to Korla, starting in the Gobi region, crossing the eastern Tien Shan and down into the northern Tarim Basin oases. Travel was at time railroad just completed (ca. 1980); much of footage and narrative is a paean to the benefits the railroad would bring to the indigenous peoples. Apart from lots of photos of the steam locomotive passing through sometimes stark landscape, also some good camel shots, since several taken along for the expedition to test how difficult camel travel over the mountain passes would have been for historic Silk Road travelers.
Some interesting shots of T’ang era fortifications, especially at Iargo. Construction technique not packed earth layering but layering of rounded boulders with reed mats. Brief section on some 2500-year-old burials of nomads, with some elegant gold animal-style artifacts. Notes that even in 400 B.C. area had active E-W exchange. Brief music/dance performance in front of yurt of local Torft nomads. Tragedy of their Kalmuck ancestors in 18th century alluded to but not properly explained. At Yanqi (Karashahr) oasis on Kaigdu River, notes population is Hui Muslims, but when Xuanzang passed through in 7th century it had been Buddhist. Brief glimpse of Shi Koshing Buddhist cave complex in ruins; a few of sculpted artifacts.