sábado, 5 de enero de 2013

Treasure Seekers: The Silk Road

[This transcription of the narration of a chapter from the "Treasure Seekers" TV series is the third of a total of five that will be included in this archive, but the original version was found available on the Net for only two of them, at the same website (www.amworld.info ), chaotically assembled, like the one about the Maya, with no quotation marks to indicate where the passages of Marco Polo's book and the comments start and end.  Here only the initials of the scholars who speak are shown.  Their full names, and the page numbers of the passages in the Penguin Books edition of Marco Polo's chronicle, can be found in the previous entry.]





In the West stood a continent built on lofty ideals and grand ambition, in the East towered an empire of unimaginable size and splendor.   For thousands of years these two civilizations had thrived in seeming isolation.   Two men stepped into the void: Marco Polo was lured by the promise of unprecedented wealth, Sven Hedin by a thirst for adventure and the trappings of world fame. Confronted by the most daunting terrain on earth, they went in search of the impossible: a lasting connection between East and West along the old Silk Road.


 Italy, 1296 A.D.   A Venetian trader languishes in jail and wonders if he will ever get out.   His name is Marco Polo and he's now a prisoner of war, the victim of an ongoing conflict between Genoa and his native Venice.   Polo is afraid he will die here in jail and he's come up with an amazing strategy for survival: a book about his life and his travels, an incredible story that might allow his name to live on forever.


 "There has been no man, Christian or pagan, Mongol or Indian, or of any race whatsoever, who has known or explored so much of the world and its great wonders as have I, Marco Polo."

He writes about his incredible trek across lethal mountains and deserts to Cathay, modern day China, a magical country at the end of the earth, a land so wealthy that its ruler could entertain 40,000 guests at a time, a civilization so advanced they could predict the movement of the heavens, a culture so generous that husbands even shared their wives with strangers.   Marco Polo's book was a success.   His journey to Cathay has become one of the most famous adventure stories ever written, but it is full of such incredible tales of discovery and intrigue that it leaves everyone wondering the same thing: Could it possibly be true, or is Polo's adventure along the old Silk Road actually a masterpiece of the imagination?

 In the first century B.C., imperial Rome dominated the West, Han China the East.   A world apart, these two superpowers knew little of each other's existence.   The seductive beauty of one substance drew them closer.   It all began in Mesopotamia, in 53 B.C.   Roman legions were on the brink of a historic victory against the Parthian army.   Unexpectedly, the Parthians unfurled huge banners of a magical, translucent material.   The Roman army had never seen anything like it, and fled in confusion leaving 20,000 dead on the battlefield.   Fear turned to fascination and silk quickly became the rage in ancient Rome.   The Chinese fabric was soon worth its weight in gold.   Traders saw their chance.   Caravans braved the 5000 miles separating China and Rome.

Cities sprung up in the deserts and plains to service the traders.   Along with the goods flowed ideas that revolutionized the cultures along the way.   Buddhism and Islam spread eastwards.   Printing and papermaking went West.   The Silk Road pioneering connection between East and West was established.

[V.H.:]  "People have a mental vision that the Silk Road is like I95, a huge long highway and that one person took some silk from one end all the way to the other, and in fact that almost never happened.   Merchants would take the goods from one oasis to another and then another group of merchants would take them on, so I think the Silk Road is not the road [?].   I think the most important things are those communities along the Silk Road."

 For nearly a thousand years these communities thrived.   In the 10th century China collapsed in civil war and it was no longer safe to travel in the East.   In the chaos, the Silk Road fell silent.   The desert cities that depended on its traffic were abandoned.   As shifting sands buried their memory, the link between East and West was broken.   350 years later, in 1254, a young boy named Marco Polo was born in Venice, Italy.   Marco grew up a forgotten orphan on the docks and canals of the city. 

[M.R.:]  "Marco Polo did not have a conventional and happy childhood.   His father left before he was born and his mother died when he was relatively young, but actually that relatively unhappy childhood provided him with certain skills that would turn out to be very important for him on his travels.   He learned to get along with a wide variety of peoples."

 One day Marco's world was turned upside down.   A stranger walked into his life.   It was his father.   It was the first time the two had ever met and the boy listened in awe as his father explained his 14-year absence.   He said he had made an incredible overland journey to a magical land in the East.   He talked about a foreign people, the Mongols, and their massive empire, the biggest the world had ever seen, and explained how he had just risked his life to personally visit its capital in Cathay, modern-day China.   Young Marco was stunned.   

[V.H.:]  "China, in the 13th Century to a Venetian, is probably the most foreign place that there is, maybe like the South Pole is to us today, that you can go but it's a huge journey.   Not many people go.   There are incredible logistical difficulties. "

Marco's father also claimed to have risen to favor with Kublai Khan, the new Mongol king.   He insisted he was sitting on a gold mine, for with the Khan's favor he would have prime access to all the treasures of the East.    If  the Polos could make it to China and back again, they'd be able to reestablish overland trade links between two very wealthy civilizations.

[M.R.:]  "The sudden reappearance of his father must have stimulated him to think about perhaps joining him on a travel of his own.   Going to China for Marco Polo would be the most extraordinary adventure of his entire life.

[V.H.:]  "They probably don't suspect they're going to get all the way to China, but I think there's enough talk at the time about modern... what's now Turkey or what's now Iran that he would have been very excited."

 Marco imagined his journey to the East: the wealth of Cathay, the dangers ahead.   Some would say that an imaginary journey is all that he ever took.   According to his story, Marco Polo set off for China in 1271 A.D., a merchant in search of the world's wealthiest market.   His 5000 mile overland journey took him through Tabriz, Baghdad, Hormuz the great bazaars of the Middle East where the trading energy of the old Silk Road is still alive.   Marco was encouraged by what he saw.   "Traveling merchants can make very good money, for there is much gold and silk cloth of great value."   

Camping out in the open at night, Marco was careful to protect his profits.   [M.R.:]  " Anybody who traveled on the Silk Road had to be really quite brave and courageous.   Many people just didn't make it, in part because of banditry all along the route. "    One night in Persia, Polo claims to have been robbed.   Many of his caravan were killed.   Marco was lucky to get away with his life.    [M.R.:]  " It's not as simple as taking a plane in Venice and hopping over to Beijing.  This was a long, long and demanding journey."

 After a grueling trek through modern-day Iran and Afghanistan, Polo describes his confrontation with the Pamirs, the infamous mountain range that separates East and West.   4000 meters above sea level, altitude and frostbite were the least of Polo's problems. "There are innumerable wolves and the bones of their kill are stacked by the roadside to serve as landmarks to travelers in the bleak winter."   Polo sought refuge in local villages.   "I give you my word that if a stranger comes to a house here to seek hospitality he receives a very warm welcome.   The host bids his wife do everything that the guest wishes.   The women are beautiful, vivacious and always ready to please."

[M.R.:]  "Marco Polo's description of these enticing beauties of the East, of their being so subservient, fits in with a pattern that has continued throughout the ages of Eastern women having some sort of exotic and erotic appeal.   There's an attempt to make the East more exotic than it really is."

 According to his story, Polo now entered the Taklamakan Desert, the most forbidding obstacle along the old Silk Road.   With 1000 foot high dunes and swirling sandstorms, the Taklamakan is 600 miles of hell.     [Ch.B.:]  " The Chinese call it the Desert of Death.   The temperature of the desert is formidable.    In the summer, the temperature can reach up to 130 degrees Fahrenheit.   There's no water in the desert, there's no wells, so you're walking through a sea of sand and it's very difficult to think that you might come out the other end. "

It is here that Polo and his story walk into a heated controversy.   Did Polo really  make it across the Taklamakan into China, or is the story of his arrival in the East a complete fabrication?

[V.H.:]  " Marco Polo has a format when he travels.   He goes from city to city, he tells you where he is and he tells you how far it is from one point to the next.   When he goes to visit the Mongol capital he departs from that format.   He no longer tells you the cities in between where he is in north China and what's at the Mongol capital, so the effect when you're reading it is very abrupt.   Did he go?   How did he go?   What cities are in between?   And the only conclusion I can draw is he didn't go, that somebody told him about it and he just adds it in."

 [M.R.:]  "This was a custom of travel writing during that time.   You'd hear something and you'd claim that you actually had been and had actually witnessed the events that somebody else told you about.   This has been taken by some scholars to mean that he probably didn't travel all the way to China.   That is taking things a little too far.   Marco Polo wrote about his travels while he was in prison. That obviously is going to affect the way he presents his information.   He's at a difficult time in his life and he wants to attract an audience so he's going to emphasize the strangest and the most interesting rather than the ordinary elements of his travels."

From his squalid cell in Italy, Marco wrote about the luxurious court of Kublai Khan, the Mongol king, which he supposedly reached in 1275.    He told how in Shengdu, the city later immortalized as Xanadu, the trials of his 4 year journey suddenly seemed worthwhile.   "The Khan's palace is the largest in the world. The roof is ablaze with every color.   It glitters like crystals and sparkles from afar.    The hall is so vast that it could seat 6000 for one banquet."

[M.R.:]  "The descriptions that Marco Polo provides for us, descriptions of Xanadu for example, the summer palace of Kublai Khan dovetail with what we know of the archeology of that city.    The city was excavated in the 1930s by the Japanese and they found that the placement of the buildings and the style of the buildings was exactly the way Marco Polo had described them."

 The Venetian trader was equally impressed, it seems, by the mighty Yangtze river.    "It is the greatest river in the world.    More boats loaded with more dear things and of greater value come and go by this river than by all the rivers and seas used by the Christians."

 Marco could not have asked for more.    He had made it safely to China.    He had discovered a land of unimaginable wealth.   His quest to establish a lucrative trade connection with the East was very much on course.    It is here, on the threshold of his dream, that Marco's account turns fantastical.

 [V.H.:]  "He says that he sees a fish that's a hundred feet long that has fur on it.    He describes how the animals bow to visitors at the Khan's court, like the tigers came out and they take a bow on cue, so you know it's just things that when you read it cannot have happened."

[M.R.:]  " The bizarre sections in Marco Polo of animal-headed people and strange-looking fish, this is something that is not unusual.    The conventions of travel writing during that time fit in with the kind of mythologizing and fantasizing that Marco Polo includes."

 Equally controversial is the total absence of any reference to unique Chinese rituals that would have amazed a European seeing them for the first time.  [M.R.:]   "Marco Polo does not mention certain characteristics of China such as calligraphy, tea, bound feet because Marco Polo lived among the Mongols.    He dealt with Kublai Khan and the other members of the Mongol nobility. He didn't deal with the Chinese, so just because he didn't mention those things doesn't mean that he didn't reach China."

Marco Polo's defenders point to details which could not have been invented in Europe:  "Throughout the province of Cathay there are large black stones dug from the mountains which burn and make flames like logs."   Marco Polo was the first European to ever write about coal, a treasure that transformed the world.

[M.R.:]  "Marco Polo was definitely in China. I am absolutely convinced of it because of the tremendous detail in his book, his descriptions of the Mongols: Mongol customs, Mongol dress, Mongol attitudes towards women, and in addition he describes specific events so clearly: the assassination of a finance minister.   Now, who would have known about that if you hadn't been in China?"

[V.H.:]   "The reason I don't think Marco Polo went to China is that there are basic factual inaccuracies in the book.   He says he's the governor of a town and we have a list of governors of that town, Yangzhou, and he's not on the list, and the second is he says he's at a battle that took place in 1273 and we know the battle took place in 1268, which is before he gets there. "

Perhaps the secret to the mystery of Polo's account lies in his prison cell in Italy.   Marco did not write the book himself.   He dictated it, during his year in jail, to his cellmate, Rustichello, who happened to be a writer with a passion for fairytales.  [M.R.:]   "Rustichello was a man who is renowned for writing romances and not actual descriptions of events, and so obviously the fact that Rustichello rather than Marco Polo set down the work may have added some of these legendary and mythical qualities to the work that Marco Polo had not intended."

 The only verifiable piece of evidence from Polo's life --his will-- reveals that he died a wealthy man, yet his nickname --"Il Milione",  the Big One-- mockingly referred to the size of his imagination, not his bank balance.   Marco was defiant till the end.   When asked by his friends on his deathbed in 1324 whether he had really been to China, Marco replied: "I have only told you half of what I saw." Marco Polo died surrounded by doubters, yet his influence on the history of exploration is undisputed.    His controversial book became the Bible for a new generation of explorers, the inspiration for Christopher Columbus' historic discovery of the New World.

[V.H.:]   "The greatest impact Marco Polo has on later explorers is planting the idea that you can go to exotic places and write about them and become famous.   When you think about it nobody before him is famous as an explorer, so he becomes the first famous explorer, adventurer."

 Whether Marco Polo did make it China or not, one thing is certain: his dream of pioneering a trade connection between East and West was never realized.   China again dissolved into civil war, making travel in the East impossible.   The tantalizing promise of the Silk Road once again faded into the past, craving fulfillment in another age.   600 years later an ambitious explorer set out in Marco Polo's footsteps.   Unlike Polo, Sven Hedin was not in search of wealth.    He was after something far more elusive and dangerous.

 Stockholm, Sweden.   1949.   Sven Hedin, the 84 year old explorer, prepares a memoir of his life.    In his prime he heroically explored the earth's final frontier.   He discovered lost cities of the Silk Road, bringing to life a forgotten civilization.   Hedin, the ambitious adventurer, had won the adulation of the world.  

[V.H.:]   "He was the Neil Armstrong of his day.    You know, Inner Asia was the Moon, and he went.    He was very famous, a rock star at the time."

But his passion for the spotlight led to a very dangerous liaison.    [L.B.:]" After the war, Sven Hedin was obliterated from the memory of Europe. He was a persona non grata.    Nobody wanted to touch him after the Second World War.    Sven Hedin was really a person who you couldn't associate with. "   In his memoir, Sven Hedin has one last chance to redeem himself. Would he exorcise the demons of his past, or would he die a forgotten man?  

 April 24th, 1880.    15-year-old Sven watches in awe as his childhood hero returns triumphant. Stockholm harbor is a riot of pride and excitement.    Adolf Nordenskiold, the Swedish explorer, has come home, the first person to sail around Russia back to Europe. [H. --:]  "Together with his family he had climbed the mountains overlooking the harbor of Stockholm, from where he and thousands and thousands of Stockholm people watched the return of the ship.    A great national hero was created and Sven Hedin really wanted to step into his footsteps."    This dream of fame and adventure would drive Hedin all his life.    It was in Berlin, as a geography student that Hedin developed his lifelong obsession with Central Asia.    At the turn of the 20th century, Central Asia was one of the last unexplored frontiers on earth, the distant prize of aspiring explorers and world statesmen alike, for it was the center of a brooding Cold War: a race between Britain, Russia and China to expand their empires in the region.

With the eyes of the world focused on this remote land, it was the perfect stage for the ambitious Hedin to make his name as an explorer.    At its heart was a massive sea of sand known as the Taklamakan.    [L.B.:]  "When Hedin decided on becoming an explorer he wanted deserts.    Explorers should climb dangerous mountains and they should cross dangerous deserts.    That's what an explorer should do, so he found this Taklamakan which, according to him, no one ever had crossed, in living memory at least.    He wanted to be the first, to walk on paths where no man ever walked before. "   Hedin was sure that beneath the Taklamakan's shifting sand lay ancient cities of the old Silk Road which had been lost to the world for over a thousand years.    If only he could discover the lost cities of the Silk Road, Hedin believed, his path to fame would be secure.

In 1893 Hedin obtained funding from the King of Sweden to explore the uncharted extremes of Central Asia, but his imminent departure was bittersweet.    Hedin was leaving behind the woman of his dreams.    Mille Bruman was beautiful and very wealthy.    Like Hedin, she was a romantic.    He adored her.   [-- B.:]   "She was magnificent in her youth, innocence and beauty.    She was blonde and had eyes of the most beautiful color."    In Sven's mind, there was no doubt they would marry when he got back.

 Kashi, modern-day China, once known as Kashgar, a key market town along the old Silk Road.    Sven Hedin arrived here in 1894  after a grueling year-long journey.    Kashi was the obvious base for Hedin's expedition for it stood on the edge of the Taklamakan,  the desert Hedin had come to explore.    With thousand-foot sand dunes and 130 degree summer heat, the desert is one of the most forbidding places on earth.    Hedin began to make careful preparations for an expedition into the desert when devastating news arrived.   [L.B.:]   "When he was sitting there waiting for his camels there came a letter from home where somebody wrote that his love, Mille Maria Bruman, was going to get engaged with someone else, and his whole world shattered,and he writes about his desperation that now nothing was worth anything.    He would do this absolutely crazy thing.    He would just venture into the desert and see what would come out of it."    Hedin was heartbroken.     Distraught and totally ill equipped, he set off on a suicidal quest to find a lost city in the desert.  [-- B.:]   " He walked through the streets and the people formed lines and they cheered him and they cried and they said, 'You will go to the Desert of Death and you will never come out alive', and he walked through the streets with his laden camels and people said his camels are too heavy.   They'll not make it, he'll not come back from the Desert of Death.    They walked out to the edge of the desert and disappeared."

"One thousand heavy steps towards the goal, not one backwards, was my motto."    Stubborn and defiant, Hedin had started a death march.    15 days into the trip, Hedin realized his guides had not brought enough water.    The expedition was now in the middle of the deadliest desert on earth with only two days of water left.    Should they turn back or look for an oasis?    Hedin, as ever, chose to push on, straight into the Karaburan, an infamous storm that whips the sand into a punishing frenzy.    His expedition was now lost in the dreaded Taklamakan.

[-- B.:]  "The name 'Taklamakan' from the Uighur  translates ' you go in but you do not come out'.    By 9 o'clock in the morning, having spent 2 and a half hours loading your camels to get ready for the day's march, you could have drunk the water by then, let alone keep it and have precious sips throughout the day, to try and cover a pitiful maybe five miles at most, because the nature of the sand dunes is such you can't go in a straight line or very fast.    Then the sand just gets into every part of your body.    Your nose, your eyes, your ears just become blocked with it, and your lips were split, your tongue was swollen and sticking to the roof of your mouth."

 Over the course of the next 5 days, 2 of Hedin's team died from dehydration, and one collapsed with exhaustion.    Finally Hedin and a local guide stumbled across footsteps which they prayed would lead to water.    "Why should I die  in the embraces of this deceitful desert, for an unfaithful girl?    I will conquer the desert and return home a hero and all my people will see it as a manly and courageous deed."    But the footsteps were their own.    They had walked in a circle.    The guide gave up, leaving Hedin alone to crawl to a parched death.    He struggled on.    After 6 days without water, Hedin finally found the Khotan river.    Luck and unbelievable perseverance had saved him.   [L.B.:]   "His whole life was characterized by this will to achieve, to prove himself, to prove that he was not a failure, the failure that he had become when she turned him down."    

Six months after his first disaster, Hedin was back in the Taklamakan, more determined than ever to find the footsteps to fame.    One night a local brought Hedin some woodcarvings he had found in the desert, mysterious objects which might lead him to the lost civilization buried beneath the sand.    "In spite of my misfortunes the previous spring, I was again drawn irresistibly toward the mysterious country under the eternal sand."

This expedition was different.    The water bottles were full, the winter air cooler.   After a 5-day trek into the Taklamakan, Hedin finally came across signs of an abandoned city.    He stopped and looked for confirmation.    The evidence was undeniable.    He had found Dandanuilik, a lost city of the Silk Road.    "No explorer had an inkling, up till now, of the existence of this ancient city.    Here I stand, like the prince in the enchanted wood, having wakened to new life a city which has slumbered for a thousand years."

Hedin's discovery was just a beginning.    It started one of the greatest archeological races of the 20th century.  [V.H.:]   "Hedin's main contribution to the Silk Road is that he starts the race to discover all the Silk Road sites.    He is never the person who figures out the historical significance of any given site, but he's the person who gets other people to go and figure those things out."   Using Hedin's pioneering maps, famous archeologists like Aurel Stein and Paul Pelliot raced desperately to find other lost cities of the Silk Road.   For these Europeans  it was much more than a race for buried treasure.    It was a battle to appropriate the history of an area they hoped to control in the future.    The Silk Road, a forgotten ideal, was once again a global concern.

Despite his success, Hedin was still infatuated with Mille.    The proud Swede wrote her a letter, wishing her happiness with her future husband.   [L.B.:]   "She was at that time on vacation in Norway and she had decided to break up the engagement because the one she really loved was Sven Hedin, so she wrote this letter to Sven Hedin.    She went to the post office to drop it in the post box and the postman says, 'Oh, here's a letter for you from Sven Hedin,' and she got this message that he wanted her to be happy with her new husband, and she thought that now he has forgotten her, so she got married and he went to new expeditions."

 Wounded and defiant, Hedin pushed harder on his quest for fame.    Over the next 10 years this solitary, driven man set out to chart the earth's final frontiers.    He traveled more than a third of the world's circumference, mapping an area twice the breadth of the United States.    He was the first to explore the mighty Transhimalayan Mountains in Tibet, the first to trace the source of the Indus River.

[L.B.:]  "I think that the ideal of Sven Hedin was the strong and lonely man.    He said that the best thing with the desert is that there are no people.   A real man was a lonely man. His ideal was the lonely leader who took his responsibility and did great things for the nation, for mankind."

 As he put Central Asia and the Silk Road back on the world's map, Hedin became one of the most celebrated explorers of the day. On January 17th, 1909, Sven Hedin returned to Sweden a hero.    Sven's childhood dream had come true.    Thousands of Swedes were there to greet him just as they were for Nordenskiold 30 years earlier, but it still wasn't enough.    "The joy I felt to be reunited with my parents and siblings and to be greeted by the old king was darkened because she was not there to greet me."    Alone in his moment of triumph, Hedin craved adulation on an ever larger stage.    It was a path that would ultimately end in tragedy.

In 1914, Europe slipped into world war.    As the conflict intensified, Sven Hedin headed for the frontline as a war correspondent for the German High Command.   [L.B.:]   "There are many reasons why Sven Hedin supported Germany throughout his life. Germany --the scientific community-- always supported him.    He came from a background in Stockholm where one always was close to the Germans, so that was a natural thing, but the really decisive factor was his belief in geopolitics.    Like many Swedes, Hedin believed that Germany was the only power capable of protecting Sweden from a Russian invasion.

When Germany lost the war, Allied countries like England and France retracted the honors they had bestowed on him.    Hedin was on the wrong side.    He would defiantly stay there for the rest of his life.    Unperturbed, the explorer focused on writing books about his previous expeditions.  

 In 1920, Mille got back in touch with him.    [L.B.:]    "They had had some meetings.    She had children and she, she wrote a letter to him,  that she could never forget, forget him.    He was the love of her life, and couldn't they get back together, and he wrote back that, you know, what is done is done. Never turn back; 1,000 heavy steps towards the goal, but not one backwards."

 Hedin returned to Central Asia: the region he now called his "frozen bride."    "She has held me captive in her cold embrace, and out of jealousy would not let me love any other, and I have been faithful to her, that is certain."    Hedin's new project was to draw up maps for a revolutionary new Silk Road , a massive motorway that would run 5000 miles from Peking all the way to Vienna.    Hedin's pioneering maps were the basis for the overland highway that today links Asia with Europe.   [L.B.?:]  "This highway should unite two continents --Asia and Europe-- two cultures: the Chinese and the Western."   Sven Hedin, the man who had rediscovered the Silk Road 40 years earlier had now given it a new lease of life.

The world famous explorer now gambled his celebrity on a highly controversial cause.   Hedin's achievements had attracted influential admirers.    One was Adolf Hitler.  [L.B.:]    " There was a special relation between Sven Hedin and Adolf Hitler, who had only had two heroes in his life, and one of them was Sven Hedin.    It was Sven Hedin's stories that had kind of awakened the young Adolf Hitler to the world, so when they met in the '30s and the beginning of the '40s, Hitler wanted to talk about all the heroic things that Sven Hedin had done."     Hedin, the attention seeker, was flattered.    In 1936 he gave the opening speech at the Olympic games in Berlin.     For Hedin, Germany had always been a symbol of honor and discipline.    He would refuse to see that the Third Reich was the cause of the horrors to come.

 In 1940, an eye disease that plagued Hedin all his life resurfaced and the explorer went partially blind.   [H. --:]   "A Norwegian resistance fighter was brought to Sven Hedin to tell him about the torture that he had sustained on the hands of, of German soldiers, and Hedin couldn't believe him because it just didn't fit his image of what a German soldier is, and then the Resistance man told him that his face was badly scarred, and he took Sven Hedin's hand and Sven Hedin could feel the scars, and the story goes that Hedin's eyes then are filled with tears but still he couldn't believe that a German soldier could do something like that."

 In 1945, when the atrocities of Hitler's regime were undisputed, Hedin chose to ignore them.   [L.B.:]    "He was always very naively attracted to these men of power, and it's never as glaring as when it comes to Adolf Hitler.    Sven Hedin simply didn't want to see that this was an evil man. "

"One thousand heavy steps towards the goal. Not one back."    The motto that led Hedin to triumph in the desert now led him to disgrace in Europe.    An unrepentant Nazi sympathizer, Hedin was an international outcast.    Banished from the world stage, the defiant explorer wrote about his past in the limelight.

Hedin sent a letter to a friend's 15-year-old daughter:  "I understand that you will speak at school about my travels in Asia.    Greet the deserts and mountains when you speak to them, but tell them that I do not long after them anymore."    After World War II, Hedin never returned to Asia.    When the Communists seized control of China in 1949, they severed all links with the West.    The Silk Road, Hedin's lifelong obsession, was once again abandoned.    Sven Hedin died in his sleep in 1952 at the age of 87.    By his bed was a photo of his beloved Mille, with an inscription on it: "You have been by my side on all my travels."

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