A mountain village visited by Where There Be Dragons' China: The Silk Road program

China & Kyrgyzstan

The Silk Road

A 6-week Summer Abroad Program

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Duration
42 Days
Description

Explore the diversity of China and Kyrgyzstan’s peoples and cultural traditions: live with Tibetan families in Qinghai Province, witness the dizzying pace of change, politics, and development in western China’s booming cities, visit a 2000 year-old bazaar in Kyrgyzstan and live with families on the shores of an alpine lake.

Dates

Jun 28 - Aug 8, 2020


Suggested Ages

16-18

Number of Participants

12


Availability

Open

Begins In

45 Weeks

Land Cost

$8,565


Estimated Flight Cost

$2,185

Beijing

Xining

Xi'an

Kashgar

Urumqi

Turpan

Program Overview

Travel along ancient trade routes while learning about Silk Road history, religious practices, and ethnic diversity.


Silk Road…the words alone conjure up all kinds of images: camel caravans bringing the treasures of ancient China across  the heart of Asia; empires old and new vying for power; pilgrims and poets, bearers of culture and religion, spreading knowledge and ideas from points as far apart as Xi’an and Rome. Traveling from China into Kyrgyzstan and back, our Silk Road program explores this region’s history of exchange with all of Eurasia, and examines the connections between people living here today, including Han Chinese, Uyghur, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Tajik, Mongol, Tibetan, and Hui communities.

Our journey begins in Xi’an, home to the Terracotta Warriors and China’s ancient capital. In Xi’an we witness firsthand the ways that Chinese culture and commerce were once influenced by Silk Road travelers as we explore the still thriving neighborhood of Hui Muslims, descendants of Silk Road travelers. From Xi’an, we begin our journey west, entering the historical Tibetan Kingdom of Amdo…

Silk Road…the words alone conjure up all kinds of images: camel caravans bringing the treasures of ancient China across  the heart of Asia; empires old and new vying for power; pilgrims and poets, bearers of culture and religion, spreading knowledge and ideas from points as far apart as Xi’an and Rome. Traveling from China into Kyrgyzstan and back, our Silk Road program explores this region’s history of exchange with all of Eurasia, and examines the connections between people living here today, including Han Chinese, Uyghur, Kyrgyz, Kazakh, Tajik, Mongol, Tibetan, and Hui communities.

Our journey begins in Xi’an, home to the Terracotta Warriors and China’s ancient capital. In Xi’an we witness firsthand the ways that Chinese culture and commerce were once influenced by Silk Road travelers as we explore the still thriving neighborhood of Hui Muslims, descendants of Silk Road travelers. From Xi’an, we begin our journey west, entering the historical Tibetan Kingdom of Amdo (in northern Qinghai Province). Here, we live with Tibetan homestay families, learning about Tibetan Buddhism and the ways in which life continues to change for people who were once nomadic herders, and, increasingly, live in settled farming communities.

Continuing westward, we stop to explore an oasis town in the Gobi Desert and rich archaeological sites decorated by centuries of Buddhist pilgrims. We also see firsthand the ways in which an unprecedented increase in domestic tourism is affecting ancient relics and once remote communities along these historic trade routes.

In the far-western province of Xinjiang, we take in some of China’s most breathtaking natural scenery: the Taklamakan Desert, and the Tianshan and Pamir mountain ranges. In Kashgar, we explore historic mosques and shrines, wander through massive bazaars, and sample some of the city’s famous culinary treats: fresh hami melons, pomegranates, homemade yogurt, roast lamb, and breads sprinkled with sesame and cumin seeds. Regional politics and economic issues in Xinjiang are complex, and we also explore issues of ethnicity, nationality and power in China today.

Continuing even further west, we enter Kyrgyzstan! After an orientation to Kyrgyz culture, we begin homestays with families in the grasslands around Song Lake. In this picturesque setting, we learn about the continuing traditions of nomadic herders who still use the area as their “high summer pasture” and the ways economic development and tourism have changed life for people here. We travel on to visit Kyrgyzstan’s oldest city, Osh, on the plains of the Fergana Valley. Once an important destination for religious pilgrims and home to a bazaar that has been in operation for more than 2000 years, Osh is rich in history and offers windows into the Soviet era and post-Soviet politics that shape Kyrgyzstan today.

Our time in Kyrgyzstan concludes with a visit to the Jalalabad Walnut Forest, said to have originated with walnuts carried from Western Eurasia by Greek settlers after the conquest of Alexander the Great. Taking in the unique beauty of the forest as we hike through, we explore issues around natural resources and conservation in the region.  We reflect on all we’ve seen and experienced together on this journey along roads made famous by the countless travelers and traders who walked them before us.

 

 

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Program Components

5/5
Rugged Travel

Extensive train and bus travel, domestic flight, intense urban environments, remote village homestay.

5/5
Development Studies

Development and minority issues; ecology, land-use and resource management.

5/5
Comparative Religion

Introduction to Islam, Buddhism, Daoism, Confucian thought, Marxism.

5/5
Focus Of Inquiry

Minority issues, environmental studies, ancient and modern history, political studies, religious and philosophical perspectives of Central Asian cultures.

2/5
Homestay

Unique rural homestay (subject to change in the event of government restriction).

1/5
Independent Study Project (ISP)

Optional ISPs facilitated when itinerary permits: Past students have studied Uyghur music and dance, cooking, traditional medicine, study of minority language/culture, artistic traditions.

1/5
Language Study

We engage in simple Mandarin, Uyghur, and Tibetan language study.

1/5
Learning Service

Limited service opportunities due to the political climate of China's west.

3/5
Trekking

Numerous day hikes in Tibetan areas, hiking through the Jalalabad Walnut Forest in Kyrgyzstan.