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Choosing Central Asia for a bride
January 4, 2010 8:45 PM   Subscribe

Fascinated by the Orient An exhibition of the letters, photographs and maps bequeathed to the Hungarian Academy of Sciences by the great explorer, archaeologist, geographer and Sanskritist Sir Marc Aurel Stein. Journeyer in the footsteps of Alexander, explorer of Central Asia and West China, surveyor of the antiquities of India and Iran; after a long life of journeying through and studying central Asia, Aurel Stein found his final rest in Kabul. He is also remembered for rediscovering the oldest dated printed book still in existence, a copy of the Diamond Sutra in the caves at Mogao. That the latter and many thousands of other manuscripts collected by Stein now reside in the British Library is of course, like his other 'treasure hunting', not without controversy.
posted by Abiezer (4 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Also a nice set of scholarly articles at the British Museum's website; those include a piece [PDF] by one of Stein's biographers, Annabel Walker, that includes the following on the contradictions of his life:
The third contradiction is the idea of the boring man leading an exciting life. One reviewer of my book described Stein as having ‘all the allure of an Edwardian chartered accountant’.
posted by Abiezer at 8:49 PM on January 4, 2010


Great post. I think I would acquit on the pragmatic grounds mentioned in the controversy link, ie that "the manuscripts that were sent to London and Paris were catalogued, preserved, published and generally rescued for the world, and those that were not, for the most part were lost."
posted by Phanx at 1:39 AM on January 5, 2010


There's probably a good post to be made about Hungarian 'Orientalism' in general - first became aware of it because as a student dipped into the first Tibetan-English dictionary which was the work of Alexander Csoma de Kőrös (also subject of a nice web presentation by the Hungarian Academy), completed whilst hanging out at a lamasery in Zanskar. Seems there was a movement to trace the origins of the Magyar back to Central Asia linked to the resurgence of national sentiment during the period of Hapsburg rule, though not something I know a great deal about.
posted by Abiezer at 8:33 AM on January 5, 2010


Great post. And thanks for the links on Hungarian 'orientalism'. A friend of mine from grad school did his PhD on similar trends among German alpine adventurers in Tibet. He gets to write fun titles such as:

Nazis, Yetis and Cave-men in Tibet: Britishness in Boys’ Adventure Novels, 1949-1957 (Thomas Neuhaus)

Europe to the Asian Priests?: Science and Occultism in Travelogues of Interwar Tibet (Thomas Neuhaus)
posted by honest knave at 12:45 PM on January 5, 2010


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