Albert von Le Coq
Author: Albert von Le Coq
Title: Auf Hellas Spuren in Ost-Turkistan. [Retracing Hella’s Marks In East-Turkestan.] Time: 1902-1913
Destination: mostly Xinjiang
Length: several individual expeditions
Type: caravan, train
[Note: not out in English, I believe.]
The story: ALC is a German archaeologist and explorer who ventures into Central Asia, much like Sven Hedin or Nikolai Mikhaylovich Przhevalsky before him, in order to find ruins and sunken treasures. With a team of fellow explorers, he makes digs around Ürümqi, Turpan and Hami, and he manages to transport home (to Berlin) a lot of manuscripts and artifacts. But in order to do that, he has to literally slash and saw some of them out of their ancient resting sites.
Albert von Le Coq, highly educated adventurer
The book is surprisingly interesting. ALC provides us not only with scientific details about his mission, but also with little stories as well as cultural and linguistic observations. There is a bunch of black & white photographs in this book, along with maps and statistics, and it’s not a dry read at all. Okay, we might think that ALC should have left the relics in peace, but if we allow ourselves to read his words carefully, then we can probably understand that he really thought he was doing everyone a favor by „saving“ priceless artifacts from destruction.
The guy is certainly not an idiot. Here’s a passage I highlighted:
„In the evenings, after I got done with Turkish, I would decorate the walls of our room with sayings and verses in Arabic, Persian, German, Latin, Greek and the European languages that I knew.“
This book is perfect for you, if you want to get a glimpse into Central China at the end of both Zarist Russia and Imperial China, or if you are interested in the mindset of some of the last European archaeologist/explorers.
Otherwise, it’s still a good read.