The Ancient Silk Road

Our story is set near the end of the first Millennium: For more than one thousand years, the Silk Road has become a corridor along which people shared ideas about technology and belief. Chinese monks have crossed the great deserts and found Buddhism in India, bringing it back and mixing it with ancestral religions. At the same time, obscure cults, among them Gnosticism and Manichaeism have spread East from Europe and the Middle East. Chinese Technology and goods permeated west. The tradesmen experienced all these: their own personal identities constantly challenging the belief systems they came across.

On the edges of the Silk Road, in the mountains and on the plateaus, live nomadic tribesmen who practice shamanic traditions. These tribal peoples constantly threatened China’s western frontier.

Although now well within China proper, the area where the film is set, located around the Turpan basin, was originally inhabited by an Indo European race of people known as the Jushi. From burial practices it is known that several millennia ago these people followed a shamanist religion (one local shaman was buried three thousand years ago with a one kilogram stash of cannabis). By the first millennium, its capital Jiaohe was an important prefecture in the Chinese Tang dynasty. However it wasn’t long before the Chinese were driven out to make way for the Uighur Khaganate who practiced the religion Manichaeism, which at its height, had followers all the way from Spain, to Eastern Chi- na’s pacific coast. This religion professed a fiercely anti materialist drive; with its followers believ- ing that only through death, they could escape the darkness of the world and reach the eternal per- fect sphere of light.

There is surprisingly little known about this city, except that burial finds there have shown the people to be of Caucasian descent, and practiced medicine foreign to Chinese traditions, now thought to be lost forever.

This capital city of Jiaohe was protected from invasion by being built on a large islet in the middle of a river. It can be seen in the film as an ancient ruined city that our characters pass during their journey. Other ancient city remains, and the original caves that Buddhist and other cult monks in- habited, were all used extensively as shooting locations. The film’s climax was shot at the Subashi Lost City, a beautiful but haunting collection of temples and great halls, a kind of mega Buddhist monastery.