Friday, December 13, 2013

A Few of Our Favourite Things #7: Hans van Roon

As part of IDP's 20th anniversary celebrations we have asked twenty of our friends and supporters to select their favourite item from the IDP collections. The full selection will form an online catalogue and will be featured in the spring and autumn 2014 editions of IDP News


Hans van Roon is a Dutch chartered accountant and financial specialist who in 1987 read Peter Hopkirk’s Foreign Devils on the Silk Road and never stopped reading again. This was the beginning of his own personal Silk Road journey. He publishes on a regularly basis the latest news about the Silk Road and anything related to IDP on his blog Mongols China and the Silk Road.

His favourite object is the third of five nearly complete Sogdian letters from the beginning of the fourth century, discovered in 1907 by Aurel Stein some 90km west of Dunhuang.

Detail from Or.8212/98

Hans van Roon writes:

Many readers will be familiar with this letter but this one is special to me as:
  • This was found by Aurel Stein;
  • These letters are the most ancient monuments of the Sogdian language;
  • This one is almost complete and full of drama with an abandoned wife in the middle of nowhere while, we as readers know her cry for help never arrived at its destination;
  • It is written by a woman and the length of the letter suggests that it is not her first and only letter. It ends with the famous bitter words of anger to her husband: ‘I would rather be a dog’s or a pig’s wife than yours!’
  • It makes you feel that you are in direct contact with someone from the fourth century, which is something magical!

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