ABOUT SILK ROAD: The Silk Road was not a single road, and it was not made of silk. It was a series of trade routes across Asia that stretched over four thousand miles, connecting the Western civilizations, such as the Greeks and Persians, with the Eastern civilizations of the Chinese. Trade started during the subsequent century, or maybe much prior, and proceeded for many years until transportation by ship turned into a more secure choice around the 1400s.
Numerous products were transported over the Silk Road. It was silk that initially filled the advancement of this trade, however. The Romans were exceptionally inspired by this wonderful, soft fabric, which was altogether different from the wools and clothes they were utilized to. Eventually, silk clothes counted for a small portion of the goods traded. Merchants took coral, glass, gems, gold, ivory, precious metals, and textiles eastward to China. They also brought rare plants and animals such as falcons, gazelles, hunting dogs, leopards, lions, ostriches, parrots, and peacocks. Traveling westward were traders with bronze, ceramics, cinnamon and other spices, furs, iron, jade, lacquer, tea, and even rhubarb.

Traveling this route was very dangerous for the caravans. Parts of the Great Wall of China were built to help protect the travelers on what would later become the Silk Road. Harsh weather conditions are found along much of the Silk Road, from scorching deserts to freezing mountains passes. Travelers also had to worry about having enough water in this arid part of the world. Blinding sandstorms could strand caravans for days. Crossing high mountains could lead to altitude sickness.

Probably the greatest danger faced by those traveling the Silk Road was bandits. The wealth of merchandise being carried across uninhabited lands was very tempting to those who chose to rob these traveling merchants. A single camel could convey as much as five hundred pounds of trade merchandise. To maintain a strategic distance from thieves, caravans joined together and hired outfitted watchmen. As many as one a thousand camels might be grouped together for the journey. Chances were good, however, that not all the members of the caravan would survive the trip. For this reason, many who traded on the Silk Road began using boats and waterways to carry goods. These routes were also known as the Silk Road.

‘Silk Road’ is a detailed account of the author’s visit to Mount Kailash. He visited the place to do the ‘Kora’ (‘Parikarma’ around the holy mountain) with other pilgrims. The Kora was seasonal and he was perhaps the first pilgrim in the season to reach Hor town from where he was to start his pilgrimage. He had to encounter several obstacles on the way to reach Hor.

The writer uses picturesque phrases to describe the scenic beauty of the mountains. The whole description is quite interesting as it reveals many unknown facts about a journey up the most difficult terrain in the world.


This article gives a record of a adventure from tenderly rolling hills of Ravu to Mount Kailash. The motivation behind this journey was religious. The storyteller wanted to finish the kora at Mount Kailash. Lhamo gave him a long-sleeved sheepskin coat to keep him warmer. The narrator and Tsetan took a short cut to get off the Changtang. This route would take them south-west, almost directly towards Mount Kailash. It involved crossing fairly high mountain passes. Tsetan said that there would be no issue if there was no snow. This alternate route took them crosswise over tremendous fields having parched fields. They saw a few gazelles and a great herd of wild asses. They noticed clouds of dust rising in the sky.

As the hills arrived again, they passed shepherds tending their flocks. These men or wonen were well-wrapped. They would pause and look at the vehicle. Sometimes they would wave as the vehicle passed by them. When snow-cappedok the car close to the sheep, the animals would try to avoid the speeding vehicle by dodging to one side track that, the narrator and Tsetan passed the dark tents of the nomads in lonely places. A huge black dog, a Tibetan mastiff would stand to guard outside. These dogs raised their enormous heads erect and viewed the narrator’s vehicle. As the vehicle came nearer they would begin yapping and kept running towards their vehicle. The dogs were totally fearless of their vehicle. Tsetan had to apply the brake and turn aside.

The dogs would quit barking simply in the wake of pursuing them off the property. Then, they entered a valley. The snow-topped mountains were visible on the horizon. The river in this valley was wide and for the most part obstructed with ice. The track held near the river bank and wound with the curved banks.

Gradually they gained height and the valley-sides closed in. They were climbing up the hill. The turns became sharper and the ride bumpier. Tsetan drove in third gear. The narrator felt the pressure building up in his ears. He held his nose, snorted and cleaned them. They struggled round another tight bend. Tsetan stopped. He opened his door and jumped. Daniel too left the vehicle. There was snow on the track. It stretched for about fifteen metres. Then it became smaller and the dirt trail reappeared. There was no way around the snow patch as there was snow on either side. Moreover, the bank was too steep for their vehicle to scale. They were at 5,210 metres above sea level. Tsetan grabbed handfuls of dirt. He flung them across the icy top layer. The narrator and Daniel joined him and threw dirt. Then Tsetan drove the car slowly and carefully on the icy surface. Daniel and the narrator stayed out of the vehicle to lighten Tsetan’s load. Ten minutes later, they stopped at another blockage. This time Tsetan decided to try and drive around the snow. The slope was steep and full of big rocks. Somehow Tsetan got past over the difficult route. Once he cut a very sharp bend. They continued to climb in the bright sunshine. They crept past 5,400 metres. The narrator’s head began to beat horribly. He took gulps from a water bottle. Finally, they reached the top of the pass at 5,515 metres. There was a large cairn of rocks. It was decorated with white silk scarves and ragged prayer flags. They took a turn round the cairn in a clockwise direction. The lower atmospheric pressure was allowing the fuel to expand. It could be dangerous. So, Tsetan advised them not to smoke. As they moved down the other side of the pass, the narrator’s headache soon cleared. It was at two o’clock. They stopped for lunch. They ate hot noodles inside a long canvas tent. The plateau was pockmarked with salt flats and brackish lakes. By late afternoon, they had reached the small town of Hor. They were back on the main east-west highway. It followed the old trade route from Lhasa to Kashmir. Daniel found a ride in a truck to return to Lhasa. Tsetan got the punctured tyres repaired. The narrator found Hor a grim, miserable place with no vegetation. They had tea in Hor’s only cafe. They left Hor after half an hour. They drove past rocks and rubbish westwards towards Mount Kailash.

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1. The article has been titled ‘Silk Road’. Justify it.

Answer: The Silk Road refers to a network of overland routes linking Europe with Asia. This has been the trade route followed by the Europeans since ancient times, who had a passion for silk, horses and exotic fauna and fauna of the East. Travellers along the route would buy and sell various items, including silk and spice from China. The author Nick Middleton in his travelogue follows the Silk Road to reach Mount Kailash to do the Kora. Hence, it is titled as ‘Silk Road’. There is a long and vivid account of the whole route and of the difficulties people often encounter.

2. What do you know about the Tibetan mastiffs?

Answer: Tibetan mastiffs, huge and ferocious dogs, were quite popular in China’s imperial Courts because they were good hunting dogs and also good guards. These Tibetan mastiffs guarded the dark tents of the nomads pitched in isolation. These huge black dogs would raise their big heads when they became aware of people approaching and stared at them. As they drew closer, they would explode into action like bullets and rush towards them and chase them for about a hundred meters. These hairy dogs usually wore bright red collars and barked angrily with enormous jaws. They were absolutely fearless of their vehicle and would run straight onto their way.

3. The author’s experience at Hor was in stark contrast to earlier accounts of the place. How?

Answer: According to the earlier accounts, the place abounds in natural beauty. Hor was situated on the sacred Lake Manasarovar. The narrator had heard how various pilgrims had been moved to tears by the sanctity of the place. But his experience of Hor was in direct contrast with theirs. He felt very bad about the place. He found Hor a dismal, wretched place. There was no vegetation there. The whole place was just dust and rocks scattered with a lot of refuse gathered over the years.

4. Why was the author disappointed with Darchen?

Answer: Darchen was dusty, partially derelict and punctuated by heaps of rubble and refuse. The slow-moving and sleepy town had a couple of simple general stores selling Chinese Cigarettes, soap and other basic necessities, as well as the usual strings of prayer flags. The high altitude was giving him health problems. He had a bad cold and was not able to sleep at night. Since he was one of the early arrivals, there weren’t any pilgrims coming to the place. Thus he was disappointed with Darchen.

5. Why did the author think that his positive thinking strategy worked well after all?

Answer: The author had expected Darchen to be full of life with visitors but it was almost deserted. He had arrived too early. Tsetan had left for Lhasa. He was feeling rather lonely with no pilgrims around. It was then he met Norbu, an English speaking Tibetan who too wanted to visit Kailash. Norbu had been writing academic papers about the Kailash Kora and its importance in various works of Buddhist literature for many years. The writer felt that they could team up well as academicians. He realized that his optimism had not vanished after all, even though he had to face a lot of problems and difficulties.

6. What was the purpose of the author’s journey to Mount Kailash?

Answer: The author went on a journey to Mount Kailash to do the Kora as is the tradition. The Kora signifies a rite of circumambulating the holy mountain., that is taking a full circle around it. For this, the author adopted the Silk route to reach Mount Kailash and faced heavy odds to reach there.

7. Describe the author’s physical condition in Darchen.

Answer: It was a disturbed night. The author had a bad cold and his nostril got blocked. He had to breathe through the mouth. He was tired and hungry as well. When he had barely slept, he woke up abruptly. He felt heaviness in his chest. He sat up and cleared his nasal passage. He felt relieved though he felt he was not well. He was unable to sleep. He feared he might die in sleep. So, he kept awake. The next day, Tsetan took him to Darchen Medical College and the doctor there gave him some medicine that gave him some relief.

8. Comment on Tsetan’s support to the author during the journey.

Answer: Tsetan was a good and efficient driver. He drove the car very carefully. During the journey, he spoke to the author giving information about the places they were visiting. He was caring. At Darchen, when he found that the author was not well, he took him to the medical college and got medicine for him. He was a good Buddhist.

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9. As a good Buddhist, he knew that it didn’t really matter if I passed away, but he thought it would be bad for business. Substantiate.

Answer: Tsetan was a good Buddhist who believed that death was the final ‘Nirvana’. Moreover, Kailash was a holy place. However, he felt that his death would demotivate the tourists from coming and hence be bad for their business. It would be bad for his business as his credibility would be at stake in looking after the tourists.

Answer the following questions in 30 – 40 words.

  1. Who was Lhamo and what did she gift?
  2. What were the difficulties on the short cut taken by Tsetan?

  3. How did the people in Darchen live?

  4. While crossing the rocky wilderness, who did they see and what was their reaction?

  5. How did the author feel when they were at about 5400 metres up the sea level?

  6. Why is that on the top of the mountain there is a plateau pockmarked with salt flats?

  7. How did Darchen Medical College appear?

  8. What activity was going on in the area where there were flats of salt?

Answer the following questions in 120-150 words.

1. The narrator realized that the snow was both dangerous as well as beautiful. Justify.

Answer: Silk Road by Nick Middleton is a detailed account of the author’s visit to Mount Kailash. Tsetan on his way surveyed the snow on the path by stamping on it. It was not deep. But in case they slipped, the car could turn over. Hence to cover the risk, they flung a handful of dirt and flung them across the frozen surface. When the snow was spread with soil, they drove without difficulty. Ten minutes later, they stopped at another blockage. This time they decided to drive around the snow.

However, the risks did not undermine the scenic beauty of the place. In the valley, they saw snowcapped mountains and the river was wide but mostly blocked with ice that was sparkling in the sunshine. As they moved ahead, on their upward track, the turns became sharper and the ride bumpier. The rocks around were covered with patches of bright orange lichen. Under the rocks around, seemed unending shade.

2. Narrate the narrator’s meeting with the Tibetan doctor.

Clues: (Introduction – uncomfortable and breathless night -Tsetan took the narrator -Darchen Medical College – was new and looked like a monastery from the outside – very solid door that led into a large courtyard- consulting room dark and cold – occupied by a Tibetan doctor – did not have any kit – wore a thick pullover and a woolly hat- narrator explained the symptoms and the doctor shot him a few questions -felt the veins in his wrist- Finally said- cold and the effects of altitude- would be well enough to do the kora- gave him a brown envelope stuffed with fifteen screws of paper – Each package – brown powder – had to be taken with hot water- tasted like cinnamon- contents of the lunchtime and bedtime packages – less obviously identifiable -both contained small, spherical brown pellets- medicine looked like sheep dung- helped him recover quickly)

3. The narrator on his way to Mount Kailash came across a lot of topographic variation. Comment.

Clues: (introduction -. narrator and his companions – took short cut to get off the Changtang -Tsetan knew route that would take them southwest – almost directly towards Mount Kailash- involved crossing several fairly high mountain passes- the gently rising and falling hills of Ravu- short cut took them across vast open plains with nothing in them – except a few gazelles – grazing in the arid pastures- Further ahead the plains -stonier than grassy- great herd of wild ass came into view.- ahead hills became steeper -solitary drokbas were tending their flocks- snowcapped mountains – valley- river was wide and by and large clogged with ice-height of 5515 metres -piles of stones marked the landscape- plateau covered with salty desert area and salty lakes – remnants of the Tethys Ocean-Hora place with no vegetation- just dust and rocks- liberally scattered with years of accumulated refuse)


Question 1: Why did the author take the short cut inspite of high mountain passes?

Answer: The author took the short cut because it would take them southwest, almost directly towards Mount Kailash. Crossing high mountain passes posed breathing problems. Absence of snow meant a fairy easy ride.

Question 2: Who are “drokbas”? What were drokbas doing in the “rocky wilderness”?

Answer: Drokbas are a hill tribe. They wear long-sleeved sheepskin coat to protect themselves from the cold of the high mountains. They would pause and stare at the travelers and their cars. Occasionally they waved at the passing travelers. Drokbas lived in dark tents guarded by huge black Tibetan mastiffs. As hills started to push up once more from the arid pastures, solitary men or women drokbas were seen tending their flocks in the rocky wilderness.

Question 3: How did the author pass the first night at Darchen? How did he get relief?

Answer: It was a very troubled night. The author suffered from cold. He breathed through his mouth. His chest felt heavy as he gasped for oxygen. He tried his best to sleep but in vain. Almost the whole night, he kept awake. Tsetan took the sick author to Darchen Medical College where he was given a five-day course of Tibetan medicine, which helped him to get well.

Question 4: What did the author notice in the vast open plains after leaving Ravu?
Answer: These vast open plains had only dry pastures. A few gazelles could be seen nibbling the grass in those arid pastures. When the plains grew stonier than grass, great herds of wild asses or “Kyangs” were seen moving together.

Question 5: Who gave the narrator “a farewell present and was the present given at Ravu’?
Answer: The narrator was about to leave Ravu for Mount Kailash to do the kora when Lhambo, a Tibetan woman, wanted to give him a farewell present. She wanted to give the narrator some warm clothes. She gave one of the long sleeved sheepskin coats that all the men wore.


Question 6: Describe Tibetan mastiffs. Why did they become popular in China’s imperial courts?
Answer: Tibetan mastiffs are a breed of large powerful hunting dogs with a dark face. They are capable of chasing their victims for long distances with all their might. These ferocious Tibetan mastiffs were brought to Chinese imperial courts along the Silk Road in ancient times and were considered as tribute from Tibet since they served as powerful guard. So, they were popular in China’s imperial courts as hunting dogs.

Question 7: Describe the first meeting of Norbu with the narrator.
Answer: The narrator met Norbu in a small and dark café in Dsrchen. Norbu came in and asked if he could sit opposite (to) him. He asked if the narrator was an English man and then they struck up a conversation. Norbu was a Tibetan who, like the author, was there to do Kora. He worked in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences knew English.

Question 8: Why did the narrator feel that perhaps Norbu could turn out to be the ideal companion?
Answer: The narrator was heading for Mount Kailash to complete the kora. Originally, he had thought of making the trek in the company of devout believers. Then he met Norbu, who was a Tibetan and like the author, was there to do Kora. Norbu knew English and could answer many of his questions. He also suggested hiring some yaks to carry their luggage. All these things suited the narrator and so, he thought that Norbu could be an ideal companion for him.

Question 9: Do you think Norbu was a better substitute for Tsetan? Justify your answer.
Answer: The author was in a disturbed state of mind when he met Norbu at Darchen. He felt that Norbu could be an ideal companion for him. Since Tsetan had left, the narrator knew no one in Darchen who knew English to answer even his most basic questions. Then he met Norbu. He knew English better than Tsetan. Norbu was an academician who, like the author, was going to Mount Kailash to do the kora. So, I think Norbu was even a better substitute for Tsetan.

Questions – Long Type

Question 10: Describe Nick Middleton’s journey from Ravu to the height of 5210 metres.
Answer: The author Nick Middleton started on a pilgrimage to Mount Kailash. He was to do the Kora. He left Ravu, one early morning in the taxi of Tsetan. A Lhambo woman gave him a long sleeved sheepskin coat as a farewell present. Such coats are worn by the Drokbas, to keep away the cold. Tsetan took a short cut that would take them directly towards Kailash. During the drive, they crossed vast, grassy plains followed by the stony plains and then arid pastures. They saw a few gazelles and wild asses called Kyang. Then came the hills where a few solitary, Drokbas tended to their flocks. There were nomads’ dark tents, guarded by Tibetan mastiffs. Soon they approached the snow-capped mountains, where the ride became bumpy with sharp turns. The car had to be stopped, as there was ice on the track for nearly 15 metres. Tsetan and the others threw dust on the ice and the car could move on. This happened at the height of 5210 metres. The author started developing a headache.

Question 11: Describe the author’s journey from the top of the pass to his stay at Hor.
Answer: A large cairn of rocks marked the top of the pass at a height of 5515 metres. They took the car in a turn around the cairn, according to tradition. The author, Daniel and Tsetan, the driver, careered down the pass to the other side. The author’s headache cleared and they stopped for lunch at 2 P.M. By late afternoon, they reached the small town of Hor, which was on the shore of the sacred lake, Manasarovar. Daniel parted company and went to Lhasa.Tsetan had to repair the punctured tyres, so he sent the author to a cafe for half an hour. The town did not attract the author. Though it was near Mansarovar, it was dirty and full of refuse. When Tsetan returned, the author was glad to continue on his journey.

Question 12: Write a note on the author Nick Middleton’s stay at Darchen and his meeting with Norbu.
Answer: Nick Middleton and Tsetan, the driver, reached Darchen at 10:30 P.M. The author checked into a guesthouse for the night. He could not sleep because of a blockage in his nose. He spent a troublesome night. In the morning, Tsetan took him to the Darchen Medical College, where a Tibetan doctor gave him medicine. When the author got well, Tsetan went back. The author was alone in Darchen, waiting for the pilgrimage season to begin. He had arrived early and was disappointed to see no pilgrims. He became restless and forced himself to think positively. It was then that he met a man called Norbu, in a cafe. He was Tibetan, who worked in Beijing and was writing academic papers about the Kora to Mount Kailash. The author was relieved to meet Norbu as he was the ideal companion to do the Kora with.

Question 13: What impression do you form of the life on the hills in India from the account given by Nick Middleton in Silk Road?
Answer: The life of the people on the hills in India is very different from urban life. The people are simple, hard working, cut off from the luxuries of urban life. They are usually farmers or shepherds making a living in the grassy, arid plains. They live in a pollution free environment; some of them are nomads travelling from place to place. At the same time, they are gentle and kind. The poor Lhambo woman gave the author a sheepskin coat to keep him away from cold. Tsetan, the driver took good care of the author. He took him to a Tibetan doctor and ensured that he got well. The people have a simple heart and live on simple food. They are close to Nature and enjoy the lonely life.

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