SHANGHAI, Sept. 14 (Xinhua) -- Er Dongqiang, 57, has travelled to over 150 cities along the Silk Road in the past 16 years, taking more than 100,000 photos.
His collection of photographs and reprinted pictures from historical books on the Maritime Silk Road are now on display in Shanghai until October 7.
"The Muztag Ata under the moonlight, described by the Swedish explorer Sven Hedin a century ago in his book 'History of the Expedition in Asia' is so magnificent and beautiful. It was my first impression of the Silk Road as a child," Er said.
EXPEDITION ON THE SILK ROAD
Inspired by what Hedin wrote, Er started his expedition in 2000, revisiting the road that explorers Ferdinand von Richthofen, Marc Stein and Sven Hedin trailed a century ago, collecting evidence of east meets west cultural exchange and folk literature along the Silk Road.
"My adventure is different. I collected historical evidence to look for the past and took photos to capture the present. I want to draw a contrast between the past and present," Er said.
The former press photographer said that Richthofen's trip was partly a colonialist action, providing information of geographical conditions and natural resources for the chamber of commerce in Shanghai. However, it was in his book "China" in 1877 that the German explorer first used the term Silk Road.
Paying tribute to Richthofen, Er took on a special trip in 2013. Starting in Shanghai, he drove through Eurasia and stopped in many Silk Road cities, including Xi'an, Sochi, Athens and Rome, finally arriving in Hamburg 56 days later.
Richthofen's book "China" is the most treasured in Er's collection. He happened to find the 1912 Berlin version in an old bookstore in Rothenburg on his 2013 trip.
Also on display are reprinted pictures from other historical books, which show trade and communication among China, Japan and Indonesia along the Maritime Silk Road.
"On the Java Islands, I saw where traces of Chinese culture had spread. In Uzbekistan, the guide took me to an underground gas pipe that linked to eastern China's Shanghai. I immediately took a picture as I consider it as a living Silk Road," Er said.
INSPIRATION AND FUTURE WISHES
Sven Hedin once wrote: "The sun goes down, and the purple evening twilight hides behind the Muztag Ata. The moon appears in the south of the snow-capped mountain. I walked outside the tent into the night, charmed by the most spectacular scene I've ever seen in Asia."
Inspired by Sven's description of the lonely scene on the ancient trade route, Er said his adventure along the Silk Road remains a way to continue dialogue between different cultures.
"I revisited the historical sites where Stein once left his footprint. I took photos of each site, so as to record the changes in them over the past century as well as collect visual documents for the future."
Er has not fully realized his dream. So far, he has only covered Silk Road routes in Asia and parts of Europe. In the future, he wants to trace the ancient routes around the world.