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Dr Amjad Hussain. — Dawn
Dr Amjad Hussain. — Dawn

PESHAWAR: Biological weapon was used for the first time on the Silk Road when during the siege of Kaffa, the Mongols catapulted plague-infested bodies of their soldiers into the besieged city, said Dr Amjad Hussain.

He was delivering a lecture titled “Ancient pathway to the modern world” on his expedition to explore Silk Road in China to a select audience in Victoria Hall of Peshawar Museum, said a press release.

In April-May 2017, Dr Amjad Hussain was part of a nine-member Pakistani expedition to explore the Silk Road in China. The team subsequently followed the Silk Road in Pakistan down to the Arabian Sea.

The event revolved around a personal narrative by Dr Hussain about his experiences during the fascinating journey along with historical accounts of the places visited.

Dr Amjad Hussain delivers lecture on his Silk Road expedition in China

The Silk Road had originally been mentioned in ancient Chinese travelogues and in the diaries of the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims, who went westward from the city of Xian, the ancient capital of the Qin (pronounced Chin) dynasty. They have left detailed accounts of the places they visited and the paths they followed.

Dr Hussain is from Peshawar City. He is currently an emeritus professor of cardio-thoracic surgery and emeritus professor of humanities at University of Toledo, Ohio, the USA.

He has explored the entire 2,000 miles of the Indus River in Pakistan and also at its source in Tibet. He is also an award-winning writer. He has published 15 books on history, culture, religion and linguistic and cultural legacy of Peshawar City. Half of his published books are in Urdu and two of his Urdu books have received Abasin Literary Award.

The Silk Road was a unique passageway on which commodities such as silk, spices, gunpowder as well as religions, music and arts traveled. It also facilitated the spread of diseases such as cholera, plague, smallpox and intestinal ailments.

It was along the Silk Road that smallpox vaccination was carried out routinely in Turkey that was 80 years ahead of Edward Jenner’s experiment in England.

“It was also on the Silk Road that for the first time in history biologic weapon was used when during the siege of Kaffa, the Mongols catapulted plague-infested bodies of their soldiers into the besieged city,” said Dr Hussain.

Buddhism, Islam and Christianity came to China from the Middle East and India. Silk traveled all the way from Shanghai to Rome where the see-through fabric was a sensation but was also considered scandalous by the Romans and thus banned in public.

Similarly the Silk Road promoted amalgamation and fusion of the statuary art of India with the Greek art.

Somewhere, in the vast kingdom of Gandhara in the 2nd century CE, Buddha exchanged his Indian loincloth for a Greek toga. The string instruments from the east found eager audience in the west and the reed flute traveled from the Middle East in both directions to China and the west.

In his opinion, Peshawar remained the capital of Gandhara and centre of gravity of Buddhism. Kashgar’s culture was closer to that of Peshawar, according to him. In the end a resolution was read out to declare Kashgar and Peshawar ‘sister cities.’

Published in Dawn, December 19th, 2017