A lesson presented in a way that is at once natural and fascinating. Major (The Land and People of Malaysia and Brunei, 1991, etc.) follows a caravan along the silk route from China to Byzantium, during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-906). Readers travel through Central Asia, Persia, and Arabia, take in scenic views, and stop in cities blooming with more-than-Oriental splendor. The book covers several topics in an entertaining style--the silk trade, religions and languages, the roles of different animals in Asian cultures--all while carefully describing the geography of Asia and providing succinct snapshots of the different cultures pierced by the silk route. In addition, there are three pages of notes at the end. The illustrations are packed with aromatic details that convey the atmospheres of the different locations visited. Fieser's scenes are well-chosen (bustling marketplaces, close-ups of merchants and camels, spectacular landscapes), executed in a somewhat fluid, delicate fashion; these are pretty, but don't provide a substantial balance for the text. However, the big, two-page map at the beginning of the book is invaluable. A trip well worth taking.