Gift ideas -- arts, literature, books for children; How East and West fused in art; Along the Ancient Silk Routes: Central Asian Art from the West Berlin State Museums, introduction by Herbert Hartel. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art. 224 pp. $45.

In the first millenium AD, the great silk routes connected Rome, Persia, India, and China. Cosmopolitan centers grew as city-oases in the inhospitable regions along the routes, only to vanish with the demise of the overland trade. Buddhist missionaries were among the residents of those centers, and the discovery of ruined cave-temples and monastaries in Chinese Turkestan launched a series of expeditions (1898-1930). This book documents the extraordinary finds. Frescos, sculpture, and manuscripts stand as a visible link in the evolution of Indian Buddhism to the later Chinese form. They reflect the slow and subtle influences of Indian, Persian, and Hellenistic culture on Chinese art. The 100 full-color reproductions are beautiful. There are fine maps, and the comprehensive text provides historical and political background, as well as artistic and religious.

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