in answer to Jake's query
- Dear Jake,
Since I'm the guy who used the "ancestral homeland" phrase I guess I should
be the one to address your curiosity and respond to the group as a whole.
First, as always, I am dazzled by your knowledge and scholarship, and I
appreciate your vigilance over unsubstantiated claims regarding marbling
I apologize if it seemed to you that I claimed that Urumqi, Xinjiang is the
cradle of marbling. I was trying to make the case that since Urumqi was the
site proposed by our hosts, it would be central to our Silk Road explorations
(Turfan, Kashgar and if we're lucky, Dunhuang) and therefore a de facto
"homeland" for anyone with an interest in anything to do with paper, be it
marbled or otherwise. The statement came too easily, and I'll be more careful
I couldn't agree with you more about the need "to use words like 'maybe'
'possibly' and perhaps'"(I prefer a shrug and a "who knows?"), so my use of
the word "must" in connection with "ancestral homeland" was unfortunate.
However, if only to play the devil's advocate, I think I'd like to stick to a
Silk Road source for the origin of marbling. I am not in any way the scholar,
linguist, archivist or theologian to produce "hard" evidence of this, but as
an artist and a sometimes traveler to Asia it makes perfect "sense" to me.
There is also plenty of wiggle room there, given the breadth through space
and time that the Silk Road extends.
I'm not the first person to suggest the Silk Road as possible source of
marbling (I wish I were that imaginative, original and daring!) but in the
meantime I'm at least willing to try the idea on for size.
Another way of looking at the delightful examples you provided - rather than
to illustrate confusion - is to, as you say, "connect the dots", and at least
look in the direction they point. I would hate to miss the forest for the
trees. "Not knowing" is a far better reason to travel than to seek
confirmation of one's beliefs. Preconceived ideas are the heaviest part of a
traveler's baggage. These gatherings of marblers are something absolutely new
in the universe, and I think the experience of looking at the Silk Road
through the eyes of many marblers is an opportunity too good to pass up. If
someone would like to put together a marblers' trip to India or Iran I'd love
to be part of it.
One of my fondest marbling memories came from the gathering in Istanbul,
during our boat ride on the Bosporus. At one point the sky was full of
particularly wispy clouds, and twenty (maybe more) marblers spontaneously
raised their arms to make swirling gestures toward the heavens. Anecdote yes,
but it means more to me than any "convincing proof" about the geographic
origins of marbling ever will.
(Oh, and for the record, I know my 3 short weeks in Turkey can't hold a
candle to the years you spent studying there. Nevertheless, they meant a heck
of a lot to me. I guess it only takes a second to get struck by lightning!)
So that's all I have to offer. I wish it were more exciting news but I guess
we'll all have to wait for that.
Very best wishes,