Archeology and History of the Silk Road



Saturday, 20 December 2014

Mes Aynak: a Choice between Economy and History

Panel discussion 25th of November 2014 in Amsterdam

Ancient stone Buddha statues found in SW China 17 December 2014

More than 80 stone Buddha statues and statue fragments were unearthed in southwest China's Sichuan Province, archaeologists said on Tuesday. 
The red sandstone statues were found in a 500-square meter plot near the ancient walls in Qingyang District, Chengdu, the provincial capital, according to the Institute of Archaeology in Chengdu.
Dating estimates have put ages of the finds to be from around the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589) to the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the peak of China's stone Buddha statue art, said Yi Li from the institute.
This discovery will contribute to research on religious art in China. The statues have been sent to be restored.
In addition, porcelain, pottery, building material and coins were also found during the excavation.

Friday, 19 December 2014

The Qaraqorum Expedition

From: Mobility, Empire and Cross Cultural Contacts in Mongol Eurasia

The project seeks to explain why, how, when and to where people, ideas and artifacts moved in Mongol Eurasia, and what were the outcomes of these huge movements. Studying the Mongol Empire in its full Eurasian context, the project combines a world history perspective with close reading in a huge array of primary sources in various languages (mainly Persian, Arabic and Chinese) and different historiographical traditions, and classifies the acquired information into a sophisticated prosopographical database, which records the individuals acting under Mongol rule in the 13th and 14th centuries. On the basis of this unique corpus, the project maps and analyzes mobility patterns, and the far-reaching effects that this mobility generated. More specifically, it aims:
  • to analyze modes of migrations in Mongol Eurasia: why, how, when and into where people- along with their ideas and artifacts - moved across Eurasia, portraying the full spectrum of such populations movements from the coerced to the voluntary.
  • to shed light on the economic and cultural exchange that this mobility engendered, with a stress on the religious, scientific and commercial networks both within and beyond the empire‘s frontiers.
  • to reconstruct the new elite of the empire by scrutinizing the personnel of key Mongolian institutions, such as the guard, the judicial and postal systems, the diplomatic corps, and the local administration.
These issues will be studied comparatively, in the period of the united Mongol empire (1206-1260) and across its four successor khanates that centered at China, Iran, Central Asia and Russia.
The project is led by Professor Michal Biran of the Hebrew University and conducted by an international team of young scholars working in Jerusalem.
The project's results will be a quantum leap forward in our understanding of the Mongol empire and its impact on world history, and a major contribution to the theoretical study of pre-modern migrations, cross-cultural contacts, nomad-sedentary relations and comparative study of empires. Moreover, the re-conceptualization of the economic and cultural exchange in Mongol Eurasia will lead to a reevaluation of a crucial stage in world history that begins with the Mongol period:  the transition from the Middle Ages to the early modern era.
For a more detailed description of the project see
Qaraqorum Expedition
A joint archaeological expedition of Mongolian, German and Israeli students intends to set a camp this August for excavating the ruins of the first Mongolian capital of Qaraqorum. The project founded by Humboldt Foundation and led by Profs. Michal Biran (HU), Jan Bemmann (Bonn University) and Enkhtur Altangerel (Mongolian Academy of Sciences), aims to reveal parts of the Muslim quarter in the city. Different quarters (e.g. the Chinese quorter that was excavated beforehand) are recorded in the historical documents describing Qaraqorum, and this expedition intends to focus on the Muslim part. Muslim institutions such as Mosques, Caravansaries and Madrasas dictate the layout of the Muslim quarters, and we hope that tracking these features may lead to the exposure of this quarter. Alongside these features, finding goods coming from different regions such as the Middle East, in a capital once situated on a world trade route, may shed some light on the cross-cultural environment that formed the backbone of the whole empire.

The excavations are part of a historical-archaeological project that centers on Qaraqorum and aims to gather as much information on the city in the 13th-14th centuries. The Israeli team, led by historian Michal Biran and archaeologist Tawfiq Da'adli, consists also of 5 HUJI students specializing in archaeology, anthropology, Asian and Islamic and Middle Eastern studies. The first season of the  excavation began on July 29, 2014 and finished on August 31.
Pictures of the first season 2014 can be found here.

Pictures of the first season of the Qaraqorum excavations (2014)


Mongoia 459_mini

Mongoia 313_mini


KAR 2014 - FdNo 205_mini

KAR 2014 - FdNo 143_16_mini

KAR 2014 - FdNo 83_mini[Copyright: Tawfiq Da'adli; Nimrod Oren, Michal Biran]

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Architecture in China during the Northern Wei, the Liao and the Yuan Regimes

Edwin O. Reischauer Lectures 

2014 Edwin O. Reischauer Lectures  2014

by Nancy S. Steinhart


Tuesday, April 8, 2014, 4:15pm


CGIS Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Tsai Auditorium (S010), Harvard University

Nancy S. Steinhardt is professor of East Asian art and curator of Chinese art at the University of Pennsylvania where she has taught since 1982.  She received her PhD at Harvard in 1981 where she was a Junior Fellow from 1978-81. Steinhardt taught at Bryn Mawr from 1981-1982. She has broad research interests in the art and architecture of China and China’s border regions, particularly problems that result from the interaction between Chinese art and that of peoples to the North, Northeast, and Northwest.

Steinhardt is author or coeditor of Chinese Traditional Architecture (1984), Chinese Imperial City Planning (1990), Liao Architecture (1997), Chinese Architecture (2003), Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture (2005), Chinese Architecture and the Beaux-Arts (2011), Chinese Architecture in an Age of Turmoil, 200-600 (in press), The Chinese Mosque (under contract), Chinese ArchitectureTen Lectures (under contract) and more than 70 articles.
East Asian Internationalism and Beyond:
Crossing Borders in Chinese Architectural History
Architecture is without doubt one of the most distinctive elements of Chinese civilization. Its characteristic features – roofs, gables, columns, bracket sets – mean that everyone can recognize a Chinese building when they see one. That these and other features remained so remarkably consistent over time may lead us to conclude that Chinese architecture was a closed system, a building tradition that resisted influences from outside and in which continuities in timber-frame construction and roof decoration can be straightforwardly traced over millennia. Through the centuries, however, the highly recognizable Chinese style in building has been adopted and adapted near and far, from Japan, Korea, and Southeast Asia to England and the United States. How can an architectural tradition apparently so hidebound be so elastic?
These three lectures by the leading American historian of Chinese monumental architecture take up this question by examining developments from a time when Inner Asian regimes, and not Chinese dynasties, governed in the Central Plains. The Northern Wei state of the Xianbei, the Liao state of the Khitans, and the Yuan state of the Mongols, all represent periods of alien rule when challenges were posed to established systems of building in China. In a magisterial overview of Chinese architectural history set broadly in a Eurasian context, Professor Steinhardt demonstrates that, although it might seem that architecture changed little during those periods, buildings constructed under the patronage of non-Chinese rulers in fact stretched the building system beyond anything previously erected in China, and that what we think of as “Chinese” architecture can be thought of as constituting an early “internationalism” in building and space.
Lecture 1: The Sixth Century as the Seventh and Eighth: Recentering an International Age in Chinese Architectural History
The lecture begins by asking questions that have driven the study of Chinese architecture through the twentieth century: Why do so many Chinese buildings look like so many others? What are the principles that govern Chinese construction? How did our current Chinese architectural history come to be written? Is Chinese architecture in fact a Chinese, Japanese, and Korean building system? Is the period of the Tang dynasty (618-907) really the first “international age” for East Asian art and architecture? In answering the last question, the lecture argues that Sino-Korean-Japanese internationalism in art and architecture in fact occurred earlier, in the sixth century, and to a certain extent even in the fifth. In the conclusion, the implications of an international sixth-century and themes that will be important in Lectures 2 and 3 are presented.
Yukio Lippit, Harvard University  (faculty website)
James Robson, Harvard University  (faculty website)
Lecture 2: Wednesday, April 9, 2014
The Liao Revolution in Building and Design
For more details, click here

Lecture 3: Thursday, April 10, 2014
Shifting the Borders: A Revisionist History of Yuan Architecture
For more details, click here
Reception follows each lecture
Cosponsored with the Korea Institute and the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies, Harvard University

Tuesday, 16 December 2014

Paul Pelliot et les études chinoises

Ukok Princess to find final resting place in Altai

Mausoleum plans unveiled for homecoming of Siberian ice maiden

Tattooed 2,500-year-old princess found mummified and preserved in permafrost could finally be reburied in special monument.
Plans have been put forward to build a permanent monument and final resting place for the ice maiden, who was uncovered by archaeologists in 1993. Picture: Spiritual Centre of the Turks Kin Altai
A tattooed Siberian princess found mummified and preserved after almost 2,500 years in permafrost is set to be buried in her own special mausoleum. Plans have been put forward to build a permanent monument and final resting place for the ice maiden, who was uncovered by archaeologists in 1993.
Known as Princess Ukok, after the high altitude plateau on which she was discovered, her body was decorated in the best-preserved, and most elaborate, ancient art ever found.
She spent most of the past two decades at a scientific institute in Novosibirsk, and is now at the Republican National Museum in Gorno-Altaisk, sparking anger among the local people in the Altai Mountain region who want her re-buried.
Ancient beliefs dictate that her presence in the burial chamber had been to 'bar the entrance to the kingdom of the dead'. Elders insisted that removing the mummified remains meant this doorway to the other world is now open and that her anger has already caused a series of floods and earthquakes. But now the revered princess could finally be repatriated to her original resting place in the Ukok plateau, with a beautiful mausoleum built on top.
The first sketches of the plans were presented by Akai Kine, the zaisan (leader) of the Teles ethnic group, and president of the Spiritual Centre of the Turks Kin Altai.
Mausoleum for Ukok princess

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'
The mummy will be put in her original resting place, and on the top will be build funerary monument, which will be located on the Ukok plateau. Pictures: Spiritual Centre of the Turks Kin Altai, The Siberian Times
He said: 'According to the drafts, the mummy will be put in her original resting place, and on the top will be build funerary monument. The mausoleum will be located on the Ukok plateau in the place where the mummy was found by archaeologists in 1993.
'These are the first options for the future mausoleum. Publishing them, we want to start a public discussion in the media. There is no State decision on reburial of the Princess. But we have the main thing - we believe that this revered woman will be reburied.
'At one point, few people believed the princess to come back into the Altai Republic. Nevertheless, it that happened.'
The mummy was excavated by Novosibirsk scientist Natalia Polosmak and was heralded as 'one of the most significant archaeological discoveries of the 20th century'.
Thought to be about 27 years old when she died, she was found preserved in permafrost at an altitude of about 2,500 metres, with two men also discovered nearby. Buried around her were six horses, saddled and bridled and said to have been her spiritual escorts to the next world, along with a meal of sheep and horse meat.
Archaeologists also found ornaments made from felt, wood, bronze and gold as well as a small container of cannabis and a stone plate on which coriander seeds were burned. From her clothes and possessions including a 'cosmetics bag', scientists were able to recreate her fashion and beauty secrets.
She was dressed in a long shirt made from Chinese silk, and had long felt sleeve boots with a beautiful decoration on them. At this time Chinese silk was only ever found in royal burials of the Pazyrk people, and since it was more expensive than gold it gave an indication of her wealth and status.
Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Sculpture of Ukok mummy as artists imagined her
Scheme of the burial and reconstructions of Pazyryk woman's and man's costumes, reconstruction by D. Pozdnyakov, Institute of Archeology and Ethnography, Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Science; sculptor's impression of how Princess Ukok looked 2,500 years ago
Her head was completely shaved, and she wore a horse hair wig on top of which was a carving of a wooden deer.
The princess's face and neck skin was not preserved, but the skin of her left arm survived. But the most exciting discovery was her elaborate body art, which many observers said bore striking similarities to modern-day tattoos.
On her left shoulder was a fantastical mythological animal made up of a deer with a griffon’s beak and a Capricorn’s antlers. The antlers themselves were decorated with the heads of griffons. The mouth of a spotted panther with a long tail could also be seen, and she had a deer’s head on her wrist.
Elders in the Altai Mountains have long called for the mummified remains to be reinterred to 'stop her anger which causes floods and earthquakes'. They insisted that the worst flooding in 50 years in Altai and a series of earthquakes were caused by the dead princess.
She is believed to have been between 25 and 28 years old and about 1.62 metres tall. Her remains have been treated by the same scientists in Moscow who preserved the body of former Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin.
Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'

Tattoed 2,500 year old Siberian princess 'to be reburied to stop her posthumous anger which causes floods and earthquakes'
The mummy is getting inside a sarcophagus of Anokhin museum, Gorno-Altaisk, under a watchful eye of Irina Salnikova, head of the Siberian Branch of Russian Academy of Sciences Museum of Archeology and Ethnography. Pictures: Alexander Tyryshkin
Under the proposals put forward for the mausoleum the elders say any project should meet three basic requirements.
Akai Kine said: 'Firstly, the body should be reposed in the site of the original burial. Second, the mausoleum mound must be made according to the traditions that were followed when the Princess was buried. And third, scientists shall be granted access to the body.'

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Hoaxes, Satire, Legends

Hoaxes, satire, legends

Chinggis - Chinese caricatureIn November a satirical news site announced the discovery of Genghis Khan’s tomb: archaeologists-unearth-tomb-of-genghis-khan
Hoax exposed on this satire watch site:
What’s the purpose of satire? To imitate the real news so closely as to point out its idiocies. The Lost Tomb is among the most popular of Genghis topics, and I get asked about it. Here’s my answer: I hope and trust he was laid simply in the open, on a spiritual mountain, or under a tree – one legend has him choose his tree. In life he was anti-ostentation, and a strong traditionalist in ways — in these ways, I think. The Mongols’ neighbour people transitioned from a shamanist disposal in trees to lavish tombs, quickly with their Imperial Period, as I wrote about here: tomb-masks-from-the-kingdom-of-qatay  Whereas the Jurchen Jin, after a century in China, kept such simple burials, even for royalty, that there is speculation they did not believe in an afterlife. Interestingly, they painted tomb inhabitants as spectators at a theatre: theatre-life-and-afterlife-tomb-decor-jin-dynasty [1] Traditional or pre-imperial disposal among the Jurchen, too, seems to have been so simple as to leave no record.
Sensationalism is of course an ancient art. The most bloodthirsty legend attached to dead Genghis dates to Rashid al-Din’s Jami al-Tawarikh, where you can read (in my Wheeler Thackston translation): “Picking up his coffin, they set out upon the return, slaying every creature they encountered along the way until they reached the ordus.”
I’m not the only one who thinks this as legendary as Genghis’ most-quoted quote, also the responsibility of Rashid:
“Genghis answered: ‘You are mistaken. Man’s greatest good fortune is to chase and defeat his enemy, seize his total possessions, leave his married women weeping and wailing, ride his gelding, use the bodies of his women as a nightshirt and support, gazing upon and kissing their rosy breasts, sucking their lips which are as sweet as the berries of their breasts.” — the translation found in Paul Ratchnevsky’s biography
Alternate translation, courtesy of Yu, Dajun & Zhou:
“The real greatest pleasure of men is to repress rebels and defeat enemies, to exterminate them and grab everything they have; to see their married women crying, to ride on their steeds with smooth backs, to treat their beautiful queens and concubines as pajamas and pillows, to stare and kiss their rose-colored faces and to suck their sweet lips of nipple-colored.” [sic… or did I mean, sick?]
I found that translation in WikiQuotes, where at least the attribution is ‘disputed’.
I’ll illustrate this post, fittingly, with Chinese caricatures of Chinggis (above) and Subutai (I call him Zab for short – beneath).
[1]  More on Jin tombs in Linda Cooke Johnson, Women of the Conquest Dynasties. She says, ‘The meagre Jurchen interments have typically attracted little archaeological attention’ [60] – which is a pity, because we can only guess what they meant by their tomb murals of the husband and wife seated in a private box above a stage; and I’m intrigued by their afterlife beliefs or lack of.
Subedei-Chinese ink

Critical Silk Road Studies

About Critical Silk Road Studies

Critical Silk Road Studies is a year-long series of workshops funded by the John 
E. Sawyer Seminarsprogram of the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.  These 
workshops are focused upon a critical examination of the Silk Road. Our goal is 
to investigate the invention and development of the concept of the Silk Road as 
well as its on-going impact—its potential as well as its limitations for framing 
fields of academic inquiry and even policy-making.  Today, the term "Silk Road" 
serves as a rubric in contexts ranging from the undergraduate curriculum to 
institutional funding and international symposia, and has become a household 
word through educational television and other popular media.   Yet seldom has 
its definition been examined, and it remains a challenge to overcome the 
chronological, regional, linguistic, and disciplinary compartmentalization of 
specialists to consider the workings and effects of the trans-Eurasian Silk Road 
as a broader phenomenon.

Critical Silk Road Studies will expose our seminar members to a range of 
empirical expertise while considering collectively the macro-level issues from 
a perspective that is interdisciplinary, interregional and longue durée.  We will 
bring together scholars of ancient and modern history, art history, religious 
studies, literature, musicology, anthropology, archaeology, as well as foreign 
policy academics and practitioners in an interrogation and exploration of the 
notion of the Silk Road and its usefulness towards understanding both past 
and present. 

General Information

Participation in the seminars of Critical Silk Road Studies is free and restricted to 
current faculty, academic staff, and graduate and undergraduate students.  The 
seminars are scheduled for 5:00-7:30pm in Intercultural Center (ICC) 662, which 
is located on Georgetown’s main campus.  Further information is available 
regarding transportation and visitor parking. 

The format of each seminar consists of moderated discussion of the presenters’ 
pre-circulated papers. For this reason, pre-registration for individual seminars is 
required, as papers will be circulated only to registered participants of the seminar.

Please visit the main Schedule of Events page for information regarding the time 
and location of each seminar.

A Demise Greatly Exaggerated: the Silk Road in the Early Modern Era
January 8, 2015 

Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Hawai'i at Manoa
“The Eurasian Drug Trade: Commodities and Medical Knowledge between East 
and West”

Associate Professor, Department of History, Ohio State University
“Networks of Trade in Early Modern Central Asia”

Professor, Department of History, Georgetown University

Science on the Silk Road
January 29, 2015 

Canada Research Chair of Early Modern Studies and Associate Professor, 
Department of History, University of British Columbia
“Paper Dolls: An Architectonics of Translation in Early Modern Eurasia”

Assistant Professor, Department of History, Pennsylvania State University-Abington
"Are Buddhist Scriptures the 'Missing Link' in the Global History of Medicine?"

Associate Professor, Department of History, Georgetown University

Islamic Encounters with Sinic and Buddhistic Realms
February 19, 2015 

Professor, Department of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University
“‘Ala’ ad-dawla as-Simnani and the Buddhists of Iran, 1258-1328”

Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Professor of Islamic Art History, Department of History 
of Art and Architecture, Harvard University
“Ghiyath al-Din Naqqash and His Visit to Beijing, 1419-22”

Assistant Professor, Department of Art History, George Washington University

Performance and Performativity
March 19, 2015 

Arthur R. Virgin Professor of Music, Department of Music, Dartmouth College
“The Silk Road as Jam Session, Then and Now”

Assistant Professor, Department of Art, Lafayette College
“Strumming Strings along the Ancient Silk Road: Archaeological Evidence for 
Lutes and their Performance in the First Centuries CE”

Professor, Department of Ethnomusicology, University of Maryland School of Music

Institutional Settings
April 9, 2015 

Programme Specialist, Asia and Pacific Unit, UNESCO
“Heritage Conservation, International Cooperation, and Capacity Development: 
UNESCO’s Recent Projects for the Silk Roads Serial and Transnational World 
Heritage Nomination in Central Asia”

Director, International Dunhuang Project, British Library
“Defining a Cultural Silk Road for Today: IDP and Negotiating the Landscape of 
International Collaboration”

Curator of Ancient Chinese Art, Freer and Sackler Galleries, Smithsonian Institution

On-Site Session at the Freer Gallery of Art
April 24, 2015 (2:30-4:30pm)

Associate Curator for Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, Freer and Sackler 
Galleries, Smithsonian Institution
"Two Dunhuang Paintings in the Freer Gallery of Art: History, Content, and 

Sawyer Seminar Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Art and Art History, 
Georgetown University

Silk Road Politics and Policies: Security, Energy and Eurasian Land 
April 30, 2015 

Research Professor, Elliott School of International Affairs, George Washington 
“Envisioning a Region: China's Silk Road and Russia's Eurasia”

Associate Professor and Assistant Director of the Institute of International 
Relations, Shanghai Academy of Social Sciences
“Building an Interest Community: New Development of the Energy Club in the Silk 
Road Economic Belt”

Professor of Practice of International Affairs, Elliott School, George Washington 

Celadon Daoist Longquan shrine 陶瓷道教神龕

From The British Museum October 10, 2014

The celadon shrine is one of the star objects in the current BP exhibition Ming: 50 years that changed China at the British Museum 18 September 2014 – 5 January 2015

Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Ornate Clothing from the Ming Dynasty Unearthed in China 2 (Photos)

On the coast of the East China Sea, near the modern Taizhou City, archaeologists have unearthed an unusual find: A husband-and-wife tomb dating to the Ming Dynasty that contains extraordinarily well-preserved clothing, decorated with elaborate designs.
Gowns belonging to both the husband and wife covered in highly intricate patterns — including lotus flowers, banana leaves, coins and chime stones — were unearthed when the 500-year-old tomb was excavated, the researchers reported.
The findings demonstrate that China was a prosperous place during the Ming Dynasty, which lasted from 1368 to 1644, experts said. [Full story: Opulent Clothing Unearthed in Ming Dynasty Tomb]

Here is a look at the clothing within the tomb. (Images courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics.)
Intricate patterns
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs

The patches seen here are from an undershirt found in the wife’s coffin. The design depicts a Kylin, a mythical creature with a dragon’s head, scaly body and bushy tale. The Kylin is shown amidst clouds, sea water and rocks. A banner found with the wife's coffin revealed that the woman buried here is "Lady Xu, Deceased Mother of the Wang family of the Ming Dynasty." The husband's banner was in poorer condition, although fine clothes were also found in his coffin.

A mythical creature
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs, kylin

A close up of the Kylin with the image sharpened and enhanced. (Image enhancement by Owen Jarus.)

Elaborate shoes
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs, shoes

These shoes were also found in the wife's coffin. The "toes are embroidered with patterns of flowers, ancient coins, square knots and chime stones," researchers noted in their report, while the heels "are woven with floral and miscellaneous treasure patterns."

Clothing for the afterlife
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs, skirts

The wife's coffin contained several skirts including this one, which is 35 inches (89 centimeters) long and decorated with gold thread.

Delicate details
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs, skirt details

A close-up view of some of the patterns on the skirt with gold thread.

For the hair
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs, hairpin

This silver hairpin, with gold cladding, was found in the wife's coffin.

A place to keep things
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs

This porcelain jar was found in the wife's coffin

For him
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs

The husband’s coffin also contained fine clothing. This gown, which was found in his coffin, was elaborately decorated.

Masculine details
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs

A close-up view revealing some of the gown's decoration. Researchers wrote that the "fabric is woven with a lotus, peony, plum and chrysanthemum flowery pattern, interspersed with miscellaneous treasure patterns, such as coin, fire beads, horns, squares, banana leaves, ruyi-scepter, silver bullion and chime stones."

Moving on
ming clothing, china, archaeology, designs

This pillow sheet, in two pieces, was also found in the husband's coffin. It says "early fly to Heaven" and "to be born in the next life in the Western World."
The researchers didn't speculate on what religious beliefs the husband and wife may have held. However, the phrase "western world" could be a reference to Buddhist beliefs. There is a paradise, also called Sukhavati, that exists in the far west, according to the Pure Land school of Mahayana Buddhism. The paradise can be entered by invoking the name of the Amitābha Buddha.