Archeology and History of the Silk Road

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Thursday, 30 July 2009

Kublai Khan Hunting


There is no real news these last days ( holiday time) so therefor we go the the National Palace Museum In Taiwan to the beautiful painting of a hunting Kubilai Khan.

"Kublai Khan Hunting
Liu Kuan-tao (fl. ca. latter half of 13th c.), Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 182.9 x 104.1 cm

Liu Kuan-tao (style name Chung-hsien), a native of Hopeh province, was a celebrated court painter of the early Yüan, probably sometime in the reign of Kublai Khan (r. 1264-1294). In 1279, he was appointed by the emperor to the Imperial Wardrobe Service. His religious and figure paintings were all in the style of the early Chin and T’ang masters, while his landscapes followed the styles of Li Ch’eng and Kuo Hsi. His animal and bird-and-flower paintings combined the virtues of the old masters, becoming famous at the time.

Appearing against a backdrop of northern steppes and desert is a scene of figures on horseback. The one sitting on a dark horse and wearing a white coat is most likely the famous Mongol emperor Kublai Khan with his empress next to him. They are accompanied by a host of servants and officials; the one to the left is about to shoot an arrow at one of the geese in the sky above. The figure in blue has a hawk famous for its hunting skills, and a trained wildcat sits on the back of the horse in front. The dark-skinned figure is perhaps from somewhere in Central Asia. In the background, a camel train proceeds slowly behind a sandy slope, adding a touch of life to the barren scenery.

Every aspect of this work has been rendered with exceptional detail. Appearing quite realistic, even the representation of Kublai Khan in this painting corresponds quite closely to his imperial portrait in the Museum collection. Though few of Liu Kuan-tao’s paintings have survived, this work serves as testimony to his fame in Yüan court art. The artist’s signature and the date (1280) appear in the lower left."
Source: NPM

Monday, 27 July 2009

Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan


Paul Kekai Manansala writes regularly on his blog "Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan" (How the Nusantao maritime trading network influenced the world)

Based on his blog he has published this blog also in the format of a book:

"Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan" examines how the seafaring trading people known as the "Nusantao" from Insular Southeast Asia influenced world history. This is a "blook," a book based on a weblog (blog). The decision to publish the book came after requests to make the information in the blog available in an easier-to-read and more portable format. The advantage of the printed work is that the blog entries are arranged in easy-to-manage chronological order with out the need for the clicking through the blog archives. The glossary entries are also in alphabetical order for easy look-up, and a word index and table of contents further increase the readiblity of the blog/book. Important supplementary articles have also been included in the appendices. A must-read for those who think there is more to history than what we find in "mainstream" publications."

Most recently he has written an article about the "Clove"Trade and the Clove Trade during the Sung Dynasty
Have a look at his site.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Rare Books Exhibition at the National Library of China


The National Library of China, Beijing
June 14 to July 3, 2009

The ‘Special Exhibition of National Rare Books in China’ has been organised by the Chinese Ministry of Culture at the National Library of China, Beijing. There are over 300 items selected from the ‘Catalogue of National Rare Books in China’, including Dunhuang and Turfan materials, rare books of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties (from 11th to 19th century), Buddhist documents, Ming and Qing dynasties manuscripts (from 14th to 19th century), rubbings, maps and atlases, as well as old books of ethnic minorities in China. Many of them have been identified recently and are on show for the first time. After the first ‘Special Exhibition of National Rare Books in China’ held in 2008, this exhibition is the largest scale exhibition to showcase rare books from pre-modern China.

Venue: Jigu Gallery and Youwen Gallery, North Area of the National Library of China, No. 33 Zhongguancun South Street, Haidian District, Beijing

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Treasure Fleet: The Adventures of Zheng He


Between 1405 and 1433, Mongolian & Muslim Admiral Zheng He of China led seven epic voyages to more than 30 countries, including Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Kenya and Tanzania. The admiral and his crew gathered knowledge and wealth from Indochina to Africa for China's Ming empire. These voyages were the biggest naval expeditions mounted at the time. Zheng He was bigger than life and could have changed the course of history. But after the seven voyages, he and his Treasure Fleet were forgotten by China, and the world, for six hundred years. National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita sets sail to discover why.

To celebrate the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's maiden exploration voyage, Michael Yamashita traveled over 10,000 miles from Yunnan in China to Africa's Swahili coast taking over 40,000 pictures for the feature story on this great explorer, published in the July 2005 edition of National Geographic.

On DVD a documentary was published by National Geographic which can be viewed on YouTube.com as well:
Deel 1
Deel 2
Deel 3
Deel 4
Deel 5
Deel 6
Deel 7
Deel 8
Deel 9
Deel 10
Deel 11

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Hebei China frescoes (2)



I earlier published about the frescoes found in Hebei.
Now I also found two video's about this subject:


" Fresh China frescoes" from Euronews.net and
"Intact frescoe found in Hebei" from CCTV.com



"Construction workers digging a national water transport system to distribute water around China have stumbled upon an ancient royal tomb.
The tomb, in Hebei province which borders Beijing, is thought to date from China’s Northern Qi dynasty which ruled from 550 to 577. It is the tomb of Gao Xiao Xu a male heir to the Qi dynasty.
Chinese archaeologists are especially interested in the intricate frescoes – depicting honour guard officials – painted on the walls of a 15 metre long passage because the images will help them piece together the customs and dress of the period.
But the excavation of the tomb has of course exposed the frescoes to the fresh air – which could damage the crumbling images even further.
So experts are working to stabilise the images and after they have been examined in situ, they will be removed for further study.
Together with the frescoes, archaeologists also discovered pottery figurines, bluestone tomb doors and epitaphs. These are not by any means the only frescos discovered in China, or even the most spectacular but the discovery is important because the details of the clothing depicted provide another piece in the puzzle of historians’ understanding of people’s lives 1500 years ago."
Source:Euronews.net

Monday, 20 July 2009

Archeologists report new findings at terracotta army site

Archeologists have found up to 100 terracotta warriors and an army officer at the world heritage site in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, a month after they began a third excavation of the site.

"Our most exciting discovery so far is the army officer," said chief archeologist Xu Weihong.


"He said the life-sized figure was found lying on its stomach behind four chariots. "We can't see its face yet, but the leather gallus on its back is distinct."
Xu said the gallus was typical of army officers in the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.- 207 B.C.). "We need extra care to bring it out of the pit and restore its original color, which may take a few months."
He said the figure was originally painted in different colors. "The original colors have faded after more than 2,000 years of decay, but a corner of the officer's robe suggested it was in colors other than the grayish clay."
Except for its broken head, the army officer was largely intact compared with other newly-discovered clay figures, most of which were found seriously damaged, some even fragmentary, Xu said.
Liu Zhancheng, head of the archeology arm of the Xi'an-based terracotta museum, estimated the year-long excavation would hopefully unearth about 150 terracotta warriors.

Richly colored clay figures were unearthed from the mausoleum of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of a united China, in the previous two excavations, but once they were exposed to the air they began to lose their luster and turn an oxidized grey.
The 230 by 62-meter No. 1 pit, which is currently under excavation, was believed to contain about 6,000 life-sized terracotta figures, more than 1,000 of which were found in previous excavations, said the museum's curator Wu Yongqi.
The State Administration of Cultural Heritage approved the museum's dig of 200 square meters of the site, and the excavation is likely to continue if it proves fruitful.
Most experts believe No. 1 pit, the largest of all three pits, houses a rectangular army of archers, infantrymen and charioteers that the emperor hoped would help him rule in the afterlife.
The army was one of the greatest archeological finds of modern times. It was discovered in Lintong county, 35 km east of Xi'an, in 1974 by peasants who were digging a well.
The first formal excavation of the site lasted for six years from 1978 to 1984 and produced 1,087 clay figures. A second excavation, in 1985, lasted a year and was cut short for technical reasons.
The discovery, listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in December 1987, has turned Xi'an into one of China's major tourist attractions.

(Xinhua News Agency July 17, 2009)

Friday, 17 July 2009

Imperial palace ruins found


On CCTV.com there was a news item about the archeological dig at the Nanyue Kingdom Relics Site in Guangzhou.

Nanyue was an ancient kingdom that consisted of parts of the modern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan and much of modern northern Vietnam. It was established by the Chinese general Zhào Tuō of the Qin dynasty who assimilated the customs of the Yuè peoples and central China in his territory. Its capital was near Pānyú in modern-day Guangzhou.

For more information, go to Life of Guangzhou.com

Archeologists report new findings at terracotta army site


From CCTV.com:
XI'AN, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Archeologists have found up to 100 terracotta warriors and an army officer at the world heritage site in Xi'an, northwest China's Shanxi Province, a month after they began a third excavation of the site.
"Our most exciting discovery so far is the army officer," said chief archeologist Xu Weihong.
He said the life-sized figure was found lying on its stomach behind four chariots. "We can't see its face yet, but the leather gallus on its back is distinct."
Xu said the gallus was typical of army officers in the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.- 207 B.C.). "We need extra care to bring it out of the pit and restore its original color, which may take a few months."
He said the figure was originally painted in different colors. "The original colors have faded after more than 2,000 years of decay, but a corner of the officer's robe suggested it was in colors other than the grayish clay."
Except for its broken head, the army officer was largely intact compared with other newly-discovered clay figures, most of which were found seriously damaged, some even fragmentary, Xu said.
Liu Zhancheng, head of the archeology arm of the Xi'an-based terracotta museum, estimated the year-long excavation would hopefully unearth about 150 terracotta warriors.
Richly colored clay figures were unearthed from the mausoleum of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of a united China, in the previous two excavations, but once they were exposed to the air they began to lose their luster and turn an oxidized grey.
The 230 by 62-meter No. 1 pit, which is currently under excavation, was believed to contain about 6,000 life-sized terracotta figures, more than 1,000 of which were found in previous excavations, said the museum's curator Wu Yongqi.
The State Administration of Cultural Heritage approved the museum's dig of 200 square meters of the site, and the excavation is likely to continue if it proves fruitful.
Most experts believe No. 1 pit, the largest of all three pits, houses a rectangular army of archers, infantrymen and charioteers that the emperor hoped would help him rule in the afterlife.
The army was one of the greatest archeological finds of modern times. It was discovered in Lintong county, 35 km east of Xi'an, in 1974 by peasants who were digging a well.
The first formal excavation of the site lasted for six years from 1978 to 1984 and produced 1,087 clay figures. A second excavation, in 1985, lasted a year and was cut short for technical reasons.
The discovery, listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in December 1987, has turned Xi'an into one of China's major tourist attractions.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Follow your own course in Chinese history by Prof. G.Todd


Chinese and World History
From the beginnings of civilization to the present
by Gary Lee Todd, PH.D.

Professor of Chinese History and Culture & British and American History, Sias International University, Xinzheng, Henan, China (http://www.sias.edu.cn)

You want to know about Chinese history but you don't want to go out to sit in a bench, listening to a professor but stay at home and watch it from your comfortable chair with the possibility to take a break at any time:
Go to http://www.garyleetodd.com/category/chinese-historic-sites/
On top of that you get access to one of the most interesting collection of photo's of various Chinese ancient cities, archeology sites and museums.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Modern Mongolia Reclaiming Genghis Khan


The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in cooperation with the National Museum of Mongolian History, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, presented in 2002 the exhibition, Modern Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis Khan which,( according to this Museum), challenges our view of Genghis Khan.


This on line exhibition can still be viewed at:
Modern Mongolia Reclaiming Genghis Khan

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Sino-Platonic Papers

"Sino-Platonic Papers is an occasional series edited by Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania's Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. The purpose of the series is to make available to specialists and the interested public the results of research that, because of its unconventional or controversial nature, might otherwise go unpublished.


Many of the items have to do with ancient China or the Silk Road, can be downloaded and are free of charge from publication no. 171.
To give you an impression of the topics which can be read, following the content list from item 171 till the most recent publication:


171 June 2006 John DeFrancis / University of Hawaii / The Prospects for Chinese Writing Reform
172 Aug.2006 Deborah Beaser / The Outlook for Taiwanese Language Preservation
173 Oct. 2006 Taishan YU / Chinese Academy of Social Sciences/ A Study of the History of the Relationship Between the
Western and Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions
174 Nov. 2006 Mariko Namba Walter/ Sogdians and Buddhism
175 Dec. 2006 Zhou Jixu / Center for East Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania; Chinese Department, Sichuan Normal
University / The Rise of Agricultural Civilization in China: The Disparity between Archeological Discovery and
the Documentary Record and Its Explanation
176 May 2007 Eric Henry / University of North Carolina / The Submerged History of Yuè
177 Aug. 2007 Beverley Davis / Merit, Texas / Timeline of the Development of the Horse
178 Feb. 2008 Victor H. Mair / University of Pennsylvania / Soldierly Methods: Vade Mecum for an Iconoclastic Translation
of Sun Zi bingfa, with a complete transcription and word-for-word glosses of the Manchu translation by H.
T. Toh
179 Feb. 2008 Julie M. Groves / Hong Kong Baptist University / Language or Dialect -- or Topolect? A Comparison of the
Attitudes of Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese towards the Status of Cantonese.
180 April 2008 Amber R. Woodward / A Survey of Li Yang Crazy English
181 Aug. 2008 Matteo Compareti / Venice, Italy / Traces of Buddhist Art in Sogdiana
182 Sept. 2008 Aurelia Campbell, Jeffrey Rice, Daniel Sungbin Sou, and Lala Zuo / University of Pennsylvania / The Cult of
the Bodhisattva Guanyin in Early China and Korea
183 Oct. 2008 Chunwei Song / Peking University / Heroes Brought Buddhism to the East of the Sea: A Fully Annotated
Translation of The Preface of Haedong Kosŭng Chŏn
184 Oct. 2008 Xiang Li / Seattle, Washington / Irony Illustrated: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Situational Irony in China
and the United States
185 Nov. 2008 Jan Romgard / Stockholm University and the University of Nottingham / Questions of Ancient Human
Settlements in Xinjiang and the Early Silk Road Trade, with an Overview of the Silk Road Research Institutions
and Scholars in Beijing, Gansu, and Xinjiang
186 Mar. 2009 Doug Hitch / The Special Status of Turfan
187 April 2009 Xiuqin Zhou / University of Pennsylvania / Zhaoling: The Mausoleum of Emperor Tang Taizong
188 May 2009 Geoff Wade / Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore / The Polity of Yelang (夜郎) and the Origins of
the Name ‘China’
189 June 2009 Li Chen, Genevieve Y. Leung, Matthew A. Marcucci, and Kenneth Yeh; with a foreword by Victor H. Mair /
University of Pennsylvania / Sinographic Languages: The Past, Present, and Future of Script Reform

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan

Center for the Art of East Asia is the website from the department of Art History from the University of Chicago and is a really beautiful website.
It features a.o. two special projects:


The digital Scrolling Paintings Project and



The Xiangtangshan Caves Project.

In the Xiangtangshan Caves Project every few months new functionality is added.
Since July 2009 f. i. one can find the Cave site Locations with Google Earth.


About the cave temples of Xiangtangshan:
The cave temples of Xiangtangshan, “Mountain of Echoing Halls,” are a group of Buddhist caves with carved sculptures, many of large-scale, near the Northern Qi capital at Ye. They are located in a rural and coal-mining area, the Fengfeng Mining District of southern Hebei Province. Eleven caves divided among three sites where the major portion of cave-construction activity was completed in the Northern Qi dynasty (550-577).

The Northern Group, Bei Xiangtangshan, is the earliest and largest in scale and was begun with imperial sponsorship; the Southern Group, Nan Xiangtangshan, has smaller caves numbered from one to seven; and the third site at Shuiyusi, also known as Xiao Xiangtangshan or “Little Xiangtangshan,” has one Northern Qi cave with sculptures. The caves at these sites were hollowed from limestone cliffs and carved with images of Buddhist deities, architectural and ornamental elements, and the texts of Buddhist scriptures. These elements represent various religious concepts and ideals and are related to official sponsorship of Buddhism, the scholarship and teaching activity of eminent monks of the time, and popular religious belief and practice. There are only a few dated dedicatory inscriptions from the period, and no contemporary record of the beginning of the caves, but some later inscriptions record the work and repairs to the sites. Together with the carved images themselves and their relationship with other dateable Northern Qi sculptures, they provide evidence for assigning these remarkable caves to the second half of the sixth century.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

EarlyTibet.com



Sam van Schaik is a.o known about his contribution to the International DunHuang Project.
He publishes his own website under the name EarlyTibet.com

About Sam van Schaik
This site is an evolving resource for the study of the early history of Tibet, from the Tibetan Empire (7th to 9th centuries) to the dark age of the 10th century.
The main content of this site is a series of research notes (my own) presented in a weblog. My primary sources are the Stein collection at the British Library and the Pelliot collection at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. These are the most important collections of early Tibetan manuscripts. They were excavated from several sites in Chinese Central Asia, but most are from a single cave in Dunhuang, which was sealed in the early 11th century and not opened up again until the early 20th century. While some of these manuscripts are well known to scholars, many more continue to languish in obscurity. It is my aim here to bring some of these neglected sources to light.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Stolen Mongolian crown found at police station after 20 years



From The Local Sweden's News in English

Published: 3 Jul 09
A decorative Mongolian silver crown stolen in 1984 from a Stockholm museum has been found on the premises of the Swedish Police Service, where it has spent more than twenty years in accidental storage.
"We would like to thank the national police service for housing the silver Mongolian crown for such a long time," said museum chief Anders Björklund in a statement.
The crown, part of a woman's costume from Mongolia, was one of the Museum of Ethnography's most prized possessions when it first went on display in 1980.
But in 1984 the bejewelled piece of headgear mysteriously disappeared from the museum during a power cut.
A report was filed with Interpol to hinder the resale of the crown beyond Sweden's borders, but for 25 years staff at the museum were left scratching their heads.
Recently however the riddle was solved when the police service's main Stockholm offices underwent renovations and a long forgotten bag was found in storage.
Confiscated from a burglar more than twenty years ago, the bag was found to contain an unusual silver crown, along with silver cutlery and a selection of trophies.
When police called the Museum of Ethnography to see if it could shed some light on the find, the museum's Asia expert Håkan Wahlqvist was dispatched to the station and immediately recognized the stolen treasure.
Paul O'Mahony (paul.omahony@thelocal.se/08 656 6513)


Probably it was sto;en from the Swedish Museum of Etnography
So far, on their site there is no mentioning of this bizar event and therefor we don't know anything about the origins of the stolen crown.
More news later........

Chinese archaeologists sketch out layout of KublaiKhan's capital


Read at www.chinaview.cn

For a fairly recent visit to the site, read about it in "Don Croner's World Wide Wanders Part 2"

The site itself has been listed on the tentative list of World Heritage from Unesco.

HOHHOT, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists said here on Wednesday that they have sketched out the layout of the first capital of Kublai Khan's empire, known as Xanadu in Marco Polo's Travel Notes, through a large-scale excavation.
"The most exciting findings are the layout of moat in front of the Mingde Gate to the royal capital and the highest building of Muqingge in the three-month long excavation on the ruins of Yuan Shangdu," said Yang Xingyu, a senior archaeologist with the Inner Mongolia regional bureau of cultural relics.
The capital Shangdu was built in 1256 under the command of Kublai Khan, the first emperor of Yuan Dynasty, who was enthroned there four years later. It became a summer resort after the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) moved its capital to present-day Beijing in 1276, and was destroyed during a peasant war at the end of the dynasty.
Yang said that the excavation program, the largest of its kind on the ruins, is expected to take three years to unearth and restore some of the ancient structures in Shangdu in an area of 1,500 square meters.

"We found the royal mansion of Muqingge built on a drained lake is of Han nationality characters, since the Mongolian emperor mainly deployed Han workers to build Shangdu," he said.
Italian traveler Marco Polo (1254-1324) once described the prosperity of Yuan Shangdu in his book, which aroused great interest from many overseas archaeologists, historians and travelers.
"The Italian traveler was probably received by the emperor Kublai Khan in Shangdu through the gate of Mingde, which could only be passed by royal members and dignities," said the archaeologist.
The ruins of Shangdu in the Zuolan Banner in north China's Inner Mongolia have been overgrown.
The regional government has submitted an application for World Cultural Heritage status for the site to the state department for the preservation of cultural and historical relics and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Web site of the World Heritage Site showed the historical remains at Yuan Shangdu has been part of China's tentative list.
"It is widely acknowledged in the archeological world that the building of the Yuan Dynasty capital in Beijing, known as Dadu, inherited that of Shangdu. The structures and many names of the landmarks are the same or similar," said Yang.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Caves of Dunhuang





From The New York Times of June last year a slideshow of 13 beautiful pictures.
Want to read the article, go to "Buddha's Caves"

Monday, 6 July 2009

Huge stash of Marijuana found in ancient tomb



Read in the Journal of Experimental Botany from November 2008:

The world's oldest stash of marijuana has been found in far western China, according to an article in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

An ancient Caucasian people, probably the Indo-European-speaking Yuezhi whose fair-haired mummies keep turning up in Xinjiang province, seem to have buried one of their shamans with a whopping 789 grams of high-potency pot 2,700 years ago.

That's about 28 ounces of killer green bud, worth perhaps $8,000 at today's street prices, and enough to keep Harold and Kumar happy for a couple of days.

"It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife," lead author Ethan B. Russo, a practicing neurologist and prominent medicinal-marijuana advocate based in Missoula, Mont., tells the Canadian Press. "No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied."

But the researchers couldn't tell if the weed was meant to be smoked or eaten. No pipes, bongs or rolling papers were found in the tomb.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus relates how the Scythians, Iranian-speaking nomads who roamed the steppes to the west of the Yuezhi in the first millennium B.C., liked to throw marijuana onto bonfires to induce trancelike states. It's possible the buried shaman followed similar practices.



For photo's go to Discovery Channel.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Kaifeng’s ruins to be displayed in new museum


Along the River during Qingming Festival painted by Zhang Zeduan depicts the prosperity of Dongjing (now Kaifeng) during the Northern Song Dynasty.

Read in the the Global Times, June 30,2009:

By Wang Chunhong
The richness of China’s ancient architecture will once again come to the surface with yet another excavation project being undertaken, this time in Kaifeng, Henan Province, as was confirmed by local government officials last month.
The excavation reveals Kaifeng, once serving as the capital to seven dynasties, as not a single city but as a layered “city over city,” successively built upon the ruins of previous dynasties. In order to exhibit the partly unearthed site, the Xinzhengmen Museum will be constructed, also housing the site’s artifact center.
This so-called “city over city” will be displayed in an exhibit to the public revealing six cities overlapping each other, much like the layers of a pagoda. These different incarnations of Kaifeng include three capital cities, two provincial capitals and one major metropolitan area. Discovered at depths of 10 meters, 8 meters and 6 meters are layers representing the ruins of Daliang, Warring States period (475-221 BC), Dongjing, Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and Bianjing, Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), respectively.
“Regarding its scale and layers, Kaifeng is one of the most extraordinary constructions in Chinese history. To some extent, the city of Kaifeng reveals the flux of the changing dynasties, serving as a ‘living fossil,’ offering a glimpse of the customs and architecture during these key periods of ancient China,” Liu Chunying, an archaeologist and officer in Kaifeng’s Culture Relics Bureau, said


Construction of the now built Daliang Gate exhibition hall, Kaifeng. Photo: CFP
Boasting itself as one of the most important cities in ancient China, Kaifeng has long enjoyed its fame as the “ancient capital of seven dynasties,” its capital status spanning over 2,700 years. Kaifeng served as capital of the kingdom of Wei, (Warring States, 475-221BC) as well as the dynastic capital to the Later Liang (907-923), Later Jin (936-946), Later Han (947-950), Later Zhou (951-960), Northern Song (960-1127) and Jin (1115- 1234).
The classic masterpiece Along the River during Qingming Festival painted by Zhang Zeduan during the Northern Song Dynasty vividly captures the prosperity of Kaifeng (then known as Dongjing) in depictions of urban life, commerce and figures from all strata in society.
Chinese emperors favored Kaifeng as their capital for two main reasons. First, rich in water resources, Kaifeng has many key canals that act as a backbone of commerce, shipping and transportation unmatched by other cities. Second, being located in central China, Kaifeng’s strategic position, fertile soil and geographic advantages make for an ideal commercial and military center.
According to local historians, due to constant warring and the massive hydrological project of rerouting the Yellow River, Kaifeng was both destroyed and buried by silt due to floods many times. Despite the city’s tendency for disasters, the city was rebuilt repeatedly on the same location.
“Ever since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the city’s location has not changed. This symbolizes the unyielding spirit of Chinese people in all situations,” Liu added.
The soon-to-be completed Xinzhengmen Museum, with an investment of 300 million yuan ($43.89 million), will demonstrate Kaifeng’s unique architecture buried thousands of years ago.
The “city over city” Xinzhengmen Museum will consist of both an artifact and exhibition hall when completed. The artifact hall will be located in the upper part of the ancient city wall, the exhibition hall at the southern part of the artifact hall.
According to Liu, the exact date of excavating the site is still uncertain, although the local archaeological department has already initiated initial survey work and clearance of the area.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Searching for Afghanistan's Third Giant Buddha

Photograph courtesy Zemaryalai Tarzi

Read in " National Geographic News":

June 10 , 2009--In Bamiyan, Afghanistan, archaeologist Zemaryalai Tarzi is unearthing and restoring important reminders--like this fourth-century Buddha head--of a more peaceful past.

When the Taliban blew up two colossal Buddha statues in Bamiyan in 2001, nobody was more aggrieved than Tarzi, who had protected them with steel reinforcements in the 1970s as Afghanistan's Director of Archaeology.

Now he is determined to bring Bamiyan's other ancient riches to light. He returned to begin new excavations in 2002, after 23 years in exile. Tarzi is searching for a third giant Buddha--one that's reclining and is believed to stretch 1,000 feet (300 meters) long underground.