Archeology and History of the Silk Road

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Thursday, 13 August 2009

Terracotta Warriors not Emperor Qin's ?



BEIJING, Aug. 12 -- Recently published findings have put the origin of China’s famous Terracotta Warriors into question. Considered an “Eighth Wonder of the World,” the army of thousands of hand crafted life-size soldiers has longed thought to have been constructed as Emperor Qin Shihuang’s (259-210BC) guardians for the afterlife. However, historian and architect Chen Jingyuan believes that Qin’s ancestor, Empress Xuan (?-265BC), who died 55 years before Qin, was in fact the mastermind behind the army.
Chen’s book, TheTruth of Terracotta Warriors, outlines 63 examples illustrating his belief.
“For instance, the distance between the Terracotta Warriors and the mausoleum of Emperor Qin Shihuang is as long as 1.5 kilometers and the distance between the centers of the two places is even further. It is strange that the funeral objects are so far away from the mausoleum,” Chen told the Global Times.
He explained that besides this, details of the warriors, such as the unique hair knots on one side of their heads, their colorful clothes and the various wheelbases of the chariots put the current time frame in doubt.
“The hairstyle, the ancient Chinese characters found on some unearthed warriors and other evidence indicate the owner of the warriors was Empress Xuan,” Chen said.
In Chen’s point of view the hairstyle of the warrior’s is the same as the Chu minority, the ethnicity of the Empress. Chen said if Emperor Qin had designed the army, they would be dressed in Han style. The clothes of the warriors are also important, Chen explained. He said that the warriors were painted in many different colors, which is in stark contrast to the black-clothed soldiers of the Qin Dynasty.
Chen added that small details such as the wheels on the chariots indicate that they are not war chariots, but ones for everyday use.
“Empress Xuan, the so called ‘Empress Dowager Cixi of ancient times,’ was once one of the most powerful woman in China’s history. During her reign, the Qin State was thriving and flourishing. This prosperity of the State meant that this powerful women had enough money to conduct such a huge project,” Chen explained.
Despite Chen’s convictions, few agree with his stance.
“There are three strong pieces of evidence indicating that the warrior’s owner was Emperor Qin Shihuang. First, the pit of the warriors is within the territory of Emperor Qin’s mausoleum. Second, the weapons are inscribed with the words ‘Lu Buwei’ (the prime minister of the Qin Dynasty). Third, the architectural style and the earth analysis show that the warriors share the same characteristics as the Stone Armor Pit and Bronze Chariot and Horse Pit, which are verified parts of the mausoleum,” Liu Zhancheng, head of the Terracotta Warrior’s archaeological team told the Global Times.
“According to the material collection and relics analysis, the area of the entire mausoleum is as large as 56.25 square kilometers and the pit of the warriors is within this territory. What’s more, as parts of the mausoleum, many other verified Qin Dynasty funeral object pits are also a comparative long distance away from the mausoleum. Therefore, there is nothing unusual about the location of the warrior pits,” Liu added.
As for the clothing, Liu explained that, “In the Qin Dynasty, black was a superior color. The Qin people wore black during grand occasions, such as sacrificial ceremonies, but there was no need for people to wear black all the time.”
However, Yuan Zhongyi, a member of the first Chinese archeological team to excavate the Terracotta Army in 1974 and former director of the Museum of the Terracotta Warriors said, “The question of the real owner of the warriors has been debated since the very beginning. The conclusion that the warriors were the funeral objects of Emperor Qin was made by a group of scholars and it has been widely accepted at home and abroad.”
With the latest excavation of Warrior Pit No.1 in June, their origin and Chen’s conclusion has sparked further debate amongst historians.
According to Liu Jiusheng, a teacher at Shannxi Normal University, taking terracotta warriors as funeral objects violates the concept that Chinese people favor a peaceful afterlife. In his opinion, the warriors and horses in Terracotta Pit No.1 do not depict armed forces, but present a real-life scene of a magnificent ceremony to celebrate the journey of Emperor Qin Shihuang.
“The discussion of multiple perspectives and different angles of the origin of the warriors is important. With the development of further excavation and future study by scientists, the identity of the warriors will become clear,” said Zhao Shichao, vice chairman of the Chinese Association of Pre-Qin History.
The debate among scholars is unlikely to dampen the public’s enthusiasm for the warriors. Each year the unearthed pits in Xi’an attract over 3 million international and domestic tourists.
“As an Eighth Wonder of the World and one of the most important archeological finds of the 20th century, whether the Warriors’ creator was Emperor Qin or somebody else, the army will always enjoy special status and its great achievement cannot be denied,” said Jerry Zhang, a history lover from Beijing.

Source: Globaltimes.com

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Dance inspired by fresco on show

Along the Silk Road" is a dance show created thirty years ago. It was inspired by the Dunhuang grotto frescos and clay sculptures. And it has been a hit since its debut performance. It is now being staged for five day consecutive performances at the National Center for the Performing Arts in Beijing, captivating the audience with its spectacle of skill and artistry as well as the legendary Dunhuang stories.

The mesmerizing dance show still attracts large audiences,three decades after its first performance. The dance moves were created by imitating the postures depicted on the frescoes of the Dunhuang grottoes. It tells a moving story between a painter and his daughter. And it also involves friendship between the Tang dynasty court and Western countries.

The updated version of "Along the Silk Road" received a warm reception from the audience.

"Along the Silk Road" is only one of the hundred art shows staged in Beijing ahead of the 60th anniversary of the founding of New China. Other shows include Kunqu opera, plays and acrobatics. They are being performed at the eight major stage venues in the capital before going on to entertain some of the country's soldiers and people in colleges, factories and villages, to celebrate the anniversary.

See video

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Gobi Treasure Hunt

A Live Event from the Desert August First, 2009In 1937, the treasure of Danzan Ravjaa, a famous buddhist master from the Gobi desert, was buried in the sand by Tuduv, the caretaker of his legacy, to protect it from being destroyed by the communist army.Tuduv's grandson Altangerel is the only person alive who knows the precise location of the crates. A number have already been recovered, and the artefacts they contained are now on display at the Danzan Ravjaa Museum in Sainshand, 400km south of Ulaanbaatar. Another 15 remain where they were buried 72 years ago.On August 1st, 2009, two of the last of Danzan Ravjaa's treasure crates will be unearthed in a live international satellite transmission, directly from the Gobi desert.

For a recording of this live stream, go to www.gobi-treasure.com/live-streaming

Hidden Gobi Desert relics found

Rare Buddhist treasures, not seen for more than 70 years, have been unearthed in the Gobi Desert.
The historic artefacts were buried in the 1930s during Mongolia's Communist purge, when hundreds of monasteries were looted and destroyed.
The relics include statues, art work, manuscripts and personal belongings of a famous 19th Century Buddhist master.
The leader of the search team, Michael Eisenriegler, described it as an "adventure of a lifetime".
A total of 64 crates of treasures were buried in the desert by a monk named Tudev, in an attempt to save them from the ransacking of the Mongolian and Soviet armies.
They belonged to Buddhist master Danzan Ravjaa and only Tudev knew where they were hidden. He passed on the secret to his grandson who dug up some of the boxes in the 1990s and opened a museum.
The current Austrian-Mongolian treasure hunt team found two more boxes. Mr Eisenriegler told the BBC World Service they were filled with "the most amazing Buddhist art objects".
"It is of tremendous value for Mongolian culture because Buddhism was almost extinct in the Communist times, especially in the 1930s.
"I'm totally exhausted right now but I'm also totally impressed with what I've seen."
The latest finds will be put on show at the Danzan Ravjaa Museum in Sainshand, 400km (250 miles) south of the Mongolian capital, Ulan Bator.

About 20 boxes remain hidden in the desert.
Source: BBCNews

Saturday, 1 August 2009

China building new conservation center to safeguard ancient frescos

LANZHOU, July 31 (Xinhua) -- China is building a national research center on wall paintings protection in Dunhuang on the ancient Silk Road, which experts believe will help better safeguard China's cultural heritage.
The National Engineering Research Center for Conservation of Ancient Wall Paintings, plans for which were unveiled Thursday at the Dunhuang Academy in northwest China's Gansu Province, would take three years to complete and would cost 34 million yuan (about 5 million U.S. dollars), Su Bomin, chief of the protection institute of Dunhuang Academy, said Friday.
The academy, in Dunhuang City, is an institute specializing in the protection of grottos and the restoration of murals and cultural relics.
Of China's 38 sites on the World Heritage List, 11 have ancient murals. Dunhuang, a booming town on the ancient Silk Road, is home to more than 800 grottos that are at least 1,600 years old.
The Mogao grottos, known as the Thousand Buddha Caves, were added to the World Heritage List in 1987. Altogether 735 caves have been found and frescos on the inside walls cover an area of 45,000 square meters.

China boasts a large number of ancient murals, but many of them have suffered damage because of natural erosion, human activities and the lack of systematic protection.
Su said the new center would play an important part in helping provide information on two major protection issues relating to ancient murals that have baffled Chinese conservators: the links between the natural environment and degradation of paintings, and how the negative impact of modern engineering measures on original murals can be limited, said Su, who will be the center's deputy chief.
The investment will be provided by the Ministry of Science and Technology, the State Administration of Cultural Heritage, the Gansu provincial government and the academy, Su said.
The center's 80 staff will cooperate with domestic research institutes such as Lanzhou and Zhejiang Universities on research, and will also invite experts from foreign organizations on exchange programs.
Source:CCTV.com