Archeology and History of the Silk Road

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Shipwreck may be part of Kublai Khan's lost fleet



CNN By Peter Shadbolt,October 27, 2011 -- In Japanese legend they are known as The Kamikaze -- the divine winds -- a reference to two mighty typhoons placed providentially seven years apart which, in the 13th century, destroyed two separate Mongol invasion fleets so large they were not eclipsed until the D-Day landings of World War II.
Marine archaeologists now say they have uncovered the remains of a ship from the second fleet in 1281 -- believed to have comprised 4,400 vessels -- a meter below the seabed, in 25 meters of water off the coast of Nagasaki, Japan.
Scientists are hoping they will be able to recreate the complete Yuan Dynasty vessel from Kublai Khan's lost fleet using a 12-meter-long section of keel. The Mongols ruled China from 1271 to 1368.
According to Yoshifumi Ikeda, a professor of archaeology at Okinawa's University of the Ryukyus, and head of the research team, the section could go a long way to helping researchers identify all the characteristics of the 20-meter warship.
"This discovery was of major importance for our research," Ikeda told a news conference. "We are planning to expand search efforts and find further information that can help us restore the whole ship."
Discovered using ultrasound equipment, the research team says it is the first wreck from the period to have an intact hull, the planks of which are still attached to the keel with nails.
Scientists say its good state of preservation -- they were even able to establish that the planks were originally painted a whitish-gray -- is due to the fact it has been covered by sand.
"I believe we will be able to understand more about shipbuilding skills at the time as well as the actual situation of exchanges in East Asia," Ikeda told reporters in Nagasaki.

More than 4,000 artifacts, including ceramic shards, bricks used for ballast, cannonballs and stone anchors have been found in the vicinity of the wreck, linking it to the Yuan Dynasty invasion fleet.
Ikeda said there were no immediate plans to salvage the hull and the first step was to conserve the find by covering the sites with nets.
The Kamikaze -- perhaps better known as the nickname given to the Japanese suicide pilots of the Pacific War -- were a nation-defining event for Japan and set the limits of Mongol expansion in the east.
Historians say the first Chinese attempt to invade Japan in 1274 ended in disaster.
Having initially engaged a numerically superior Japanese samurai force at the Battle of Bun'ei in First Battle of Hakata Bay, the Chinese retreated to their fleet of 300 ships and some 500 smaller craft after just one day of battle on land. A typhoon destroyed a third of the fleet that night and the remnants limped back to port in Korea which was then a vassal state of China.
Seven years later, Kublai Khan amassed an impressive armada of 4,400 ships carrying 40,000 Korean, Mongol and Chinese troops in a bid to finally subjugate Japan. The Japanese, convinced of a second invasion, had spent the intervening years building strategic seawalls which made it difficult for the Chinese to land.
Unable to gain a beachhead after initially taking the island of Iki and Tsushima, the fleet was decimated by a two-day typhoon that hit the Tsushima Straits.
It is believed about 80% of the fleet was destroyed and the Khan's troops either drowned at sea or slaughtered on the beaches by samurai.
According to a contemporary account cited in the book "Khubilai Khan's lost fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada," by maritime archaeologist James P. Delgado, the losses were so great that "a person could walk across from one point of land to another on a mass of wreckage".

To the Orient. Cities, Men and Gods along the Silk Roads

A Oriente. Città, Uomini e Dei sulle Vie della Seta
To the Orient. Cities, Men and Gods along the Silk Roads

Exhibition in the National Roman Museum - Baths of Diocletian
From 21/10/2011 - 05/02/2012






ROME, Oct. 20 (Xinhua) -- An international cultural event dedicated to the Silk Road's legendary cities and artistic treasures kicked off here Thursday to celebrate the historical links and friendship between the East and the West.

The biennial event, at its first edition, consists of 11 successive exhibitions of the multifarious artistic heritages from the historical towns dotted the Silk Road, a cross road of merchants, cultures, perfumes and mysteries.

This year's opening exposition, titled "Towards Orient: men, cities and gods on the way of the Silk Roads," was dedicated to efforts to blend the Christianity, Buddhism and Islam traditions.

It features a total of 100 artistic items, many of which come from the Chinese region of Xinjiang, ranging from statues to silvery.

The exhibits also included some precious silk pieces, such as the so-called Marco Polo bible. A well-kept 16th century Mongol map of 30 meters in length was displayed to the public for the first time.

The inauguration press conference of the opening exposition held on Thursday was attended by some Italian and Chinese officials as well as experts, including the Chinese ambassador in Italy Ding Wei and Italian Secretary of State Stefania Craxi.

Craxi expressed a hope that the artistic reconstruction of the Silk Road may lead to new, enhanced trade between the East and the West.

By hosing the biennial event, Italy was once again playing a central role in bridging stronger ties between Asia and Europe, she added.

Meanwhile, Mario Resca, a high-level official of Italy's Culture Ministry, recalling Italy's deep links to China through the contribution across centuries of key figures including Matteo Ricci and Marco Polo, stressed that "culture is an important instrument for boosting mutual knowledge, peace and bilateral ties."

The opening exposition, which will be running up to Feb. 26, is jointly sponsored by the Italian, Chinese Culture Ministries and is part of the Chinese Culture Year in Italy.

Other expositions of the biennale to follow include the "Fascination of Beijing" featuring artistic photos of the changing aspects and trends of China's capital, and the "Great celestial abstraction", showcasing Chinese painting.

Several countries lying along the historical Silk Road, including India and Turkey, have contributed to the event.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

World's only evidence of co-existing humans, dinosaur tracks found in China

To watch the Video: Click HERE

BEIJING/CHONGQING, Oct. 16 (Xinhua) -- A team of Chinese and American scientists have discovered the world's only evidence of co-existing human beings and dinosaur tracks in a remote county in southwest China's Chongqing Municipality, according to a paper published Saturday in the Geological Bulletin of China, a Chinese core academic journal.

Qijiang County's Lianhua Baozhai, which means "Lotus Mountain Fortress" in Chinese, has a large number of dinosaur tracks as well as a well-preserved fortress and historical epigraph, forming a direct line of evidence that ancient Chinese people built a residence and lived there for a long time, said Xing Lida, one of three researchers with the project as well as a doctoral degree candidate with the Department of Biological Sciences of the University of Alberta in Canada.

Chinese people could have lived here for more than 700 years, and the mud cracks, ripple marks and duck-billed dinosaur tracks were considered by them to be lotus leaf veins, water environment and lotus, respectively, which is why they named it the Lotus Mountain Fortress, Xing Lida told Xinhua.

"Research shows that dinosaur tracks impacted ancient Chinese place names and folklore, so place names and folklore can be major clues for us in tracing dinosaur tracks," Xing said.

According to the paper, the Lotus Mountain Fortress dinosaur tracks, the largest track group of cretaceous dinosaurs in southwestern China, contains 350 to 400 footprints that had been preserved in many ways, including concave footprints, convex footprints and multilayered footprints.



"We found a lot of interesting relics that had been associated with lotus by local residents. The ripple marks, mud cracks and duck-billed dinosaur tracks had created a picture of a lotus field, and lead to the folklore of 'booming golden lotus from the earth,'" he said.

Chen Yu, another researcher with the project as well as an archaeologist with the Capital Museum in Beijing, said the region had been a transport hub for China and other Asian countries, where Buddhism thrived.

"The religion has a special worship towards lotus, which symbolizes peace and quiet. This is another reason for the residents to name the place for the flower, seeking blessing from the Buddha," Chen said.



Qijiang County was located in what, historically, was a frontier area, and had endured wars at that time. The Lotus Mountain Fortress had been a safe hiding place since the Han Dynasty (202 BC- 220 AD), according to the epigraphy of various dynasties, she said.

Adrienne Mayor, the third researcher with the project as well as a historian of ancient science and a classical folklorist with Stanford University in the United States, said the case of the Lotus Mountain Fortress proves that dinosaur tracks had impacted ancient Chinese folklore, which could provide clues for seeking other tracks.

The fortress' 700 years of history is a rarity in the world, and reflects China's traditional philosophy of the relationship between humans and nature, she said.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Silk Road Luxuries from China

FREER SACKLER, The Smithsonian's Museums of Asian Art
Future Exhibitions







SILK ROAD LUXURIES FROM CHINA
Opens November 5
Freer Gallery of Art

A vast network of caravan trails has long linked the oasis settlements spread across the Central Asian desert. For nearly two millennia these trade routes, now collectively known as the Silk Road, facilitated the spread of Buddhism and provided a course for the long-distance exchange of luxury goods between merchants and traders in China and the West. The impact of foreign imports on the arts of China is particularly apparent in objects dating from the sixth through eighth century, when Chinese craftsmen explored new materials, techniques, forms, and decorative patterns. They also began to use silver and gold for tableware and other functional objects. Exceptional examples of this phenomenon are now on view in the Freer Gallery. Most were made in the vicinity of the Tang capital at Chang’an (modern Xi’an) and attest to the cosmopolitan tastes of Chinese elites interested in foreign styles and customs.

Many of the traders on the Silk Road were ethnic Iranians originally from Sogdiana (modern-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan). Also on view are portions of an elaborate stone burial couch that was apparently made for the tomb of one of these Sogdians, who died in China in the late sixth century.

CRANES AND CLOUDS: THE KOREAN ART OF CERAMIC INLAY
Opens November 5
Freer Gallery of Art

The Freer’s Korean gallery reopens with an exhibition embodying the evolution of the distinctive Korean ceramic decoration known as sanggam. Originally, sanggam involved inlaying white and black pigments into stamped or carved motifs to create images of cranes, clouds, ducks, lotuses, and willows that appear to float within a limpid green glaze. This technique appeared in Korea by the mid-twelfth century; it would adorn tableware and ritual vessels used by the court and nobility for two centuries. Once porcelain replaced celadon as the elite ceramic, however, the appearance of inlaid decoration changed radically. White pigment, applied in dense patterns to cover everyday bowls and dishes, approximated the snowy appearance of porcelain.

The National Museum of Korea has provided generous financial and curatorial support for this installation of the Freer Gallery’s Korean collection. A new location within the museum positions the Korean gallery adjacent to an exhibition of Chinese ceramics of the tenth through thirteenth century and, eventually, to galleries of Chinese arts of the Song through Qing dynasty (tenth through nineteenth century).

CHINESE CERAMICS: 10TH-13TH CENTURY
Opens November 5
Freer Gallery of Art

Potters in both north and south China perfected the skills needed to control and modulate ceramic glazes—in shades of white, green, blue, brown, and black—during the Song dynasty (960–1279). In some modes, the glaze complemented carved or incised decoration; in others, its purity of color became a focal point on its own. Two dozen Chinese ceramics from the Freer collection highlight these glazes and the skills of Song dynasty artisans.




Silk Road Luxuries Glitter at the Freer
A Newly Renovated Gallery Showcases the Decorative Arts of a Cosmopolitan Tang China


October 4, 2011
Highways and byways crossing the vast Central Asian desert did more than facilitate the spread of Buddhism in the early Common Era, they also paved the way for the exchange of luxury goods between China and the West. “Silk Road Luxuries from China,” opening Nov. 5 in newly renovated Gallery 16 at the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery of Art, reveals the cross-cultural impact of Silk Road trade on Chinese luxury goods.

The small but exquisite array of 21 objects, including intricately decorated mirrors, cups and other forms of tableware, display the highest levels of craftsmanship practiced by Tang dynasty artisans working in precious materials.

“A revolutionary change began to happen in China’s decorative arts, fueled by an open and cosmopolitan, multicultural society centered in the vibrant Tang capital, Chang’an,” said J. Keith Wilson, curator of ancient Chinese art. “The intermingling of Chinese traditions and foreign influences led to a remarkable change in luxury goods produced for Chinese urban elites in the sixth through the eighth century.”

Sogdian traders—ethnic Iranians originally from Sogdiana, now Uzbekistan and Tajikistan in Central Asia—introduced the Chinese to new ideas in the decorative arts in the form of western and central Asian luxuries they offered in exchange for silk and other sought-after Chinese products. Objects such as tablewares made of precious metals and glass helped transform Chinese secular artistic traditions and promoted explorations of new materials, techniques, forms and decorative patterns.

Ideas and goods traveled both into and out of China along the Silk Road. Among the objects that will be on view is a lobed Sogdian dish of hammered silver, decorated with the image of a lion, that may have influenced Chinese metal artisans. An eighth-century silk brocade with floral medallions that was once among the treasures held by the Shōsōin repository in Nara, Japan, reveals how Chinese exports inspired craftsmen further east.

Groupings of exquisite mirrors and silver vessels presented in the exhibition illustrate new fabrication methods and decorative motifs inspired by foreign models. Chinese smiths and founders set aside old practices and began creating objects from precious metals, adopting western hammering and gilding techniques to forge a new Chinese luxury aesthetic. One of the highlights of the exhibition is a massive piece of burial furniture made in China for the repose of a Sogdian who died far from home. This and a small number of other Chinese burial couches feature layered decorative styles and Buddhist and non-Buddhist iconography, including depictions of foreign musicians and dancers. Although made for Sogdians, the objects belong to a Chinese tradition and reflect a multicultural vision.

“Silk Road Luxuries from China” in Gallery 16 and “Chinese Ceramics: 10th-13th Century” in Gallery 15 are the most recent installations in the Freer’s plan to reimagine the entire suite of six Chinese galleries, showcasing major collections in redesigned spaces that reflect the founder’s original focus on aesthetics and comparative study. Both galleries will reopen to the public Nov. 5.

The Silk Road Gallery project was made possible with the support of the Thaw Charitable Trust.

For more information about the Freer and Sackler galleries and their exhibitions, programs and other events, the public may visit asia.si.edu. The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, located at 1050 Independence Avenue S.W., and the adjacent Freer Gallery of Art, located at 12th Street and Independence Avenue S.W., are on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. Hours are 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily, except Dec. 25, and admission is free. The galleries are located near the Smithsonian Metrorail station on the Blue and Orange lines. For general Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000 or TTY (202) 633-5285.

13th century Mongolian wreckage discovered off Japanese seabed

The wreck of a Mongolian ship presumed to have been part of a 13th century invasion fleet has been discovered beneath the seabed off southern Japan.


The Telegraph by Julian Ryall, 25 October 2011
The vessel is the first of its kind to have been discovered relatively intact and dates from a series of attempts by Kublai Khan, emperor of the Yuan Dynasty, to subjugate Japan between 1274 and 1281.
Researchers have previously only been able to recover anchor stones and cannonballs from the scattered wrecks of the Mongol fleets and they believe that this latest find will shed new light on the maritime technology of the day.
The warship was located with ultrasonic equipment about 3 feet beneath the seabed at a depth of 75 feet. The archeological team, from Okinawa's University of the Ryukus, had been carrying out a search of the waters around Takashima Island, in Nagasaki Prefecture, because the area had yielded other items from Mongol ships.
Historical records suggest that some 4,400 ships carrying 140,000 Mongol soldiers landed in Japan in 1281 and skirmished with samurai in northern Kyushu. But after returning to their boats, the fleet was struck by a devastating typhoon that put an end to the invasion plans - a storm known to all Japanese as "kamizake," meaning divine wind, and again invoked in the dying days of the Second World War.


"I believe we will be able to understand more about shipbuilding skills at the time, as well as the actual situation of exchanges in East Asia," Ikeda told reporters in Nagasaki on Monday. He added that more research remains to be done, but he is also considering raising the wreck and putting it on public display.
A section of the ship's hull was first found last year but a full archeological excavation only began on September 30.
The researchers uncovered a keel nearly 50 feet long and more than 1.5 feet wide. Lengths of wood planking were still buried beneath silt alongside the main spars, they said.
The planks were as much as 9 inches wide and nearly 4 inches thick and were still coated in a grey paint. The planks had been held in place by nails and more than 300 bricks that were used as ballast were located throughout the site, along with ink stones and shards of Chinese ceramics.
The archeologists have also recovered weapons and identified the remains of the ship's ribs and bulkheads.
The mast and upper structures have been lost, the researchers said, but historians are marvelling at the discovery of the first near-complete pre-medieval wooden ship in Japan.
Kosuka Umazume, director of the Japan Society for Nautical Research, said it was a "miracle" that so much of the vessel had been recovered in such good condition and after such a long period of time.
The researchers believe the boats tried to find shelter in the coves of northern Kyushu, an assumption borne out by the discovery by Professor Yoshifumi Ikeda's team.

Friday, 21 October 2011

IDP News Issue No. 36–37 is out


IDP News Issue No. 36–37 is out !!

with the following articles:
IDP Korea Online
Launch of IDP Seoul
Korea and the Silk Road
The Impact of IDP on Dunhuang Studies
The Significance of Dunhuang Studies in Korea
Accounts of Silla in Dunhuang Manuscripts
Previously Unpublished Silk Road Manuscripts Now Available Online
Following Stein's Dreams in Afghanistan
Denis Sinor 1916–2011
Publications on Korea and the Silk Road
Journals
Exhibitions
IDP Worldwide News
IDP UK

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Bibliotheca Sinica 2.0

Bibliotheca Sinica 2.0





About
Bibliotheca Sinica 2.0 explores Sino-Western encounters by ways of texts and images published before 1939 and is intended as an extension of the bibliography Western Books on China in Libraries in Vienna/Austria, 1477-1939.

Bibliotheca Sinica 2.0 aims to provide information on digitized books on China (published up to 1939) freely available in digital repositories (see: references) all over the world. By this means our project wants to facilitate further research on the various aspects of the history of Western perceptions and Sino-Western relations. To maintain this, references to some major bibliographies are provided.

At the very beginning of the project (in 2003) we started to compile lists of old and rare books in the holdings of the Austrian National Library (Vienna) and the Library of the University of Vienna. In spring 2004, a first version of this lists was published on-line (since October 2004 on the pages of the Department of History, University of Vienna), referring to about 2000 titles that have been retrieved in searching the various catalogs of the two major libraries of Vienna. In further developing these lists, we also included printed material available in the Library of the Austrian State Archives.

Considering the numerous efforts of digitization that have been developed during the last years, the next stage of the project was to include information on digitized versions of old and rare books on China to be found in freely accessible digital repositories around the globe. In 2006-7, these lists were considerably augmented (now containing about 3000 titles of Western books on China published before 1939). The search for digital resources on the history of Sino-Western encounters was stimulated in summer/fall 2009 by the preparation of a course on the history of Sino-Western cultural relations held at the Department of History, University of Vienna.

For most of the titles referring to some major bibliographies this site intends to facilitate further research on the vast field of the history of Western perceptions of China and Sino-Western relations. As mass digitization projects go on and our project is a kind of work in progress, we will continuously expand the lists of/links to digitized versions given in single entries.

While we try to keep the links up to date and use permanent links whenever possible, we do not guarantee permanent accessibility.
Reports of broken links, corrections, and suggestions are appreciated.

From the description of “Western Books on China in Libraries in Vienna/Austria, 1477-1939″

Over centuries, Viennese libraries acquired – among many other treasures – rich materials on China: Dictionaries, early translations of Chinese classics, travelogues, maps, atlanti. The earliest examples for materials dealing with China date from the late 15th century (first printed edition of a German version of Marco Polo’s account). Over four centuries – until the 1850s – Viennese libraries collected books on China (and on Asia in general), in a variety of languages. The existence of these treasures in Vienna is widely unknown to the scientific community. This project intends to list all China-related holdings of printed books (published up to 1939) held in the Österreichische Nationalbibliothek (Austrian National Library), the Universitätsbibliothek Wien (Vienna University Library; including the main library and the holdings of the various department libraries as well), and the Library of the Austrian State Archives. All copies existing in the holdings of these libraries will be included in this bibliography

This special bibliography aims to enhance research on the history of relations between China and Europe. The data of this project once will be useful for further research (e. g. history of Chinese studies in Europe, the analysis of cultural exchange, the development of images of “the other”).The listing of all China-related printed books in the above-mentioned libraries will provide an inventory of these works distributed over several sites in Vienna. This will show the scope of these hitherto widely unknown holdings. As access will be very quick and convenient, this project will lead to an effective use of these materials.

The bibliography includes all printed Western-language material on China displayed in the various library catalogues – including printed maps, offprints (of journal and newspaper articles). According to the changes in European minds “China” will be extended to “India orientalis” as seen in early modern Europe, including publications on Qing Inner Asia and on other regions participating in the Qing “tributary system”. Besides scholarly publications in their widest sense belletristic works will also be included.

Recently finished projects providing inventories of China-related library holdings took place at Leipzig (holdings of Western books of China (published up to 1939) at Leipzig University Library; East Asian Institute/Leipzig University) and at Erfurt (catalogue of East Asia related holdings (586 different titles) at the Forschungsbibliothek Gotha; maintained by the Department of East Asian History, Erfurt University).

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Archeologists discover traces of ancient civilization in Chinese desert


HOHHOT, Oct. 18 (Xinhua) -- Archeologists have discovered 10 sites of ancient civilization in the Badain Jaran Desert, China's third largest desert located in northern Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.

An archeological team composed of 11 experts from Inner Mongolia, Beijing and Sichuan have unearthed large quantities of stone and pottery handicrafts dating back 5,000 years from the sites, which, the experts believe, indicate civilization once flourished in the desert.

Experts say one of the most distinguished findings was a black-red painted pottery jar, which represents Neolithic art that dates back 4,500 years.

It was unearthed from a site where archeologists have discovered civilization ruins in an area of 15,000 square meters.

The experts said stone wares made of flint and agate were found in all 10 sites.

The Badian Jaran Desert is 47,000 square km and sparsely populated. It is famous for having the tallest stationary sand dunes in the world. Some dunes reach a height of 500 meters. But it also features spring-fed lakes that lie between the dunes.

Archeologists said all the relic sites are near such lakes.

Travelling along the silk road searching for the footprints of China Part 1 & 2

Travelling along the silk road searching for the footprints of China Part 1









Travelling along the silk road searching for the footprints of China Part 2

Monday, 17 October 2011

Silks from Han to Jin Period Found near Kyung-lung dngul-mkhar, the Capital of Ancient Xiang Xiong Kingdom in Ngari, Tibet

From: Chinese Archaeology/ Tong Tao Date:2011-10-17

Although being one of the most active areas in the development and interaction of ancient cultures, Western Tibet is fraught with mystery especially before the dominance of Tubo Empire. The newly found Mkhar-gdong cemetery in Ngari not only provides a clue to locate the capital of Xiang Xiong Kingdom more precisely, but also helps greatly to establish a local cultural sequence.

The cemetery is located on the north bank of Sutlej River in Moincer Township, Gar County in Ngari District. Xinjiang-Tibet Highway passes by its vicinity connecting Lhasa and Yecheng in southwestern Xinjiang. It lies in front of a modern Bon monastery of Gur-gyam, which stands at the foot of the mountain west of the Kyung-lung dngul-mkhar, affirmed the capital of ancient Xiang Xiong Kingdom based on both local Bon adherents’ oral tradition as well as archaeological evidence. In 2006 an overloaded truck passed by the monastery, it sank into the earth where was proved to be a cave tomb. The monks of Gur-gyam excavated the cavity and assembled all outputs into the monastery hall and then built a small shelter over the tomb at the disposal of a local official. Although the excavation was not undertaken scientifically, the remaining tomb structure and artifacts still have significant academic value for studying the archaeological culture before imperial Tibet.



The tomb was found beneath the river’s silt and gravel, with a square pit containing a square casket-shaped wooden coffin and a well-preserved skeleton, however, whose burial pose is kept unknown. Burial artifacts include silk pieces with woven Chinese characters “Wang Hou” (King and Marquise) and patterns of birds and beasts, as well as lots of plain brown silk pieces, a U-shaped wooden comb, rectangular wooden trays, a wooden cosmetic box, a woven basketry, a wooden fire-lighting tool, a bronze kettle, a bronze bowel, a bronze cups with a ringed handle, a bronze dustpan with a wooden handle, a ceramic stemmed cup and a ceramic spouted cup.

Figured textiles with inscription “Wang Hou” and patterns of birds and beasts provide a basis for establishing dating of the tomb. It is a typical Han-manufacture, a warp-faced patterned silk with a dark blue ground and beige designs, measuring 44cm×25cm. This piece of cloth is said to have been used to wrap the deceased’s head, according to the monks, resembling the burial face cover found in southern Xinjiang. It has three horizontal registers of figures, each of which features different sets of zoomorphic ornamentation. There are also the remains of a border with a more abstract design. In the top register is a series of paired winged tigers, with mouth agape, and Ding tripods. The middle register is comprised of four fully intact compartments, each of which contains a pair of peacocks and a pair of what may be carnivores along a central axis framed by a pair of turtles and a pair of dragons, which altogether probably represent images of the Four Supernatural Beings (sishen) - Vermillion Bird, White Tiger, Black Turtle and Blue Dragon - which prevailed in ancient China to symbolize the four cardinal points. Two seal scripts Chinese characters “Wang Hou” and their mirror images are symmetrically placed in the in-between space. The lower register is dominated by a wavy pattern containing in each trough a pair of affronted waterfowls.

Silk with the same inscription and patterns have been found in Yingpan Cemetery in Yuli County and Astana Cemetery in Turfan, Xinjiang, dating back to between the 3rd and 4th century and to 455 AD respectively. The silk of the Mkhar-gdong cemetery could thus be set between the 4th and 5th century, which is strongly supported by C14 analysis undertaken by a foreign institution with the result as the 3rd or first half of the 4th century AD.

The burial form follows the tradition of slate grave pits in early western Tibet. The casket-shaped wooden coffin is identical with wooden coffins of Han and Jin periods from Niya, Yingpan and Khotan area, which must result from influences from the latter. Other artifacts also show such trend, such as the U-shaped wooden comb, wooden cup and woven basketry and wooden fire-lighting tool, which bear strong similarities to those from Han and Jin periods in Loulan and Khotan area. Some large-sized bronze and iron objects may come from localities with mature metallurgy like Khotan and Luopu.

Excavation of silk with Chinese inscription “Wang Hou” and metals are indicative of a high rank of the tomb. From its location and dating, it must be related closely to the ancient Xiang Xiong capital of Kyung-lung dngul-mkhar. Though we cannot conclude this tomb as a noble tomb, there is no doubt that it provides a clue for seeking the accurate location of Kyung-lung dngul-mkhar. The silk unearthed is the earliest ever found in whole Tibetan Plateau. Cultural characteristics and living ways reflected by the burial objects are very similar to that in southern Xinjiang during the Han and Jin periods. The cultural connections between the two regions are evident and thereby factors of Han culture are indirectly input to Western Tibet. It is possible to take this traffic and cultural relation into the study of the Silk Road archaeology. This region could therefore be regarded, very possibly, as a branch of the southern route of the Silk Road toward the Tibetan Plateau. The cemetery with well preserved rich burials is not isolated, indicative of further possible abundant archaeological findings.

Strange Xinjiang tomb puzzles researchers

From the Institute of Archeology/ Chinese Academy of Social Sciences (IA CASS)

Recently archaeologists from Xinjiang archaeological team of Archaeological Institute, subordinated to Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, recently discovered a strange tomb formed by black and white stones in a flatland near the Tashikuergan River in Xinjiang province.



Fist-sized black and white stones are alternatively lying on the 100-meter by 50-meter flatland. On the western side of the flat, there is a circular tomb with a diameter of 2 meters. At sunset, the smooth and round black stones and the angular white stones reflect the sunlight, which presents a solemn appearance.



Wu Xinhua, captain of the archaeological team, said that it was the first time to discover a tomb of this kind. No similar tombs were ever discovered in Pamirs, the Qinghai-Tibet plateau or Central Asia.

Source: People's Daily Online

West Asian Bead Found in Anhui's Ancient Tomb


A West Asian dragonfly-eye-shaped bead was found in a 2,000-odd-year Chinese tomb in Dangtu, Anhui province, indicating noblemen living in China's Warring States period (475 BC-221BC) were exposed to West Asian civilization.

Excavated from the roughly 400-sqm tomb were more than 40 cultural relics, of which most were potteries and celadon wares. Judging from those possessions, the occupant is expected to be an aristocrat of Yue, one of the seven major countries in the Warring States period, archaeologists said.

The most eye-catching burial object is a glass bead resembling a dragonfly eye in appearance. Such kind of jewellery was made by nomadic tribes in Mediterranean countries in the 10th century BC and believed to keep misfortune away from the wearers as well as to play the role of money, Gong Xicheng, deputy director of the provincial archaeological institute said.

Much contact between nomadic tribes of West Asia and China enabled the dragonfly-eye-shaped jewellery to take off in Chinese privileged class in the Warring States period, Gong said.

Source: cnanhui.org

Mysterious tombs discovered on Pamirs Plateau


TAXKORGAN, Xinjiang, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists have discovered an unidentified cluster of tombs on the Pamirs Plateau, unveiling a new mystery on the crossroads of the ancient Silk Road.

Eights tombs, each two meters in diameter, were arranged on a 100-meter-long and 50-meter-wide terrace, with lines of black stones and lines of white stones stretching alongside like rays, according to the archaeology team with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences that found the tombs in Xinjiang's Taxkorgan Tajik Autonomous County, a border region neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan, in October.

"The tombs are peculiar. No similar ones had been detected before on the Pamirs Plateau, or even in all of Central Asia," team captain Wu Xinhua said, adding that the discovery shows a gap between their knowledge and studies, and previous findings along the Silk Road.

Wu believes that the ray-like stone strings might imply sun worship, but he admitted his assumption lacked sufficient evidence.

But the archaeology team is quite certain that people buried in the tombs had dignified social statuses as the black stones were carried from afar and the terrace for the tomb platform would have been a rare land resource in the area.

Located at the intersection of eastern and western cultures, the tomb cluster could reflect a deep historical background, Wu said.

A local archaeologist said local nomads spotted an additional three similar tomb clusters in the township where the archaeology team discovered the tombs with ray-like stones.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Sacred Texts on the Silk Road

As a new addition to the popular Sacred Texts workshop, run by the British Library learning team for school years 7-13, groups are now offered the option of a 'Sacred Texts on the Silk Road' add-on. This hour long session, run by a member of the International Dunhuang Project, will introduce students to some of the manuscripts, paintings and artefacts that were uncovered in Dunhuang, North West China in the early 20th century, and use them to explore how important the Silk Road was as a conduit for religion and ideas through the first millenium.

For more details, following is the article on the site of the British Library

Sacred Texts

Details
Age group: Year 7-13
Available: Monday – Friday
Length: 90 minutes. Please allow more time after your workshop to explore the galleries and public spaces
Group size: minimum 10

Subjects and Key Skills
Religious Education

Workshop outline
Can sacred texts help us to understand our lives today? Are there different ways of exploring texts from different religions? This workshop will help visitors find their own connections with the magnificent sacred texts on display in the Treasures gallery.
Creative educators will work with students to look closely and learn from an array of texts. Participants will be able to view Buddhist, Christian, Hindu, Muslim, Jain, Jewish, Sikh and Zoroastrian texts. The workshop will help students develop the skills needed for investigating texts, especially how to look closely at source material.

Sacred Texts on the Silk Road


To accompany the Sacred Texts workshop, we also offer a talk about Buddhism in relation to the Silk Road. Led by a member of staff from the International Dunhuang Project, this session will introduce students to some of the manuscripts, paintings and artefacts that were uncovered in North West China in the early 20th century. This material can tell us much about everyday life on the Silk Road throughout the 1st Millennium and also help our understanding of how important the Silk Road was for the spread of Buddhism throughout the Asian continent and beyond.

This talk is 60 minutes and includes a Q&A. Due to the fragile nature of the material we’re unable to show original collection items however students will be able to see facsimiles, images and replica objects.

Post visit activities
Discover our online interactive, Understanding Sacred Texts, and use it to investigate the Abrahamic scriptures by posing a range of questions to a panel of 'experts': faith leaders, educators, young people, theologians and an atheist philosopher.

Explore 12 stories from six different religions in our online interactive, Sacred Stories. All 12 stories have been animated using images from the British Library's collection. Discover the origins of the tales and investigate the crossovers and contrasts between them.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Kashgar's Old City

Kashgar's Old City from Mitchell Masilun on Vimeo.



An Overview of Kashgar's Old City and the changes within it.
By Mitchell Masilun


It is caught in the middle of a battle between the Chinese Government, who is destroying it for the sake of development and safety, and Uyghurs, the local ethnic minority who says they are committing cultural genocide.

Association for Central Asian Civilizations & Silk Road Studies Call for Papers

ACANSRAS
Association for Central Asian Civilizations & Silk Road Studies
Our Annual Publication
Call for articles


The Association will publish annually an edited collection of articles (or monographs) to promote academic exchange among researchers currently working in the field. The publications will cover a wide range of topics relevant to the history and culture of this far-flung area ranging from historical issues to varied cultural interests such as language, religion, music, and art. Each annual publication will have a major theme linking the submitted articles.

The tentative topic of "The Silk Road: Interwoven History" has been chosen for the inaugural issue to be published in 2012. Please submit articles (5000 - 9000 words) on recent research related to this theme in both PDF and DOC (Word) files by email attachment to editor@acansrs.org by December 30, 2011." Click “style sheet” for the details.

Archaeologists wreck archaeological landscapes and ancient silk road cities


From GardenVisit.com The Garden and Landscape Guide:
Better not to name it, for fear of attracting more tourists, but this is a silk road city in Central Asia. It was opened up by archaeologists and then left in this condition. The excavators will have published a learned report on their findings. Then they left it like this – as a tourist attraction which the government can put into guidbooks, hoping to create jobs and attract hard currency which can be spent on weapons. Now the rain falls on the mud walls, the sun cracks them, the wind blows the dust away. Far better if the archaeologists had done something useful with their lives, instead of running university courses to teach other archaeologists to support the tourist industry.

The Scanning of the Dunhuang Caves



For more information, read THIS

Saturday, 8 October 2011

Marco Polo Reloaded (2)


Marco Polo Reloaded re-travels the Silk Road on the tracks of its most well-known voyager: the mediaeval traveler and writer Marco Polo. Five road movie style-documentaries imagine the past and show today’s reality, in countries like Turkey, Israel, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, the Central Asian Republics and China. The five films accompany a travel writer on a mission. Bradley Mayhew, 39, married, born in England, living in the US, a senior writer for Lonely Planet Publications. He is researching a book on the Silk Road and its legendary voyager. The films show what is happening if one re-travels Marco Polo’s journey again, 700 years after him, his book in mind (“reloaded”), overland, by means of local transport, covering the ancient trade-route on its entire length from Venice to Beijing.

Marco Polo Reloaded shows Bradley “at work”. He researches, takes notes and pictures, he collects content and experiences. Curiosity and discovery is the attitude of Bradley and the films: see what comes. He travels with busses, trucks, trains, through oriental cities, inhospitable mountains and forbidding deserts. With Bradley we wander bazaars and hop dirty bars, we marvel at palaces and wait at dusty train stations. With Bradley we meet people on the road. And share their stories. Some of them already Marco Polo had written about – and they are still burning today.
Some cities, Marco Polo passed through 700 years ago, do no longer exist, others have been ultimately altered by modernity, again others still breathe the Orient. Today as in Polo’s times some areas are off-limits, dangerous, ridden by crisis or war and the traveler is forced detours. Travelling the Silk Road today is as exciting and adventurous as it was in Marco Polo’s time.
5 films of 43’00, HD, stereo.







Friday, 7 October 2011

A Pure and Remote View/ Visualizing Early Chinese Landscape by James Cahill

James Cahill, Professor Emeritus of Chinese Art at UC Berkeley and author of Pictures for Use and Pleasure: Vernacular Painting in High Qing China, has spent the last two years working on a comprehensive historical account of early Chinese landscape painting, a topic that has been somewhat neglected in the field of Art History. The series, titled A Pure and Remote View: Visualizing Early Chinese Landscape Painting, was sponsored by UC Berkeley’s Institute of East Asian Studies (IEAS) and produced by Chatterbox Films.

Hosted online by IEAS and available on Youtube, the seven-part series is composed of short introductions by Cahill and over 2,200 detailed high-resolution images of selected Chinese paintings and works of pictorial art from the early period up to the end of the Song dynasty in the late thirteenth century. You can also find the series, as well as a repository of mostly unpublished, or hard-to-find writings on James Cahill’s website.

Untill now, 12 lectures have been published with more to follow:


I begin by introducing my three major teachers, and go on to outline the background of the series: early attempts at histories of Chinese painting, photographing and cataloguing projects carried out in the 1960s-70s, changing ideas about how art history should be constructed and written. I introduce Ernst Gombrich as a model for the kind of art-historical narrative I will attempt, but also emphasize the strong tradition of critical and historical writing in China that underlies my account. This first lecture ends with a brief introduction to early pictorial art in China: Neolithic painted pots, hunting-style bronzes, the earliest paintings on silk from Changsha.


This lecture considers the growth of pictorial art during the Han dynasty (208 BCE to AD 220), beginning with paintings on silk (including the famous 'flying garment") from the tombs at Changsha, continuing with pictures on tomb objects (mingqi) and lacquer designs, and ending with the remarkable relief pictures on tomb tiles found in Sichuan. Early renderings of space and the beginnings of expressive rushwork are revealed in visual analyses of all these.


This third lecture, more than two hours long, treats the pictorial art of the variously-named period between the Han and Tang dynasties, a period of political division and warfare during which relative peace in the Yangzi Delta region around Nanjing permitted the emergence there of major artists and a flourishing tradition of picturemaking. Detailed looking at scroll paintings ascribed to one artist, GuKaizhi, introduces issues of dating and the faithfulness of copies after a lost original; brief discussions of two early essays open a continuing consideration of the rich Chinese critical and theoretical literature on painting.


This lecture is about figure painting of the Tang dynasty (AD 610-907). Tomb paintings of the early Tang, works associated with the legendary figure master Wu Daozi, reliable copies after palace-lady pictures by Zhou Fang and others together with one original, make up a detailed exploration of this greatest age of figure painting in China.


Landscape painting in the Tang dynasty takes two directions: a detailed and colorful style, and the beginnings of an ink-monochrome style. Examples of both in surviving copies and fragments, along with a tomb wall painting. a
rubbing from a stone engraving, and the background landscape from a Buddhist image are shown and discussed in this lecture.


Another period of political disunity bridging the brief gap (AD 907-960) between two long-lasting dynasties, the Tang and the Song, the Five Dynasties was nonetheless an age of great innovation in landscape and other painting. This lecture uses reliable works of the period and close copies for visual exploration of striking pictorial images that draw the viewer's eye into their intricate spatial systems.


In this same period, five great masters of landscape--Jing Hao and Guan Tong, Dong Yuan and Juran, Li Cheng--brought to this art a new profundity of conception and diversity of styles. Although no surviving work can be firmly accepted as by any one of them, major paintings of high quality and importance are attributed to them, and are given close visual analysis in this lecture, which also introduces new theories and concepts of how landscape imagery can carry profound human meaning.


A time of greatest achievement in the development of landscape painting in China, the early Northern Song period saw the emergence of a fully formed, monumental landscape art as achieved by three towering masters, Yan Wengui, Fan Kuan, and Xu Daoning, all represented by extant genuine works. These are explored in detail, along with paintings by some of their followers
and imitators.


This lecture is devoted to the late Northern Song master Guo Xi, the last of the great masters of monumental landscape, beginning with his essay on painting landscape, continuing with a prolonged exploration of his masterwork Early Spring, and ending with a consideration of other paintings ascribed to him.


After discussions of some large theoretical and methodological issues, this lecture presents paintings by two artists who were members of the Song imperial family, Zhao Lingrang by birth and Wang Shen through marriage. The strengths and limitations of their works are brought out in a discussion of the implications of amateurism in painting.


The beginnings and early stages of the scholar-amateur movement in painting, known first as shidafu hua and later as wenren hua, are presented through works by or attributed to the early literati masters, notably Su Shi or Su Dongpo, Mi Fu, and Li Gonglin. An especially fine painting from the next generation, the Red Cliff handscroll by Qiao Zhongchang, is given a longer, detailed treatment.

Thursday, 6 October 2011

Mural Paintings of the Silk Road

I seem to have missed this one, better late than never........

Mural Paintings of the Silk Road: Cultural Exchanges Between East and West
by Kazuya Yamauchi, Yoko Taniguchi and Tomoko Uno


Paperback: 216 pages
Publisher: Archetype Publications Ltd; illustrated edition edition (1 Mar 2007)
Language English
ISBN-10: 1904982220

Along the great Silk Road, numerous objects of cultural heritage survive as witnesses to the mingling of indigenous cultures with 'foreign' cultures. One type of surviving witness is mural painting and the papers in this volume are witnesses themselves of a colloquium on the subject of Mural paintings of the Silk Road attended by art historians, historians and archaeologists, scientists and conservators from East and West, held in Tokyo in 2006. A newfound recognition of the vastness of the Silk Road, along with a genuine rediscovery of the ancient cultural exchanges that took place there is reflected in this collection of papers which examines the range of information (art styles, techniques and materials) encapsulated within mural paintings, allowing the reader a glimpse of the dynamism inherent in the cultural exchanges between East and West. Today, parts of the Silk Road, rich in the magnificence of the ancient arts they possess, are often located in countries facing major challenges. Countless important archaeological sites are in danger of demolition or severe damage by human encroachment or turmoil.
This symposium also addressed such issues - more from an Asian point of view, reaching beyond European perspectives. This volume is published in association with the Japan Center for International Cooperation in Conservation, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, and contains the proceedings of the 29th Annual International Symposium on the Conservation and Restoration of Cultural Property, National Research Institute for Cultural Properties, Tokyo, January 2006.

Along the Silk Road by Monica Kimpel

Along the Silk Road, a travel report by Monica Kimpel
German language.

Eine 5-teilige Reportage einer Studienreise durch Turkmenistan, Usbekistan, Tadschikistan, Kirgistan (Kirgisistan) und Kasachstan.


Part 1: Aschgabad, die von der Antike inspirierte Metropole des Turkmenbashi - Nissa, Erinnerung an das reich der Sogder -- Kohne Urgentsch, erhabene Mausoleen berichten von der Zeit, in der islamisches Wissen die Welt bereicherte -- Ankunft in Chiwa, Usbekistan


Part 2: Chiwa mit seinem konservierten Charme alter Zeiten -- durch die Wüste Kizilkum und entlang des Flusses Amu Darja nach Buchara, Zentrum islamischer Baukunst


Part 3:Chor Minor am Rande von Buchara -- Vebkent, erhabenes Minarettin einer usbekischen Kleinstadt -- Baumwollernte -- Rabat I Malek, einstige Karawanserei -- Moscheen, Medresen und Mausoleen in Samarkand -- Pendschikent, ausgegrabene Erinnerung an die Macht der Sogder in Mittelasien


Part 4:Schroffes Hochgebirge in Tadschikistan -- Schah I Sinda, Traum Timur des Großen -- Afrosiab, die Keimzelle von Samarkand, Handel und Wandel im Samarkand von heute -- entlang des Turkestan-Gebirges nach Taschkent, der usbekischen Hauptstadt -- von Almaty nach Bischkek in Kirgisien


Part5: Stationen uralter Karawanenweg,

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Vanished Silk Road city Loulan studied in China

BEIJING, Oct. 4 (UPI) -- Chinese archaeologists say they've found evidence of agricultural activity in an ancient vanished city that was a pivotal stop along the famous Silk Road.

Scientists from the Institute of Geology and Geophysics said remote sensing procedures, field investigations and sample testing in the area showed there were once large tracts of farmland in Loulan, an important trading city that mysteriously disappeared in the third century A.D., China's official news agency Xinhua reported Sunday.
Farmland featuring regular and straight plots stretching for 200 to 1,000 yards, as well as irrigation ditches running throughout, have been found, Qin Xiaoguang, a member of the research team, said.
Grain particles in the area's ground surface are very likely the remains of crop plants, Qin said.
Evidence of an ancient canal measuring 10 to 20 yards wide and 5 feet deep suggest the city, which is thought to have perished in drought, was once rich in water resources, the researchers said.



Nice wrapped information about Loulan in the China Travel blog of Grace Fan

The Lost Kingdom - Lou Lan

The Loulan ancient city, located in the west of Lake Lop Nur in Xinjinag Uygur Autonomous Region, is world-renowned for mysteriously vanishing in sand.
Loulan Kingdom in Xinjiang was established before 176 B.C. and vanished in 630 A.D. It is said that the kingdom was swallowed by the shifting sands of Taklamakan Desert. But till now, the reason of its disappearance still remains unknown.



As one of the important parts of Silk Road, Loulan ancient city acted as trading hub in ancient China. The transactions between China and the Western welcomed streams of camel trains loaded exotic goods from many parts of the world. It also became a best place to take a break when caravans passed through Loulan.



The lost kingdom was brought to light again in the spring of 1900 by a Swedish adventurer named Sven Hedin who was exploring the west of Lake Lop Nur. In March, 1900, Hedin’s expedition came to the wasteland of Lake Lop Nur along Kongquhe River. When passed through desert, they carelessly lost their shovel in the camping area. So his assistant was sent to fetch shovel. After a moment, his assistant found the shovel and some piece of woodcarvings, therefore, Hedin decided to explore the ruins. In 1901, the ancient city Loulan was excavated by Hedin and his partners. The discovery of the ancient city of Loulan stirred a great sensation worldwide. It set off attracting archaeologists, historians and explorers form all over the world. Their excavation found more remains of buildings and relics, such as woodcarvings, ancient coins, silk fabrics, various articles for daily use as well as documents.



In the ruins of the building, the most easily seen part is “Three Rooms”. “Three Rooms” facing south is the only house whose walls are built by mud bricks, and the neighboring houses are made of wood with the trace of red paint. Some of the woods reached 6.4 meters long. Through analyzing the position and structure of “Three House”, the building might be government office of the ancient city of Loulan. In the west and south of the city are the residential quarters of common folk. These houses are coated by the mud and straw.
According to archaeologist, the human activities existed in Tarim Basin. Thinking of other abandoned ancient cities in Tarim Basin, it is amazing that all these cities vanished in the 4th and 5th century. Although historians and archaeologists have been working hard to study the history of Loulan kingdom, its rise and fall and sudden disappearance was still wrapped in the mystery.

Monday, 3 October 2011

The future of the Mogao caves is digital



BEIJING, Sept. 30 (Xinhuanet) -- The statues and frescoes of Buddhist deities at Mogao Grottoes are being digitized to preserve their images for future generations. Liu Zhihua reports.

The Buddhist deities represented in the frescoes and statues at Mogao Grottoes will no doubt be pleased to learn that Dunhuang Academy is making significant progress toward digitizing their pictures and statues, thereby ensuring their future and allowing more people to view them.

The caves were discovered in the early 1900s by Europeans, though they were first dug in AD 366 and have been a place of Buddhist worship since then. They are the principal attraction of Dunhuang, a small city on the Silk Road in West China's Gansu province.

Inevitably, however, the frescoes are fading away due to the passage of time, environmental degradation and human activity.

Every day in late summer, thousands of tourists from all over the world come to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) World Heritage Site to admire the inspired art works.

Since most of the caves were initially designed for domestic use, they are generally smaller than 25 square meters. Carbon dioxide exhaled by the legions of visitors is disturbing the temperature and moisture balance of the caves, which is causing discoloration and damaging the frescoes and statues made of earth, wood, straw and mineral pigments.

Other factors causing the art works to be damaged include the sandy environment, wind, floods, rain and occasional earthquakes.

"We hope the grottoes will last forever, but they are changing every minute," says Fan Jinshi, curator of Dunhuang Academy, which was established in the early 1940s,

"If we create digital images of these works and store them appropriately the hope is they could last forever."

Fan came up with the idea in the late 1980s, and since then the academy has been working with various museums and universities, and other organizations, both at home and abroad, to realize the project.

From 1998 to 2006, with support from Northwestern University and funds from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, a private foundation based in the United States, the academy successfully digitized all the frescoes of 22 caves.

In 2006, when a digital center was established, the academy started digitizing the grottoes independently.

"Digitization in those days mostly meant taking two-dimensional photos of the frescoes," says Sun Zhijun, deputy director of the digital center, adding they started using three-dimensional technology in 2008.

In addition, the academy and Wuhan University have experimented using laser scanning to position and map the frescoes to form three-dimensional images. The results so far have been promising.

Digitization of the statues in their niches, however, proved difficult.

Unlike frescoes, the niches formed for the statues are not flat surfaces and using a traditional camera it is not possible to get a picture where all the elements are in focus.

The breakthrough came after a camera was made by Microsoft Research Asia in 2011 that is custom made for photographing the Mogao Grottoes. It is called the Apsara, after the grottoes' famous "flying fairy" paintings.

The creation of Apsara is part of Microsoft Research Asia's e-Heritage program, which has funded more than 10 research proposals over the past several years.

When shooting objects with complicated depth variations, Apsara can capture many pictures of the same object using different focuses, and then by a process called "focus-stacking", software compiles the images so everything in the final picture is in focus.

It turns out the Aspara is also better at photographing frescoes, as the wall surfaces are not perfectly flat either.

The images produced combine a large format lens and a digital sensor to generate images more than 1 gigapixel (1,000 megapixels) large (commercial digital cameras are capable of producing images less than 160 megapixels).

The Aspara also allows a contrast ratio greater than 1:3,000,000, which is 300 times better than the best displays available today.

That is to say, although the picture is two-dimensional, it is so detailed it looks three-dimensional.

Even better, the camera is no larger than a washing machine and doesn't require specialized lighting conditions.

It takes about 10 minutes to take a picture of a small niche and statue, and a few hours for a mid-sized niche.

"With Apsara we can finally take high-quality digital photos of the niches. It has also improved our work efficiency," Sun says.

"We are hoping we can take high-quality photos of another 60 caves in the following two years."

(Source: China Daily)

Afghanistan museum intrigue saves country's gold



September 28, 2011
(CBS News) Long before Afghanistan was torn apart by war, it was a vital trading post of ancient empires, lying in the middle of what was called The Silk Road.
The country has a remarkable - and irreplaceable - history. And on "The Early Show" CBS News correspondent Seth Doane shared the story of man's desperate fight to save it.

Artifacts, Doane reported, usually tell the story of ancient times. But the pieced-together artifacts found at the National Museum of Afghanistan, bear the scars of modern history.

Omara Khan Massoudi is the director of the embattled Kabul Museum, which he joined in 1978. Massoudi told Doane 70 percent of the museum's artifacts were looted. Most of Massoudi's three-decade-long tenure has been marked by war.

After the Soviet invasion in 1979, there was civil war. More than two-thirds of the collection was looted and the museum itself came under rocket attack.

Massoudi said the museum had no ceiling, no roof and lacked windows.

"It was completely barren," Massoudi said.

National Geographic fellow Fred Hiebert told Doane, "They were working in a war zone; they had treasures that were irreplaceable anywhere."

Half a world away, in Washington, D.C., Hiebert, an American archeologist watched the destruction - and worried most about the legendary Bactrian gold.

Hiebert said, "This was a treasure that was found in 1979 in northern Afghanistan, 22,000 pieces of gold, exquisite, just on the brink of chaos in Afghanistan."

But in Kabul, Massoudi was keeping a secret.

Massoudi said, "I can't imagine what happened within these few years, what happened to this museum. But it was not the time to sit - but it was the time to have action."

In 1988, many of the most important artifacts were squirreled away and hidden in vaults deep underneath the city streets in Kabul. Massoudi, along with the museum staff, secretly hid some the greatest treasures. But the assault didn't stop. In 2001, the Taliban began destroying artifacts depicting humans or animals, including the giant Buddha statues from the 6th century that were more than 10 stories high.

At the museum, at least 2,500 artifacts were smashed. But - despite mounting pressure - Massoudi kept quiet.

Hiebert said, "They knew the treasures of Afghanistan had been hidden away and not a single one - not Massoudi, not even the lowest guard who knew about that - told anybody that he treasures still existed in Afghanistan."

Finally, in 2004, Hiebert, along with National Geographic - which filmed the journey - joined Massoudi, who after 14 years, helped reveal the 2,000-year-old gold.

"He opened the door and out flew all these little plastic bags - with gold in it," Hiebert said. "All of a sudden, this sense of understanding, that they, themselves, the Afghans had saved their cultural heritage, came over. It was one of the most amazing moments of my life."

Still today, Massoudi's staff continues to painstakingly catalog and repair many of the artifacts.

Some of the gold is on a traveling exhibition in Europe, while much of it remains hidden.

Massoudi said, "We have to transfer these pieces very safely to the next generation. I think this is our job. This is our duty."

Massoudi says it's his responsibility to save these artifacts, and, with that, preserve his culture, too.

Doane added on "The Early Show, "Massoudi is most proud of having the National Museum of Afghanistan open and seeing student groups inside. He says it's important for the world to see in Afghanistan, it is about more than just war."

"Early Show" co-anchor Erica Hill said, "Of course, it is such a different picture than what we normally see, but a lot of concern about what is going to happen to Afghanistan in the coming years. Is he concerned about how the very delicate political climate there could perhaps lead to issues again with these national treasures?"

Doane said, "It is something out of a movie really. A handful of guys still have keys. A lot of the gold is still hidden, and after the interview, he pulled me aside in that deep voice, he said, 'Be careful about what you say.' I read that to be, be careful, we still have some concern that some of these treasures may still be at-risk.

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Uyghur Karezes Documentary



UYGHUR KAREZES
THE UNDERGROUND GREAT WALL

The great karez system which partially standed confidential in Central Asia for ages is now revealed…


ABOUT THE DOCUMENTARY

The world “uygarlık” which means civilization in Turkish comes from the word “Uyghur”…

Basicly this documentary is a discovery. It has two dimensions: ecology and history. Primarily this film opens new horizons on the struggle with the ferocious enemy of earth: the global warming. Secondly it marks new statements and modifications about the archaic history of Central Asia.

The subject of this documentary is the story of Uyghur Karezes created 2500 years before or more. The Uyghur Karezes are situated in the city of Turpan in Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China. Karez is a traditional irrigation water system which makes use of underground water efficiently. The Karez technology is carrying water, with underground tunnels, in the middle of the desert, collected from rainfall and melted snow in mountainous area or provided stable water resources of high quality water.

Like many others one of the finest environment consultants Fred Pearce claims that the karez system is one of the main vigourous solution through the effects of global warming. Indeed this system which can tansform the middle of the desert to a forest is the only chance in drought areas for the world.

This documentary also reveals new facts on Central Asia indirectly through the karezes and the antique city of Jiaohe (Yarnaz) just beside.

The total length of karez tunnnels in Xinjiang is 5100 km the inmost depth is -120 m! Karezes are a technological and engineering wonder

The world have heard almost nothing down to date. Because historians had the aptitude to connivance this structure. But progressively the conusants scientists have a clear conception that these structures are an omitted wonder and deserves a high respect both for the past and future.

The title of the documentary is “Uyghur Karezes” because Uyghurs are the people who live where are situated karezes and are stil continuing the tradition.

If not preserved karezes have only 25 years to live. That is why Turpan karezes are a candidate in UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The documentary will be a mediate support for efforts about karez.



SYNOPSIS

The difficulty to leave in the steppe gives courage, voyaging a lot gives wisdom and the infinite horizon gives imagination. That is why nomads stranded between the mountains and steppes decided 2500 years before to put themselves in the Taklamakan desert. Bu this time they were faced to a new obstacle: intensive drought. These intelligent and patient people bringed water in to their cities by broaching mountains, and digging underground tunnels streching for miles. This arcaic system which populates the middle of the desert is named “karez”. The overall longness of tunnels is 5100 kilometers and the inmost is 120 meters. The heritage that the chinese scientists call “The Underground Great Wall” is continuing even today to flourish the desert. And will be the safety of nature in the future under the menace of global climate change. The great karez system which partially standed confidential in Central Asia for ages is now revealed.

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

The intense research and plannig of the project took 1,5 year. Shootings were done in China, UK, Austria, Luxemburg and Turkey. The production team covered more than 25.000 km in three weeks. 2D and 3D animations with lots of maps were designed in order to illustrate the subject. Interviews are done with one of the best environment consultant Fred Pearce, with respectable scholars in the field such as Prof. Herbert Weingartner, Prof. Lu Enguo, Dr. Li Xiao, Dr. Yang Shengwen, one of the best karez researcher in the wolrd Dr. Afridin Gafur Nureddin and with the author of karez books Dursun Özden. More Prof. Ronald Manley and PhD. Patrick Reynolds are participating as consultants with Ömer Madra in the Project. Greenpeace International supported indirectedly the project. Turkish Ministry of Culture and Chinese Ambassy in Ankara supported the Project which was produced by Corpora Productions.

Duration: 51 minutes
www.uyghurkarezesdoc.com