Archeology and History of the Silk Road

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Saturday, 30 June 2012

New finds on the Nan Ao No. 1



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Xiaobai Jiao-1, an ancient merchant vessel which sank nearly 200 years ago during the Qing Dynasty. Recently archaeologists have found relic stones and porcelain pieces on-board the sunken ship.
The ship sank in waters near Ningbo city, which was a major hub for sea trade in ancient China.
Archaeologists are working 24 meters below sea level. It was there they found the Mei Yuan stones piled on the boat’s bottom. These precious stones were used as gifts for communication in ancient times.
An archaeologist says, "We have seen three bowls with green and white patterns. Two of them are broken and the rest is complete with the cover."
Archaeologists have also found porcelain pieces, pottery, seals, Spanish coins, stone and wooden pieces.
In addition, experts have found a rich variety of relics that will provide valuable information to historians about trade during those times.

Discovery magnificent Western Zhou Dynasty Tomb



● The unearthed objects include more than 20 bronze lacquer wares and weapons
● Archaeologists predict the tombs may belong to nobles

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Archaeologists have found a tomb complex dating back to the Western Zhou Dynasty, some three thousand years ago. The tombs are located in Baoji City in Northwest China’s Shaanxi Province.
The unearthed objects include more than 20 bronze lacquer wares and weapons. Most of them are well preserved and quite delicate, which could be used as precious materials for research.
Archaeologists predicted that the tombs may belong to nobles. It is one of the most important discoveries in China in the latest 30 years.
The unearthed objects include more than 20 bronze lacquer wares and weapons. Most of them
are well preserved and quite delicate, which could be used as precious materials for
research. 
The unearthed objects include more than 20 bronze lacquer wares and weapons. Most of them
are well preserved and quite delicate, which could be used as precious materials for
research.

Friday, 29 June 2012

The Image of the Winged Celestial and Its Travels along the Silk Road



SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS 
Number 225 June, 2012 


The Image of the Winged Celestial and Its Travels along the Silk Road 


by Patricia Eichenbaum Karetzky 

Winged celestials are a consistent feature in Buddhist art. Like so much of Buddhist imagery, they derive from the West and appear in the earliest extant Buddhist art. Associated with flight and the ascent into the ethereal zone, they convey spirituality. For centuries flying divinities were a regular feature, and during the Kushan era (first to third century) monks, merchants and missionaries brought them with Buddhist texts and icons east along the Silk Road. Thus representations of winged celestials can be found in early Buddhist art in Central Asia and medieval China. This paper will trace the evolution of the image of the Buddhist anthropomorphic flying heavenly spirit beginning with its earliest appearance in India, through its development in the area of Gandhāra (parts of Northern India, Afghanistan and modern Pakistan) during the Kushan era, and its transmission to Chinese Central Asia, before analyzing the appearance and role of these celestials in medieval Chinese art. Among the foci of analysis are a consideration of the topology of angels and a brief etymological and visual survey, for there are a variety of heavenly creatures.
Buddhist art developed late in India, for reasons that are surmised but not known. For the first three hundred years there appears to be no evidence of “Buddhist art” in permanent materials. Things changed under the leadership of the famous Buddhist king Aśoka (300–232 BCE) of the Mauryan dynasty (321–185 BCE), whose mid-life conversion to Buddhism resulted in a proliferation of activities celebrating his belief, among which the building of stone monuments with decorative programs stands out. Many of the images employed in this earliest stage of art were borrowed from foreign artistic traditions. One obvious source was the neighboring empire of Persia, where in addition to the use of stone, certain decorative motifs such as the lotus, lion, animal capitals, and winged anthropomorphic creatures appear over the centuries. For example, engraved on a tall stele at the Palace built by Ashurnasirpal II in the Assyrian city of Nimrud in the ninth century BCE, and now preserved in the British Museum, are a pair of tall winged figures shown in profile with long beards, dressed hair, tall caps, skirts, a scarf, and large wings; they flank the sacred tree.

Water Management in Jingjue 精絕 Kingdom

SINO-PLATONIC PAPERS 
Number 223 April, 2012 


Water Management in Jingjue 精絕 Kingdom: The Transfer of a Water Tank System from Gandhara to Southern Xinjiang in the Third and Fourth Centuries C.E. 


by Arnaud Bertrand

The present scholarly consensus is that the Chinese Han dynasty military force (second century B.C.E.–second century C.E.), when it reached the city-oases of the southern and northern Taklamakan Desert (in the modern Xinjiang region of Western China), introduced new agricultural and water techniques to the region. If this theory stands confirmed for some oases, such as Miran, Dunhuang and Turfan, via the famous tuntian 屯田 technique, the influence nevertheless is not only from one side. In fact, a great majority of the water systems still existing today among the oases of the region are either a product of local invention or of Western influence. Among these, water tanks excavated on the site of old Niya 尼雅 (Uighur Nïya نىيە; Southern Taklamakan), known since the Han dynasty as Jingjue 精絕, strike one with their distinctive shape. They were discovered in the early twentieth century, but few scholars have taken the time to analyze in depth their historical and technical relationship with the site and with the cultural panorama of Southern Xinjiang. In this article, by examining a combination of archaeological, geological, and textual records, I intend to show that migrants from the Gandhara region (Pakistan) either introduced or developed a tank-based water technique within the agricultural, economic and perhaps religious systems of the Jingjue oasis during the Kroraina kingdom’s rule over the Southern Taklamakan territories (third to late fourth century).

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Valley of the Khans Experts meet in D.C.


Washington, June 4, 2012.
Two of the world’s greatest scholars of Mongol history joined their collaborators NG Emerging Explorer Albert Lin and NG Archaeology Fellow Fred Hiebert in Washington, D.C. last week to discuss their findings on the Valley of the Khans project, to meet with the Mongolian Ambassador to the U.S. Khasbazaryn Bekhbat, and to engage in other conversations around their exciting work.
For the past few years, Albert has been using cutting-edge technology and innovative crowd-sourcing methods to survey the vast openness of Mongolia in search of the area where Genghis Khan was buried. His collaborators have been uncovering the history of the Mongol leader quite a bit longer.
Professors Shagdaryn Bira and Tsogt-Ichiryn Ishdorj are internationally recognized as leaders in Mongol historical research, based on the decades of intense research they have done on the subject, helping to flesh out the story of the famous conqueror, and restoring a knowledge of the rich cultural impacts of his surprisingly modern empire–one that included free trade of goods and ideas, and freedom of religion for all.
Over the years, Bira and Ishdorj’s research has been difficult at times because of the scant clues in the written record and sensitive politics surrounding the legacy of Genghis Khan.
Professor Bira is now Secretary General of the International Association for Mongol Studies, and laureate of the state prize of Mongolia for his scholarly work on the history of the country. In particular, he has won international acclaim for his multifaceted research, including papers comparing modern and Mongol-era versions of globalization and warfare in the Middle East.
Professor Ishdorj is Deputy Director of the International Association for Mongol Studies, as well as Co-Principal Investigator and Mongolian Expedition Leader on the Valley of the Khans project. Together these scholars bring an incredible amount of historic information, cultural perspective, experience, and personal passion to the project.
2012 marks 850 years since the birth of Temujin, the Mongolian man who would unite his neighbors and conquer the known world under the title of Genghis Khan. After decades of research, years of hi-tech data gathering, and months of archaeological analysis, one more chapter in the long history of this man and his legacy is nearing completion. Stay tuned to discover what secret whispers may yet rise from the silent steppes.

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Delhi 360°: Mazhar Ali Khan's View from Lahore Gate



Delhi 360°: Mazhar Ali Khan's View from Lahore Gate [Hardcover] 
By: J.P. Losty

Hardcover: 92 pages
Publisher: Roli Books (October 16, 2012)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 8174368604

About the Book: 
Made in 1846, the painting commonly known as 'The Delhi Panorama' by the famous topographical artist Mazhar Ali Khan is the finest artistic rendering of Shahjahanabad ever made. It also affords a unique glimpse into the heart of the imperial palace in the Red Fort before much of it was destroyed after the 1857 Uprising. The 360 (Degree) view of Delhi along with its extraordinary detailing of the cityscape makes the panorama not just an important historical document but also the masterpiece of its artist. The 5-metre long panorama, which is in the collection of the British Library since 1981, along with all the Persian and Urdu inscriptions has never before been published complete. Its publication here is accompanied by essays that put the panorama in its historical and artistic context with a commentary on the inscriptions that brings it to life. 

About the Author: 
J.P. Losty was formerly curator-in-charge of the extensive Indian visual collections in the British Library in London. He has published many books and papers on many aspects of the painting of India from the twelfth to the nineteenth centuries. His major books include 'The Art of the Book in India' (1982), 'Calcutta City of Palaces' (1990), and 'The Ramayana' (2008). The paintings of late Mughal Delhi are central to his interests, and he has also edited a book titled 'Delhi from Red Fort to Raisina', which is on Delhi's journey from Shahajahanabad to New Delhi, and is contributing to the catalogue of the forthcoming exhibition on Delhi at the Asia Society, New York. His other forthcoming book (2012) is on the collection of Mughal paintings in the British Library.

Buddha attacked by Taliban gets facelift


Updated 02:24 a.m., Monday, June 25, 2012
  • This May 24, 2012 photo, shows the face of a sculpture of the Buddha which was destroyed by Taliban fighters at Jahanabad, Pakistan in the Swat valley. When the militants detonated the face off the towering, 1,500-year-old rock carving in northwest Pakistan in fall 2007, it fell to an intrepid Italian archaeologist to come to the rescue. Photo: B.K. Bangash / AP
    This May 24, 2012 photo, shows the face of a sculpture of the Buddha which was destroyed by Taliban fighters at Jahanabad, Pakistan in the Swat valley. When the militants detonated the face off the towering, 1,500-year-old rock carving in northwest Pakistan in fall 2007, it fell to an intrepid Italian archaeologist to come to the rescue. (B.K. Bangash / AP)









JAHANABAD, Pakistan (AP) — When the Taliban blew the face off a towering, 1,500-year-old rock carving of Buddha in northwest Pakistan almost five years ago, it fell to an intrepid Italian archaeologist to come to the rescue.
Thanks to the efforts of Luca Olivieri and his partners, the 6-meter (nearly 20-foot)-tall image near the town of Jahanabad is getting a facelift, and many other archaeological treasures in the scenic Swat Valley are being excavated and preserved.
Hard-line Muslims have a history of targeting Buddhist, Hindu and other religious sites they consider heretical to Islam. Six months before the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, the Taliban shocked the world by dynamiting a pair of 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues in central Afghanistan.
The Jahanabad Buddha, etched high on a huge rock face in the 6th or 7th century, is one of the largest such carvings in South Asia. It was attacked in the fall of 2007 when the Pakistani Taliban swarmed across the scenic Swat Valley. The army drove most of them out two years later, but foreign tourists who used to visit the region still tend to stay away.
Olivieri himself had to leave in 2008 after more than two decades of tending to the riches dating back to Alexander the Great and the Buddhist, Hindu and Muslim invaders who followed. The 49-year-old head of the Italian Archaeological Mission in Pakistan returned in 2010 and is back at work.
Taliban militants climbed ropes to insert explosives in holes drilled into the face and shoulders of the Jahanabad Buddha, said Olivieri. The explosives in the shoulders failed to detonate, but the others blew off most of the face above the lips and cracked other parts of the carving and surrounding rock.
Olivieri and his team began work this month on fixing the cracks and what's left of the face. A full reconstruction is impossible because detailed documentation and fragments of the face are lacking.
"Whatever you do in the absence of perfect data is a fake," said Olivieri, who says he has wanted to be an archaeologist since age 6 and still brings a youthful exuberance to his work even as his beard grows gray.
Arriving as a university student in 1987, he was fascinated by Swat, once an important center of Buddhist culture and trade. The monk credited with introducing Buddhism to Tibet, Padmasambhava, was born in Swat.
In more recent decades, the area was known as "the Switzerland of Pakistan," popular with religious tourists from China, Japan and South Korea, and the hope is that restoration of the Jahanabad Buddha will spark a revival of tourism here.
Olivieri's mission is funded by the Italian government, which works with local Pakistani antiquities authorities. It has uncovered over 120 Buddhist sites among Swat's soaring hills and rushing rivers. Of roughly 200 Buddhist rock carvings in Swat, the Jahanabad Buddha was among the few to survive with its face intact for so long, said Olivieri. Most were defaced centuries ago by Muslim invaders who, like the Taliban, consider Buddha a false idol.
Maulana Shamsur Rehman, a leading Islamist politician in Swat, says the attack on the Buddha should never have happened. Islam preaches freedom and protection for followers of all religions, he told The Associated Press, and "in line with Islamic rules, nobody should have an objection to the repair work on the Buddha statue."
In 2001, militants damaged the excavated ruins of a 7th century Hindu temple in Swat overlooking a stronghold conquered by Alexander in the 4th century B.C. Unable to protect the temple, the Italian mission had to rebury it.
Ironically, the site that Olivieri was most worried about during the Taliban's violent reign in Swat was an Islamic one — the roughly 1,000-year-old Udegram Ghaznavid mosque, the third oldest in Pakistan. He feared the militants would occupy and damage it, but that never happened.
Pakistani security officials say the Taliban are again trying to infiltrate Swat, but militants are not the only threat to the archaeological sites. Looters are perhaps a bigger problem. Many relics looted from Swat are in private and public collections around the world.
In December police arrested several men in Swat and seized a roughly one-meter-(three-foot) tall, 1,800-year-old Buddhist statue that could have fetched tens of thousands of dollars on the international antiquities market.
The Italian mission has posted guards at the most important sites and is also training them to become guides by teaching them English, first aid and basic conservation techniques, said Olivieri.
The mission opened in 1955 in an office provided by the Wali of Swat, the one-time princely ruler of the territory. To furnish a taste of home, its first draftsman painted a mural of Rome's Spanish Steps in the dining room.
The feeling of glimpsing Italy in the wilds of Pakistan's northwest continues today. There's espresso in the morning and Italian olive oil on the dining room table. A Fiat Campagnola jeep shipped from Italy in 1955 is due to end up in a museum in Swat.
____
Associated Press writer Sherin Zada contributed to this report.


Read more: http://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Pakistan-Buddha-attacked-by-Taliban-gets-facelift-3659644.php#ixzz1ytsX7MXU

The Digital Gazetteer of the Song Dynasty


MAR
22
2010

Overview

In 1958, Sinologist Hope Wright published a work entitled An Alphabetical List of Geographical Names in Sung China. Originally published in Paris by the Centre de Recherches Historiques of the École Pratique des Hautes Études, and reprinted as a second-generation photocopy in 1992 by the Journal of Song-Yuan Studies, the Alphabetical List is now out of print.
Wright’s compilation is the most comprehensive print source for Song geography in any language. TheDigital Gazetteer of Song Dynasty China (DGSD) is a MySQL database derived primarily from theAlphabetical List.
The Alphabetical List is an index to every jurisdiction in the Song (960-1276) spatial administrative hierarchy named in one or more of the following three Song texts: the Song History (宋史Song shi) Geography Monograph, the 980 Records of the Universal Realm in the Taiping Era (太平寰宇紀Taiping huanyu ji), and the 1085 Treatise on the Nine Territories in the Yuanfeng Reign (元豐九域志Yuanfeng jiuyu zhi).
The Alphabetical List consists of 3,828 headwords, including all Rank One circuits (lu), Rank Two prefectures (府 fu州 zhou軍 jun, and 監 jian), Rank Three counties (縣 xian) , and Rank Four towns (鎮 zhen and cheng), markets (chang) and stockades (zhai) that existed at any time during the Song dynasty, along with centers of state industry (mines, foundries, and commodity markets) located in prefectures, and information about the number of cantons (鄉 xiang) in each county, the resident (zhu) and guest (客 ke) population of each prefecture in 980 and 1085, the civil rank of each prefecture and county, the designation of counties that served as prefecture seats, the military-ceremonial designation, if any, of each prefecture, the latitude-longitude coordinate of each prefecture, and the distance of each county from the seat of its parent prefecture.
Dividing the Realm in Order to Govern - Ruth Mostern
Ruth Mostern's "Dividing the Realm in Order to Govern", available from Harvard University Press in 2011
We initially developed the DGSD to support Ruth Mostern’s bookDividing the Realm in Order to Govern: The Spatial Organization of the Song State (Harvard Asia Center, March 2011). The book demonstrates how the Song court repeatedly reorganized the structure of counties and prefectures in order to distribute civil and military officials around the empire in accordance with changing priorities. Therefore, the DGSD is designed to identify the events that transformed the political landscape, and to make the histories of often fluid places as accessible as the names of the jurisdictions.
The development of the DGSD was supported in part by the Society for Song-Yuan Studies, the UC Merced Graduate and Research Council, and the UC Merced Center for Research in the Humanities and Arts.
The DGSD is freely available for personal and educational use according to the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-Non-Commercial-Share Alike License.