Tuesday, 14 May 2019
Who were the Sogdians? While mostly lost to history, these ancient people of the Silk Roads shaped the world around them—not with an empire or an army but through trade.
One of the first references to the Sogdians dates to the fifth century BCE. They were known for their importance on the trade routes that crisscrossed Asia, from the Mediterranean to the Sea of Japan. The Sogdian homeland, in present-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, was famous for its bountiful oases that served as crucial stopovers between expansive deserts and rugged mountains.
The Sogdians traded silk from China, horses from Uzbekistan, gemstones from India, musk from Tibet, and furs from the northern steppes. Skilled artisans, they made and sold luxurious objects, particularly metalwork and textiles, across the Asian steppe and into China. They also exported fashions, dances, and music traditions. In addition to serving as diplomats and translators, the Sogdians were instrumental in spreading Buddhism, Christianity, and Manichaeism, a dualistic Iranian religion founded in the third century CE. The Sogdians largely disappeared by the eighth century, and their language, architecture, and history were lost to time.
Archaeological discoveries—from ancient letters to monumental wall paintings—have allowed scholars to reconstruct some of the extraordinary contributions Sogdians made to Late Antiquity. To learn more about these dynamic people who crossed geographic, political, and cultural boundaries, the Freer|Sackler assembled an international team of scholars, convened workshops across the world, and worked with graduate students for almost a decade.
The Sogdians: Influencers on the Silk Roads is a new digital exhibition that explores Sogdian art through existing material culture. It focuses on the golden age of the Sogdians, from the fourth to the eighth centuries CE, when Sogdiana flourished through trade and agriculture. Sogdian emigrant communities spread across China, South and Southeast Asia, and into the Central Asian steppe and Mongolia. During these centuries, a highly sophisticated and distinct Sogdian urban culture developed, epitomized by richly colored wall paintings and exceptional textiles, metalwork, and sculptures.
Various dimensions of Sogdian culture, from art, music, and feasting to religious and funerary practices, are presented in this digital exhibition. New 3-D models of metalwork objects, photographs of archaeological sites, and international scholarship reveal new details about these forgotten people. Investigate Sogdian objects, travel the Silk Roads on an interactive map, and watch leading scholars discuss their latest research as you discover the most important people you’ve (maybe) never heard of.
Explore the digital exhibit: www.freersackler.si.edu/sogdians
Explore this 3-D interactive model of a winged camel ewer, late 7th or early 8th century, now in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg. Model © The State Hermitage Museum, S-11.
This online exhibition is made possible through the generosity of the Leon Levy Foundation, with additional support from the Thaw Charitable Trust and the Smithsonian Provost Scholarly Studies Award program.
We warmly recognize the collaboration of the State Hermitage Museum, the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World (NYU), XE: Experimental Humanities and Social Engagement (NYU), the Bard Graduate Center, and the Association Sauvegarde Peinture Afrasiab.
This piece is part of a series on The Sogdians: Influencers on the Silk Roads. Check back for additional posts from our collaborators.
Sunday, 12 May 2019
Buried Treasures of the Silk Road from Bruce Museum on Vimeo.
Exhibition "Buried treasures of the Silk Road" in the Bruce Museum, Greenwich
February 9, 2019 - June 2, 2019
Buried Treasures of the Silk Road showcases the extraordinary collection of Chinese tomb sculpture in the Fred and Jane Brooks Collection of the Bruce Museum. Featuring dozens of rare and delicate terra cotta figurines, painted and glazed ceramics, and other antiquities, Buried Treasures of the Silk Road will be on view in the Museum’s Arcade Gallery through June 2, 2019.
During the period of peace and prosperity of the Han Dynasty (206BCE – 220CE), considered the Golden Age of China, emissaries ventured from China into Eurasia. Merchants soon followed, laden with polychrome, patterned silk – a luxury never seen outside of China. In time, these merchants transported other exotic goods, including lapis lazuli and other precious metals, furs, and ivory on the backs of camels, donkeys, and horses to ever more distant markets, extending the range of trading partners along the way.
Evolving into a network of overland and water routes that stretched thousands of miles across China and Central Asia to Eastern Europe, the Silk Road introduced and formalized the practice of international trade.
Han administrators established military garrisons housed in watch towers along the land route, imposed strict travel and trade regulations, and collected taxes. The invention of paper provided portable, reliable maps and indelible ink trade contracts. Trade centers grew to become bustling, cosmopolitan cities where markets supported a multicultural exchange of ideas, inventions, and commodities. The Han Dynasty maintained control of trade over the Silk Road for four hundred years.
Lokapala, Tang Dynasty,618-906.
Sancai glazed pottery, 35 ½ x 15 x 7 in,
Gift of Fred and Jane Brooks,
Bruce Museum Collection, 2013.15.01.
Photo by Paul Mutino
China's second great empire, the Tang Dynasty (618 CE-906 CE) is considered the Golden Age of Chinese Cosmopolitanism, an era when foreign ideas, products, and religions were welcomed. Tang Emperors reestablished the Han model of control over taxes and tolls along the network of Silk Road markets. Prosperity supported the arts, and multicultural influences created interest in new forms of music, dance, fashion, and artistic expression. Traditional Chinese rites and customs evolved.
During both the Han and Tang dynasties, mortuary rites and customs were important elements of Chinese culture. Wealthy citizens expanded on the tradition of furnishing their massive burial chambers with numerous and elaborate art objects. Grave goods, called mingqi or “spirit goods,” indicated the status of the person on earth and were interred for use in the afterlife. The materials and stylistic elements of grave goods reflect the way artists and craftsmen embraced the multicultural influences that entered China via the Silk Road.
Camel, Tang Dynasty, 618-906.
Sancai with blue glaze pottery,
15 x 12 ½ x 6 in.,
Gift of Fred and Jane Brooks,
Bruce Museum Collection, 2013.15.04.
Photo by Paul Mutino.
Buried Treasures celebrates the artistic achievements of anonymous Chinese artists supported by the riches earned on the Silk Road. The exhibition will also feature art objects from the Museum’s permanent collection exchanged on the Silk Road.
“When we in the Western world think of ancient art, we tend to focus on Greek and Roman culture,” says Fred Brooks, a longtime Greenwich resident who, with his wife Jane, has spent decades collecting Chinese ceramics, notably ancient tomb art. “But all through that period of time, the Han Dynasty also had a great empire, and art was central to their lives – and more important to the leaders, their afterlife.”
In light of the current Chinese government’s efforts to restore and revive this ancient trade route, this exhibition has a special topicality, says Kirsten Reinhardt, Museum Registrar and the organizer of Buried Treasures.
“For more than one thousand years, from 206 BCE until 907 CE, Chinese Emperors dealt with the same issues that are in the news today: international trade treaties, tariffs, border walls, nationalism, and immigration,” says Reinhardt. “Through military strength, diplomacy, and technological advancements China developed, controlled, and prospered from commerce on the Silk Road. Everything old is new again.”
To complement this exhibition, the Bruce will present a series of docent tours and related programs. On Wednesday, February 27, 1:00 – 2:00 pm, Kirsten Reinhardt will give a Curator’s Talk on the Fred and Jane Brooks Collection of Chinese tomb art, as well as objects and antiquities from the permanent collection featured in the exhibition. The talk is free to Museum members and visitors with paid admission.
On Monday, March 18, 10:00 – 11:00 am, Virginia Bower, Adjunct Professor at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia, will discuss “Of Camels and Kings: The Silk Road and Tang Dynasty Tomb Sculpture.” This talk is free to Museum members; $10 for non-members.
On Thursday, April 18, 6:00 – 8:00 pm, David Ake Sensabaugh, former Ruth and Bruce Dayton Curator of Asian Art at the Yale University Art Gallery, will present “Providing for the Afterlife in Han Dynasty China,” speaking to the ways in which Han Dynasty tomb furnishings reveal beliefs in the afterlife as well as illuminate aspects of daily life. The evening lecture is free for Museum members and students with ID; $15 for nonmembers. Reservations are required for all programs and may be made online at brucemuseum.org.
Docent-led exhibition tours take place on Tuesdays, 1:30 – 2:30 pm and Fridays, 12:30 – 1:30 pm. Family Gallery Tours, designed for children ages 6-10 and their families, are on Sundays, 11:30 am – 12:15 pm.
The Bruce Museum is grateful for support of this exhibition from The Charles M. and Deborah G. Royce Exhibition Fund and the Connecticut Office of the Arts, as well as for the ongoing generosity of Fred and Jane Brooks in sharing these Buried Treasures with the public.
Saturday, 11 May 2019
Lecture by Rowan Flad, John E. Hudson Professor of Archaeology, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University on October 24, 2018 at the Peabody Museum
Approximately 4,000 years ago, the peoples of China and Eurasia gradually began to develop networks of interaction and exchange that radically transformed the cultures of both regions. These networks eventually gave rise to the Silk Road trade routes connecting the East and West.
Rowan Flad will examine the archaeological evidence—from the Qijia Culture of Northwest China—that documents the agricultural, metallurgical, and technological innovations that resulted from the earliest trans-Eurasian exchanges, and how studies of the Silk Road origins are being reinvigorated by China’s One Belt, One Road initiative.
Friday, 10 May 2019
The fifth grade student discovered the ‘jewellery’ decorated with ancient Turkic runic inscriptions.
The four words are believed to be in the Orkhon-Yenisei type script.
Such writings are normally found in rock art in Yakutia, also known as Sakha Republic, the world’s coldest region and the largest within the Russian Federation.
Academic Ninel Malysheva said: 'Runes rarely occur on such things as talismans and amulets.
‘If it is confirmed that this bone found in Namsky district is genuine, it will be a great scientific discovery for the republic.
‘A comprehensive study is now required involving paleontologists, archaeologists and Turkologists.’
Studies on exact dating and decoding the inscription are underway at the Museum of Writing, part of the North-Eastern Federal University (NEFU).
One theory is that the words express ‘good wishes’, but scientists hope to find the exact meaning.
Pavel’s village is some 100 kilometres north of Yakutsk, the regional capital, and the world’s coldest city.
Another example of Turkic runes in Yaktutia is the so-called Petrov inscription.
It is a writing made using ocher some 200 km from Yakutsk.
It is known as the most northerly rune inscription in the world.
Researchers in the middle of the last century believed that the inscription indicated the location of medieval treasure.
A literal translation is said to read: 'Pearls of the tribe Az.’
Such Turkic scripts date back 1,000 years or more. |
The Old Turkic script - also known as variously Göktürk script, Orkhon script, Orkhon-Yenisei script - is the alphabet used by the Göktürks and other early Turkic khanates during the 8th to 10th centuries.
The script is named after the Orkhon Valley in Mongolia where early 8th century inscriptions were discovered in an 1889 expedition by Nikolai Yadrintsev.
These Orkhon inscriptions were published by Vasily Radlov and deciphered by the Danish philologist Vilhelm Thomsen in 1893.
This writing system was later used within the Uyghur Khaganate.
Additionally, a Siberian variant is known from 9th century Yenisei Kirghiz inscriptions, and it has likely cousins in the Talas Valley of Turkestan and the Old Hungarian alphabet of the 10th century. Words were usually written from right to left.
Yakut runic letters are the least studied in Siberia.
They provoke heated discussions among the linguists and Turkologists.
But most new finds of inscriptions are made in Yakutia.
Now the total number all Yakutian finds is close to 90.
Most runic inscriptions of Yakutia have not yet been deciphered.
An exhibition at the Rubin Museum of Art reveals the inner workings of power, politics, and Tibetan Buddhism in premodern Asia.
From: Tricycle.org by Anne Doran 30 April 2019
From: Tricycle.org by Anne Doran 30 April 2019
In the west, Buddhism isn’t usually associated with politics, warfare, or sorcery. But as seen in this fascinating exhibition, Buddhism—particularly the esoteric form of the religion that developed in Tibet after its introduction there in the 7th century—played a major role in the power dynamics of premodern North Asia. Spanning the 8th to the 19th centuries and comprising approximately 60 exceptional works from the Rubin’s own collection of Himalayan art and from the Asian collections of such institutions as the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Musée Guimet in Paris, the show demonstrates how Tibet’s model of sacral rulership, its unique use of avowed reincarnation as a means to establish succession, and its tantric Buddhist rituals offered successive empires a path to claiming and keeping power.
A vital concept in Indian Buddhist scripture as it related to politics in the Tibetan empire (608–866) was the idea of the cakravartin (a benevolent and universal king), a sacred ruler who gains sanction to expand his empire by governing in accordance with Buddhist principles. When Tibet adopted Buddhism as its official religion in 779, it embraced this model of kingship.
Artworks served both as ritual objects and propaganda tools. The tantric Buddhism imported into Tibet from India brought with it the image of the sacral empire as a mandala with a buddha at its center. It also supplied the Tibetans with a cosmology in which protector deities such as Vajrapani, seen in the exhibition in a beautiful 8th-century bronze from Kashmir, helped the practitioner overcome not only spiritual obstacles but also real-life foes.
Related: Himalayan Buddhist Art 101
By the late 8th century, the Tibetan emperor was being equated with the celestial buddha Vairocana—an 11th-century Tibetan bronze statue on view shows the deity in Tibetan royal robes—further eliding the distinction between worldly and otherworldly might. In subsequent centuries, King Songtsen Gampo (ca. 605–650) who founded the Tibetan empire and is traditionally credited with bringing Buddhism to Tibet, later came to be regarded as an incarnation of Avalokiteshvara, the bodhisattva of com-passion. He appears as that deity in a 13th-century painting seen at the gallery.
Following the collapse of the Tibetan empire, local tantric masters assumed their own authority; one such pretender was Lama Zhang Tsondru Drakpa, who in the 12th century established his own territory, sent his students into battle, and famously employed the aid of protector deities such as Mahakala to destroy his enemies. In a wonderful 14th-century bronze statuette, the lama is depicted as a jolly-looking but nevertheless implacable figure.
Tibetan tantric masters’ reputed power to ensure military success through magical warfare did not escape the notice of would-be rulers across Asia. Beginning around the turn of the first millennium, not coincidentally, it became a tradition for Chinese imperial courts to employ a Tibetan Buddhist monk as imperial preceptor.
The first to do so was the Tangut court of Xixia, a small kingdom (1038–1227) on the Silk Road, whose imperial preceptor was one of Lama Shang’s Tangut students. Like the Tibetan emperors before them, the Tangut emperors styled themselves as cakravartin rulers, and as their route to legitimization, Buddhism came in for lavish royal patronage. Two of the most beautiful works in the show are images of a lovely, citrine-hued Green Tara and a wrathful Achala, both rendered in the luxurious Central Asian technique of cut-silk tapestry.
Worship of the protector deity Mahakala was an important aspect of Tangut imperial Buddhism. And when in 1209 the Mongols, led by Chinggis (Genghis) Khan, laid siege to the Tangut capital, Yinchuan, it was said to have been Mahakala—summoned by the imperial preceptor—who flooded the Mongol camp, forcing Genghis to withdraw. (In spite of this, the Tangut emperor surrendered in 1210.)
For the non-Chinese Mongols, the Tibetan system of succession through reincarnation rather than blood relationship had undeniable appeal. In pursuit of legitimacy, the rulers of the Mongol empire (1206–1368), the largest contiguous empire in history, continued the tradition of having a Tibetan Buddhist as imperial preceptor.
When founding the Yuan dynasty (1271–1368), Chinggis’s grandson Qubilai Khan, a devout Buddhist, installed his own imperial preceptor, Phagpa, as its highest religious authority. A painting on view attributed to the 15th-century Tibetan artist Khyentse Chenmo depicts that ceremony. Tellingly, below Phagpa is his disciple Dampa, a Mahakala ritual specialist. Credited with helping the Mongols subdue the Song kingdom to the south, the fanged, potbellied deity is represented in this part of the exhibition by a charming 14th-century Tibetan sculpture in painted stone.
The Ming dynasty rulers who came to power in China following the collapse of the Mongol empire, though ethnically Chinese, continued to use Buddhism to solidify their rule. Having a tenuous claim to power, the third (so-called Yongle) emperor (r. 1403–1424) took particular pains to establish relations with Tibetan Karmapas, heads of the Tibetan Buddhist Kagyu lineage. An embroidered Hevajra scroll painting, or thangka, given by the emperor to the Tibetan lama Shakya Yeshe is far more than a breathtakingly beautiful object; it is a testament, as its inscription shows, that the emperor has received multiple Hevajra initiations—a rite of investiture for Mongol emperors—and is thereby proof of his entitlement to sacral rule.
In 1642, through Mongol military force, the Fifth Dalai Lama, Ngawang Lobsang Gyatso, became the first theocratic ruler of Tibet. As part of his claim to power, he declared himself to be, like Songtsen Gampo, a reincarnation of the bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara. A painted woodblock print, one of a set depicting previous lives of the “Great Fifth,” shows him as the Tibetan empire’s founder; woodblock prints such as these were easily and widely disseminated, and with them the idea of the Fifth’s divine authority.
The show ends with a section devoted to the Manchu Qing dynasty (1644–1911). Like the Mongols, the Manchus were non-Chinese invaders from the north. Reinstating Tibetan Buddhism as China’s official religion, they declared themselves reincarnations of the Mongol ruler Qubilai Khan
A spectacular 19th-century Qing woodblock print, hand-colored and of extraordinary size and detail, depicts Mount Wutai in Shanxi Province, China. Believed to be the earthly abode of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of wisdom and a deity closely associated with Qubilai, Mount Wutai was extensively promoted by the Manchus as a pilgrimage site. The print depicts travelers arriving on camels as a farmer tends his cow, hunters kill a tiger, and what looks like a yeti gestures from a hillside.
As curator Karl Debreczeny writes in his introduction to the exhibition’s catalog, Central Asian empires’ use of Buddhist ideas and imagery to establish political legitimacy was not always at odds with genuine faith. Nor were they the only means by which conquering dynasties established power. But by placing Tibetan Buddhism and Tibetan Buddhist art in a larger global context, this excellent show argues for an expanded view of their role in the region’s history.
Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism is on display at the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City until July 15, 2019.
Sunday, 5 May 2019
6th of May1869- 2nd of May 1910
Charles Nouette was originally a self-taught photographer who only later became familiar with archaeological methods. Biographical information regarding Nouette is rather scarce, except from the obituary Pelliot wrote on his memory in 1910. Thanks to this we know that Nouette was originally an electrician and that an illness had prevented him from continuing in this profession. He then dedicated his life to photography and this combined with his scientific knowledge and natural ingenuity attracted the attention of various contemporaries, notably Pelliot. He contracted tuberculosis during his trip in China, and died six months after he returned to Paris, while he was still developing Pelliot’s expedition photographs. Nouette was forty-one. He is buried at the Monthléry cemetery.
Information concerning the initial encounter between Pelliot and Nouette remains unknown. Primary sources only mention that Pelliot contacted Nouette during an early stage of his preparations for the expedition and asked him to serve as its main operator. Letters exchanged between 1905 and 1906 also revealed that the two men discussed in detail the photographic equipment that would be suitable for the expedition. The particular attention paid to photography from the preparation phase was related to the new methodological emphasis and value ascribed to photography in the archaeological field, which I will discuss later. In the same way that these kinds of expeditions were multidisciplinary, Nouette had multiple duties. Pelliot’s notebooks describe that amongst other duties he also checked on the workers that excavated the sites, drew schematic plans of grottoes, took some rubbings and managed the bulk of mails to be delivered. Yet his role as the operator of the mission appeared to be his most prominent position.
For more information about Charles Nouette go to http://fca.huma-num.fr/s/fca/item/125
The ceremony will take place in Montlhéry Cemetery (France), on Monday 6th of May 2019 at 16 hrs.
Saturday, 4 May 2019
China stages exhibition to show cultural exchanges along Silk Road
By Qu Song (People's Daily) 16:47, April 16, 2019
An exhibition of treasures from national museums of 12 countries along the Silk Road was staged at the National Museum of China in Beijing on April 11.
Featuring 234 items of relics, the exhibition displays the stories of cultural exchanges along the land and maritime Silk Roads.
The exhibition aims to provide an opportunity for people across the world to share the diversity of human civilization, said Wang Chunfa, curator of the National Museum of China.
By displaying the fusion of arts and skills of the countries along the Belt and Road, the exhibition promotes Silk Road spirit and reveals the future trend of the world – the building of a community of shared future for mankind, Wang remarked.
Visitors watch cultural relics from Russia at the exhibition. (Photo/People’s Daily Online)
The exhibition is divided into two sections: the land Silk Road and maritime Silk Road, introducing cultural relics from 13 countries including China, Cambodia, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Mongolia, Oman, Poland, Republic of Korea, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, and Tajikistan.
The relics include both national historic treasures and exotic items that carry the history of trade and cultural exchanges along the ancient Silk Road.
According to the exhibition, China started exchanges with the western Eurasia as early as in the prehistoric age. The artifacts of Turbino culture that originated from Russia are reliable evidences. They have been found multiple times in northwest China’s Gansu and Qianghai provinces as well as central China’s Henan province. The barbed spear of Turbino culture collected by the National Museum of China and the leaf-like spear sent from Russia resembled with each other.
Photo shows a barbed spear, artifact of Turbino culture, collected by the National Museum of China. (Photo from the official website of the National Museum of China)
Photo shows a leaf-like spear sent from Russia at the exhibition. (Photo from the official website of the National Museum of China)
The eastern section of the Silk Road was unclogged by Emperor Wu of Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-9 AD) in the late 2nd century BC, and the channel was later joined by the Roman Empire from the western end.
During a long period of history, the Silk Road served as a relatively safe and effective channel for trade and cultural exchanges between the east and the west. Ever since, the communication and exchanges between the two parts of the world kept on.
A Chinese-style porcelain plate made by Iran now collected by the National Museum of Poland is a record of the trade and cultural exchanges along the Silk Road.
Such record can also be reflected by a Chinese cup manufactured in the Tang Dynasty (618-907) unearthed in Latvia which, according to experts, may have traveled all the way through Central Asia，Bulgaria, and Scandinavia through trade, and ended up onto the shore of the Baltic Sea.
Photo shows an Iran-made Chinese-style porcelain plate collected by the National Museum of Poland. It is a record of the trade and cultural exchanges along the Silk Road. (Photo from the official website of the National Museum of China)
Photo shows the only Chinese cultural relic unearthed in Latvia – a single-handle cup made in Tang Dynasty (681-907) (Photo from the official website of the National Museum of China)
In 1913, Edouard Chavannes, a renowned French sinology, proposed the concept of maritime Silk Road for the first time. The maritime trade channel is also called maritime porcelain road and maritime spice road as porcelain and spice were the major goods traded along the route.
A plaque carved with the language of Hadhramaut collected by the National Museum of Oman recorded the booming frankincense trade of the kingdom of Ḥaḍramawt at that time.
Photo shows a plaque carved with the language of Hadhramaut collected by the National Museum of Oman. (Photo from the official website of the National Museum of China)
The history of the Silk Road still has a profound influence even today, said the National Museum of Korea in the foreword of the exhibition.
All regions covered by the network could eliminate misunderstanding, live in harmony and achieve common prosperity through communication and cooperation, and the Silk Road is a core concept that helps the Republic of Korea, China and Japan, all situating at the eastern end of the Silk Road, understand the cultural traditions of each other, foreword of the exhibition.
Photo shows a Tang tri-color glazed pottery collected by the National Museum of Korea. (Photo/chnmuseum.cn)
In Nov. 2018, the National Museum of China hosted the First Conference of the International Alliance of Museums of the Silk Road, and signed a cooperation agreement under the proposal of Chinese President Xi Jinping, said Wang.
The exhibition, as a concrete step to implement the agreement, will last until July 14, 2019, Wang added.