Friday, 25 April 2008

Zhouzhuang, Venice of the East

Why travel half the world when the world is on your doorstep.
In his blog "Excerpts from the highly accessorized world of designer Rafe Totengco" this well known American designer of bags, shoes and accessories, Rafe Totengco visits Zhouzhuang, one of the most beautiful places of China which gives a glimps of how China might have looked like 500 years ago.

"Can I tell you...about the water village of Zhouzhuang. Dating back 900 years old, this Venice of the East is surprisingly still in tact, albeit a tourist trap nowadays. It's about an hour away or 25 miles outside central Shanghai. People still live in the village and make their living either as gondoliers or shop keepers selling typical tourist paraphernalia. This is China's first water town and some of the homes date back to Ming and Qing dynasties......."

Monday, 14 April 2008

Complete Map of Peking, Qianlong Period

The Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books regularly publishes digital copies of rare old books about Asia.
In March 2008 a Complete Map of Peking from the Qianlong Period was newly published:

"Map of Peking drawn around the fifteenth year of Emperor Qianlong's reign (1750) in Qing Dynasty. Found in 1935, in Forbidden Palace. Made by Haiwang, Shenyuan and an Italian Jesuit missionary Giuseppe Castiglione. The oldest and detailed extant map of Peking. The original map (14 meter long and 13 meter wide) was drawn in the scale of 650 : 1, consisting of 51 volumes of folded-books; each volume was devided into 17 lines from north to south and 3 parts from west to east. The present maps are the reprinted version of the original one, scale down to 2600 : 1; compiling 3 parts from west to east into one book, i.e. one book to each line from north to south, consisting of 17 books in all. Each book shows the names of main spots contained in it on its cover. This map depicts ordinary dwellings besides monumental architectures like palaces, government offices, gate towers, temples, that are well coincident with old architectures preserved in Peking."

For the complete collection, go to Digital Archive of Tokyo Bunko Rare Books.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Mummies of the Taklamakan

© ARTE F / © C.Debaines-Franckfort
Mission archéologique franco-chinoise du Xinjiang/Gédéon

The Exhibition " Origins of the Silk Road" is at the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim/Germany till the first of June 2008.
At the entrance of the exhibition a very impressive DVD is shown
" Mummies of the Taklamakan".
This DVD was made in 2003 and was on television in Europe through ARTE.
On the website of ARTE more information of this DVD is available and this DVD is also for sale.

"Octobre 2001, dans le Taklamakan, un désert entouré de montagnes et bordé d’oasis sur la route de la soie. Les vents ont balayé les dunes qui recouvraient la nécropole de Djoumboulak Koum, cité du milieu du premier millénaire avant J.-C. découverte cinq ans plus tôt par une mission archéologique franco-chinoise. Et les tombes mises au jour livrent un incroyable trésor : cinq momies âgées de plus de deux mille ans, parfaitement conservées.

Cette trouvaille récompense dix ans de travail et de fouilles menées par Corinne Debaine-Francfort et Idriss Abdouressoul, les archéologues à la tête de la mission, dans la vallée de la Keriya. Les momies sont transportées avec mille précautions à Urunqi, à l’Institut d’archéologie de la région du Xinjiang. Le travail de fourmi d’une dizaine de spécialistes permet de dresser un portrait des habitants de la cité : agriculteurs, éleveurs, tanneurs et tisserands, mais aussi cavaliers et chasseurs, ils vivaient dans une cité prospère et cohabitaient, peutêtre pas toujours pacifiquement, avec des tribus nomades et d’autres ethnies.
Dans cette région de brassage, au carrefour des empires perse et chinois, la question des origines est un sujet sensible. Pour en savoir plus, les archéologues devront résoudre d’autres énigmes et repartir dans le désert… Un documentaire foisonnant, à la fois instructif et dépaysant : voyage à dos de chameau, flânerie au marché de Khotan, inspection de l’intérieur d’une momie… En dehors de ce que l’on apprend sur les peuples du Taklamakan à l’âge du fer et de leur civilisation très développée, on suit pas à pas le travail de longue haleine des archéologues, de 1991 à 2001".

A teaser can be found at:
This DVD can be ordered at the following

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Mongol The Movie out June 6, 2008

Award-winning Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov (PRISONER OF THE MOUNTAINS) illuminates the life and legend of Genghis Khan in his stunning historical epic, MONGOL. Based on leading scholarly accounts and written by Bodrov and Arif Aliyev, MONGOL delves into the dramatic and harrowing early years of the ruler who was born as Temudgin in 1162. As it follows Temudgin from his perilous childhood to the battle that sealed his destiny, the film paints a multidimensional portrait of the future conqueror, revealing him not as the evil brute of hoary stereotype, but as an inspiring, fearless and visionary leader. MONGOL shows us the making of an extraordinary man, and the foundation on which so much of his greatness rested: his relationship with his wife, Borte, his lifelong love and most trusted advisor. Nominated in 2008 for the yearly Oscars in the category "Best foreign language movies. This is the first Academy Award nomination for Kazakhstan. FILM SYNOPSIS In twelfth-century Mongolia, nine-year-old Temudgin, who will grow up to become the warrior known as Genghis Khan, must flee his home shortly after choosing the spirited Borte as his bride when his father is murdered and a rival seizes power. With the help of his blood brother, tribal prince Jamukha, the adult Temudgin battles his rivals and works to unite the region's warring clans under his authority.
Official Site

Monday, 7 April 2008

Genghis Khan and Mongols' Treasure

Via Palestro, 33 - Treviso - Italy
20-10-2007 / 11-5-2008

Genghis Khan and Mongols' Treasure is the title of the new art exhibition which will take place on October 2007; this show belongs to a cycle of four two-year art exhibitions in Treviso which are entitled: The Route Silk and Chinese Civilization. The seat will be Ca dei Carraresi in Treviso, Veneto – Italy.

The show at Ca dei Carraresi in Treviso is divided into five sections:
-Gold of steppes
-Genghis Khan and Mongolian Empire's conquests
-Marco Polo's journey and triumph of Silk Route
-Mysteries of dynasties beyond Great Wall of China
-The most beautiful Chinese porcelain as ever

Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taiwan

February 26 till May 13, 2008
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

The collections of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, renowned as the world’s largest and most exquisite collection of Chinese art, derive from a tradition of imperial collecting that spanned a millennium. Begun and first catalogued during the Song dynasty (960-1279), the collection survived numerous changes of dynasties, foreign rulers and wars as the preservation of the country’s cultural heritage was regarded as one of the foremost duties of a Chinese emperor in order to fulfill his “heavenly mandate”.

The Qing dynasty (1644-1911) marked the high-point of this thousand-year-old history of collecting; its most dedicated collector was the Emperor Qianlong (reigned 1736-1795), celebrated by some as the greatest collector of all time. This sumptuous treasury eventually became part of the National Palace Museum Taipei which was founded in 1925 and now houses over 650.000 objects, making it one of the largest museums in the world.

Around 120 of these spectacular artworks – about a third of which have never before been exhibited abroad – will be on show at the KHM in Vienna from February 2008. Archaic ritual jades and bronze vessels, highlights from the museum’s world-famous collection of ceramics and porcelain, precious lacquer- and enamelwork, gold objects, ivory- and bamboo carvings as well artworks by some of the most famous Chinese masters of calligraphy and painting will be on show together with selected objects from the museum’s collection of precious books and documents. Together they will offer a fascinating introduction into the art of one of the world’s oldest civilisations.

Hidden Afghanistan

Cup with patterned with geometric motifs
Afghanistan, Tepe Fullol
Bronze age, end of the 3rd millennium, c. 2100 - 2000 BC
Ø 9, 9 cm
Afghan National Museum– MK 04.29.1
© Thierry Ollivier / musée Guimet

De Nieuwe Kerk. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
22-12-2007 / 20-4-2008

Following Afghanistan, the story of a thousand years, which went on show at the Guimet Museum in March 2002, the exhibition Hidden Afghanistan( rediscovered treasures, Collections from the national museum of Kabul) will put on public display findings from four major archaeological sites: Fulol, Aï-Khanoum, Tillia-Tepe and Begram. Behind the unique and exciting story of these rediscovered treasures, the exhibition pays tribute to the history of Afghanistan, which lay at the centre of kingdoms and empires extending all the way from Central Asia to northern India.

Welcome to the Silk Road Journal

Volume 5 Number 1 Summer 2007
This issue of The Silk Road features several articles on food, whose history offers interesting insights into cultural exchange across Eurasia through the centuries. The article on Georgian cuisine is a good reminder of the importance of the Caucasus in Silk Road exchange; that on Yuan-era recipes and medical knowledge emphasizes the significant transmission of Arabic and Persian knowledge to China under the Mongols. Other articles include a re-examination of Baron von Richthofen's formulation of the "Silk Road" concept, a lavishly illustrated report on the striking archaeological finds at the Xiongnu site in the Tsaraam Valley, and an overview of the historic trade routes in Eastern Anatolia.

Silk Road to Clipper Ship: Trade, Changing Markets, and East Asian Ceramics

Kresge Art Museum at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
May 3 – August 1, 2008

This exhibition, organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Art and drawn from their renowned collection, covers over 1000 years of Chinese porcelains to illustrate the important role of foreign trade and changing domestic markets in stimulating Chinese potters- and their counterparts in Japan and Korea- to continually reinvent their repertoire of shapes and decorative techniques. The first part traces the exchange along the Silk Road between the Chinese Han (206 BCE–220 CE) dynasty and ancient Persia and the Mediterranean world between the second and tenth centuries. The second part features colored porcelains made for domestic use and foreign exchange during the Qing dynasty (1644–1911); and the final section focuses on the competition between kilns for imperial patronage and the Chinese influence on later Japanese and Korean ceramic traditions.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The Terracotta Army from Xi'an

Treasures of the first Emperors of China
2 February to 31 August 2008

From 2 February to 31 August 2008, the Drents Museum in Assen will present the spectacular exhibition entitled ‘The Terracotta Army from Xi’an’. The renowned soldiers from the tomb of the first Emperor of China will be on show for the very first time in the Netherlands, and exclusive to the Drents Museum, supplemented by more than 200 splendid objects from the Qin and West-Han dynasties. ‘The Terracotta Army from Xi’an’ is the most complex and expensive project in the history of the Drents Museum.

In the third century BC, the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di, ordered a mausoleum to be built in the vicinity of the present-day city of Xi’an. He had his future tomb guarded by life-size infantry, horsemen and their horses, archers and charioteers: the so-called ‘Terracotta Army’. In his underground palace, the Emperor could live on in the afterlife, protected by his army and surrounded by marvellous user objects.
In 1974, this army was found by chance by farmers drilling a water well. It soon turned out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, and it evolved to become a world-renowned attraction. In the meantime, the archaeological site has been assigned UNESCO-heritage status, and it attracts many millions of visitors from all over the world annually. Most of the figures have not yet even been excavated. At present (2007), around 1000 figures have been dug up and restored, but there are certainly 6000 still buried under a thick layer of earth. The imperial grave itself has not yet been excavated.
The tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di (Qin dynasty) formed the inspiration for the construction of the mausoleums of the later Chinese emperors of the West Han dynasty. In addition to many beautiful terracotta figures, which are more refined and smaller than those from the Qin dynasty, marvellous burial gifts made of gold, jade, bronze and pottery have been found at these sites.
In 2008, it will be possible to view these exceptional burial findings from close-by in the Drents Museum. Certainly 14 original, life-size warriors and more than 200 other extraordinary and precious burial finds from the Qin and West Han dynasties will be on show in Assen for a period of seven months.

New IDP News Issue No. 30

Last January the latest issue (No. 30)from the International Dun Huang Project (IDP) was issued featuring:
  • An amazing example of the importance, power and potential inherent in digital collaboration
  • Stein and Chinese Officials at Dun Huang
  • A study in the Manufacture of Old Asian Inks
  • IDP Conservation News
  • Publications
  • Journals
  • Monographs
  • Exhibitions
  • UDP Worldwide News
  • IDP UK

IDP is a ground-breaking international collaboration to make information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road freely available on the Internet and to encourage their use through educational and research programmes.

The following institutions are involved in IDP's work, as founder members or collaborating institutions.
The British Library, London
The British Museum, London
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
The National Library of China, Beijing
The Dunhuang Academy, Dunhuang
Academia Sinica, Taipei
The Institute of Oriental Studies, St. Petersburg
The National Museum of India, New Delhi
Ryukoku University, Kyoto
State Library, Berlin
Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Berlin
Musée Guimet, Paris
The National Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm
The Sven Hedin Foundation, Stockholm
The Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC
University of California at Los Angeles
Princeton University, (Gest Library and Art Museum), Princeton
The Morgan Library, New York

Just read

A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People
By Zhou Daguan, New translation with an introduction and notes, by Peter Harris

Only one person has given us a first-hand account of the civilization of Angkor. This is the Chinese envoy, Zhou Daguan, who visited Angkor in 1296–97 and wrote A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People after his return to China. To this day Zhou’s description of the royal palace, sacred buildings, women, traders, slaves, hill people, animals, landscapes, and everyday life remains a unique portrait of thirteenth-century Angkor at a time when its splendors were still intact.
Very little is known about Zhou Daguan. He was born on or near the southeastern coast of China, and was probably a young man when he traveled to Cambodia by boat. After returning home he faded into obscurity, though he seems to have lived on for several decades. Much of the text of Zhou’s book seems to have been lost over the centuries, but what remains still gives us a lively sense of Zhou the man as well as of Angkor.
In this edition, Peter Harris translates Zhou Daguan’s work directly from Chinese to English to be published for the first time. Earlier English versions depended on a French translation done over a century ago, and lost much of the feeling of the original as a result. This entirely new rendering, which draws on a range of available versions of the Zhou text, brings Zhou’s many observations vividly and accurately back to life. An introduction and extensive notes help explain the text and put it in the context of the times.
Paperback Silkworm Books Chiang Mai
2007 184 pages ISBN 978-974-9511-24-4

Origins of the Silk Road . Sensational new finds from Xinjiang, China

Sensational archaeological finds which were recently discovered around the Taklamakan desert, the world's second largest sandy desert, reveal to us an impressive testimony of the life before the Silk Road - the oldest trade route in the history of mankind.

Deep under the hot desert's sand the burial objects made of metal, wood and textiles that have been rested for nearly 4000 years and arouse enthusiasm by their outstandingly good state of preservation.

In cooperation with Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin and the Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Instiute, the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums (rem) are proud to present more than 190 archaeological finds from this area, which have not been seen outside Asia befor. The exhibition "Origins of the Silk Road" allows the visitors to dive into the fascinating cultural variety of the early Silk Road and to follow the traces of the deceased, whose origin is still a mystery.

Reiss-Engelhorn Museen / Mannheim / Germany
9 February - 1 June 2008