Thursday, 13 August 2009

Terracotta Warriors not Emperor Qin's ?

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


Thursday, 6 August 2009

Dance inspired by fresco on show

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

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

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

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

See video

Sunday, 2 August 2009

Gobi Treasure Hunt

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

For a recording of this live stream, go to

Hidden Gobi Desert relics found

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

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

Saturday, 1 August 2009

China building new conservation center to safeguard ancient frescos

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

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

Thursday, 30 July 2009

Kublai Khan Hunting

There is no real news these last days ( holiday time) so therefor we go the the National Palace Museum In Taiwan to the beautiful painting of a hunting Kubilai Khan.

"Kublai Khan Hunting
Liu Kuan-tao (fl. ca. latter half of 13th c.), Yüan Dynasty (1279-1368)
Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 182.9 x 104.1 cm

Liu Kuan-tao (style name Chung-hsien), a native of Hopeh province, was a celebrated court painter of the early Yüan, probably sometime in the reign of Kublai Khan (r. 1264-1294). In 1279, he was appointed by the emperor to the Imperial Wardrobe Service. His religious and figure paintings were all in the style of the early Chin and T’ang masters, while his landscapes followed the styles of Li Ch’eng and Kuo Hsi. His animal and bird-and-flower paintings combined the virtues of the old masters, becoming famous at the time.

Appearing against a backdrop of northern steppes and desert is a scene of figures on horseback. The one sitting on a dark horse and wearing a white coat is most likely the famous Mongol emperor Kublai Khan with his empress next to him. They are accompanied by a host of servants and officials; the one to the left is about to shoot an arrow at one of the geese in the sky above. The figure in blue has a hawk famous for its hunting skills, and a trained wildcat sits on the back of the horse in front. The dark-skinned figure is perhaps from somewhere in Central Asia. In the background, a camel train proceeds slowly behind a sandy slope, adding a touch of life to the barren scenery.

Every aspect of this work has been rendered with exceptional detail. Appearing quite realistic, even the representation of Kublai Khan in this painting corresponds quite closely to his imperial portrait in the Museum collection. Though few of Liu Kuan-tao’s paintings have survived, this work serves as testimony to his fame in Yüan court art. The artist’s signature and the date (1280) appear in the lower left."
Source: NPM

Monday, 27 July 2009

Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan

Paul Kekai Manansala writes regularly on his blog "Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan" (How the Nusantao maritime trading network influenced the world)

Based on his blog he has published this blog also in the format of a book:

"Quests of the Dragon and Bird Clan" examines how the seafaring trading people known as the "Nusantao" from Insular Southeast Asia influenced world history. This is a "blook," a book based on a weblog (blog). The decision to publish the book came after requests to make the information in the blog available in an easier-to-read and more portable format. The advantage of the printed work is that the blog entries are arranged in easy-to-manage chronological order with out the need for the clicking through the blog archives. The glossary entries are also in alphabetical order for easy look-up, and a word index and table of contents further increase the readiblity of the blog/book. Important supplementary articles have also been included in the appendices. A must-read for those who think there is more to history than what we find in "mainstream" publications."

Most recently he has written an article about the "Clove"Trade and the Clove Trade during the Sung Dynasty
Have a look at his site.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Rare Books Exhibition at the National Library of China

The National Library of China, Beijing
June 14 to July 3, 2009

The ‘Special Exhibition of National Rare Books in China’ has been organised by the Chinese Ministry of Culture at the National Library of China, Beijing. There are over 300 items selected from the ‘Catalogue of National Rare Books in China’, including Dunhuang and Turfan materials, rare books of the Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing dynasties (from 11th to 19th century), Buddhist documents, Ming and Qing dynasties manuscripts (from 14th to 19th century), rubbings, maps and atlases, as well as old books of ethnic minorities in China. Many of them have been identified recently and are on show for the first time. After the first ‘Special Exhibition of National Rare Books in China’ held in 2008, this exhibition is the largest scale exhibition to showcase rare books from pre-modern China.

Venue: Jigu Gallery and Youwen Gallery, North Area of the National Library of China, No. 33 Zhongguancun South Street, Haidian District, Beijing

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Treasure Fleet: The Adventures of Zheng He

Between 1405 and 1433, Mongolian & Muslim Admiral Zheng He of China led seven epic voyages to more than 30 countries, including Sri Lanka, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, Kenya and Tanzania. The admiral and his crew gathered knowledge and wealth from Indochina to Africa for China's Ming empire. These voyages were the biggest naval expeditions mounted at the time. Zheng He was bigger than life and could have changed the course of history. But after the seven voyages, he and his Treasure Fleet were forgotten by China, and the world, for six hundred years. National Geographic photographer Michael Yamashita sets sail to discover why.

To celebrate the 600th anniversary of Zheng He's maiden exploration voyage, Michael Yamashita traveled over 10,000 miles from Yunnan in China to Africa's Swahili coast taking over 40,000 pictures for the feature story on this great explorer, published in the July 2005 edition of National Geographic.

On DVD a documentary was published by National Geographic which can be viewed on as well:
Deel 1
Deel 2
Deel 3
Deel 4
Deel 5
Deel 6
Deel 7
Deel 8
Deel 9
Deel 10
Deel 11

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Hebei China frescoes (2)

I earlier published about the frescoes found in Hebei.
Now I also found two video's about this subject:

" Fresh China frescoes" from and
"Intact frescoe found in Hebei" from

"Construction workers digging a national water transport system to distribute water around China have stumbled upon an ancient royal tomb.
The tomb, in Hebei province which borders Beijing, is thought to date from China’s Northern Qi dynasty which ruled from 550 to 577. It is the tomb of Gao Xiao Xu a male heir to the Qi dynasty.
Chinese archaeologists are especially interested in the intricate frescoes – depicting honour guard officials – painted on the walls of a 15 metre long passage because the images will help them piece together the customs and dress of the period.
But the excavation of the tomb has of course exposed the frescoes to the fresh air – which could damage the crumbling images even further.
So experts are working to stabilise the images and after they have been examined in situ, they will be removed for further study.
Together with the frescoes, archaeologists also discovered pottery figurines, bluestone tomb doors and epitaphs. These are not by any means the only frescos discovered in China, or even the most spectacular but the discovery is important because the details of the clothing depicted provide another piece in the puzzle of historians’ understanding of people’s lives 1500 years ago."

Monday, 20 July 2009

Archeologists report new findings at terracotta army site

Archeologists have found up to 100 terracotta warriors and an army officer at the world heritage site in Xi'an, northwest China's Shaanxi Province, a month after they began a third excavation of the site.

"Our most exciting discovery so far is the army officer," said chief archeologist Xu Weihong.

"He said the life-sized figure was found lying on its stomach behind four chariots. "We can't see its face yet, but the leather gallus on its back is distinct."
Xu said the gallus was typical of army officers in the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.- 207 B.C.). "We need extra care to bring it out of the pit and restore its original color, which may take a few months."
He said the figure was originally painted in different colors. "The original colors have faded after more than 2,000 years of decay, but a corner of the officer's robe suggested it was in colors other than the grayish clay."
Except for its broken head, the army officer was largely intact compared with other newly-discovered clay figures, most of which were found seriously damaged, some even fragmentary, Xu said.
Liu Zhancheng, head of the archeology arm of the Xi'an-based terracotta museum, estimated the year-long excavation would hopefully unearth about 150 terracotta warriors.

Richly colored clay figures were unearthed from the mausoleum of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of a united China, in the previous two excavations, but once they were exposed to the air they began to lose their luster and turn an oxidized grey.
The 230 by 62-meter No. 1 pit, which is currently under excavation, was believed to contain about 6,000 life-sized terracotta figures, more than 1,000 of which were found in previous excavations, said the museum's curator Wu Yongqi.
The State Administration of Cultural Heritage approved the museum's dig of 200 square meters of the site, and the excavation is likely to continue if it proves fruitful.
Most experts believe No. 1 pit, the largest of all three pits, houses a rectangular army of archers, infantrymen and charioteers that the emperor hoped would help him rule in the afterlife.
The army was one of the greatest archeological finds of modern times. It was discovered in Lintong county, 35 km east of Xi'an, in 1974 by peasants who were digging a well.
The first formal excavation of the site lasted for six years from 1978 to 1984 and produced 1,087 clay figures. A second excavation, in 1985, lasted a year and was cut short for technical reasons.
The discovery, listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in December 1987, has turned Xi'an into one of China's major tourist attractions.

(Xinhua News Agency July 17, 2009)

Friday, 17 July 2009

Imperial palace ruins found

On there was a news item about the archeological dig at the Nanyue Kingdom Relics Site in Guangzhou.

Nanyue was an ancient kingdom that consisted of parts of the modern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Yunnan and much of modern northern Vietnam. It was established by the Chinese general Zhào Tuō of the Qin dynasty who assimilated the customs of the Yuè peoples and central China in his territory. Its capital was near Pānyú in modern-day Guangzhou.

For more information, go to Life of

Archeologists report new findings at terracotta army site

XI'AN, July 17 (Xinhua) -- Archeologists have found up to 100 terracotta warriors and an army officer at the world heritage site in Xi'an, northwest China's Shanxi Province, a month after they began a third excavation of the site.
"Our most exciting discovery so far is the army officer," said chief archeologist Xu Weihong.
He said the life-sized figure was found lying on its stomach behind four chariots. "We can't see its face yet, but the leather gallus on its back is distinct."
Xu said the gallus was typical of army officers in the Qin Dynasty (221 B.C.- 207 B.C.). "We need extra care to bring it out of the pit and restore its original color, which may take a few months."
He said the figure was originally painted in different colors. "The original colors have faded after more than 2,000 years of decay, but a corner of the officer's robe suggested it was in colors other than the grayish clay."
Except for its broken head, the army officer was largely intact compared with other newly-discovered clay figures, most of which were found seriously damaged, some even fragmentary, Xu said.
Liu Zhancheng, head of the archeology arm of the Xi'an-based terracotta museum, estimated the year-long excavation would hopefully unearth about 150 terracotta warriors.
Richly colored clay figures were unearthed from the mausoleum of Qinshihuang, the first emperor of a united China, in the previous two excavations, but once they were exposed to the air they began to lose their luster and turn an oxidized grey.
The 230 by 62-meter No. 1 pit, which is currently under excavation, was believed to contain about 6,000 life-sized terracotta figures, more than 1,000 of which were found in previous excavations, said the museum's curator Wu Yongqi.
The State Administration of Cultural Heritage approved the museum's dig of 200 square meters of the site, and the excavation is likely to continue if it proves fruitful.
Most experts believe No. 1 pit, the largest of all three pits, houses a rectangular army of archers, infantrymen and charioteers that the emperor hoped would help him rule in the afterlife.
The army was one of the greatest archeological finds of modern times. It was discovered in Lintong county, 35 km east of Xi'an, in 1974 by peasants who were digging a well.
The first formal excavation of the site lasted for six years from 1978 to 1984 and produced 1,087 clay figures. A second excavation, in 1985, lasted a year and was cut short for technical reasons.
The discovery, listed as a world heritage site by UNESCO in December 1987, has turned Xi'an into one of China's major tourist attractions.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Follow your own course in Chinese history by Prof. G.Todd

Chinese and World History
From the beginnings of civilization to the present
by Gary Lee Todd, PH.D.

Professor of Chinese History and Culture & British and American History, Sias International University, Xinzheng, Henan, China (

You want to know about Chinese history but you don't want to go out to sit in a bench, listening to a professor but stay at home and watch it from your comfortable chair with the possibility to take a break at any time:
Go to
On top of that you get access to one of the most interesting collection of photo's of various Chinese ancient cities, archeology sites and museums.

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Modern Mongolia Reclaiming Genghis Khan

The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, in cooperation with the National Museum of Mongolian History, Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia, presented in 2002 the exhibition, Modern Mongolia: Reclaiming Genghis Khan which,( according to this Museum), challenges our view of Genghis Khan.

This on line exhibition can still be viewed at:
Modern Mongolia Reclaiming Genghis Khan

Monday, 13 July 2009

The Sino-Platonic Papers

"Sino-Platonic Papers is an occasional series edited by Victor H. Mair of the University of Pennsylvania's Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations. The purpose of the series is to make available to specialists and the interested public the results of research that, because of its unconventional or controversial nature, might otherwise go unpublished.

Many of the items have to do with ancient China or the Silk Road, can be downloaded and are free of charge from publication no. 171.
To give you an impression of the topics which can be read, following the content list from item 171 till the most recent publication:

171 June 2006 John DeFrancis / University of Hawaii / The Prospects for Chinese Writing Reform
172 Aug.2006 Deborah Beaser / The Outlook for Taiwanese Language Preservation
173 Oct. 2006 Taishan YU / Chinese Academy of Social Sciences/ A Study of the History of the Relationship Between the
Western and Eastern Han, Wei, Jin, Northern and Southern Dynasties and the Western Regions
174 Nov. 2006 Mariko Namba Walter/ Sogdians and Buddhism
175 Dec. 2006 Zhou Jixu / Center for East Asian Studies, University of Pennsylvania; Chinese Department, Sichuan Normal
University / The Rise of Agricultural Civilization in China: The Disparity between Archeological Discovery and
the Documentary Record and Its Explanation
176 May 2007 Eric Henry / University of North Carolina / The Submerged History of Yuè
177 Aug. 2007 Beverley Davis / Merit, Texas / Timeline of the Development of the Horse
178 Feb. 2008 Victor H. Mair / University of Pennsylvania / Soldierly Methods: Vade Mecum for an Iconoclastic Translation
of Sun Zi bingfa, with a complete transcription and word-for-word glosses of the Manchu translation by H.
T. Toh
179 Feb. 2008 Julie M. Groves / Hong Kong Baptist University / Language or Dialect -- or Topolect? A Comparison of the
Attitudes of Hong Kongers and Mainland Chinese towards the Status of Cantonese.
180 April 2008 Amber R. Woodward / A Survey of Li Yang Crazy English
181 Aug. 2008 Matteo Compareti / Venice, Italy / Traces of Buddhist Art in Sogdiana
182 Sept. 2008 Aurelia Campbell, Jeffrey Rice, Daniel Sungbin Sou, and Lala Zuo / University of Pennsylvania / The Cult of
the Bodhisattva Guanyin in Early China and Korea
183 Oct. 2008 Chunwei Song / Peking University / Heroes Brought Buddhism to the East of the Sea: A Fully Annotated
Translation of The Preface of Haedong Kosŭng Chŏn
184 Oct. 2008 Xiang Li / Seattle, Washington / Irony Illustrated: A Cross-Cultural Exploration of Situational Irony in China
and the United States
185 Nov. 2008 Jan Romgard / Stockholm University and the University of Nottingham / Questions of Ancient Human
Settlements in Xinjiang and the Early Silk Road Trade, with an Overview of the Silk Road Research Institutions
and Scholars in Beijing, Gansu, and Xinjiang
186 Mar. 2009 Doug Hitch / The Special Status of Turfan
187 April 2009 Xiuqin Zhou / University of Pennsylvania / Zhaoling: The Mausoleum of Emperor Tang Taizong
188 May 2009 Geoff Wade / Institute of Southeast Asian Studies, Singapore / The Polity of Yelang (夜郎) and the Origins of
the Name ‘China’
189 June 2009 Li Chen, Genevieve Y. Leung, Matthew A. Marcucci, and Kenneth Yeh; with a foreword by Victor H. Mair /
University of Pennsylvania / Sinographic Languages: The Past, Present, and Future of Script Reform

Sunday, 12 July 2009

The Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan

Center for the Art of East Asia is the website from the department of Art History from the University of Chicago and is a really beautiful website.
It features a.o. two special projects:

The digital Scrolling Paintings Project and

The Xiangtangshan Caves Project.

In the Xiangtangshan Caves Project every few months new functionality is added.
Since July 2009 f. i. one can find the Cave site Locations with Google Earth.

About the cave temples of Xiangtangshan:
The cave temples of Xiangtangshan, “Mountain of Echoing Halls,” are a group of Buddhist caves with carved sculptures, many of large-scale, near the Northern Qi capital at Ye. They are located in a rural and coal-mining area, the Fengfeng Mining District of southern Hebei Province. Eleven caves divided among three sites where the major portion of cave-construction activity was completed in the Northern Qi dynasty (550-577).

The Northern Group, Bei Xiangtangshan, is the earliest and largest in scale and was begun with imperial sponsorship; the Southern Group, Nan Xiangtangshan, has smaller caves numbered from one to seven; and the third site at Shuiyusi, also known as Xiao Xiangtangshan or “Little Xiangtangshan,” has one Northern Qi cave with sculptures. The caves at these sites were hollowed from limestone cliffs and carved with images of Buddhist deities, architectural and ornamental elements, and the texts of Buddhist scriptures. These elements represent various religious concepts and ideals and are related to official sponsorship of Buddhism, the scholarship and teaching activity of eminent monks of the time, and popular religious belief and practice. There are only a few dated dedicatory inscriptions from the period, and no contemporary record of the beginning of the caves, but some later inscriptions record the work and repairs to the sites. Together with the carved images themselves and their relationship with other dateable Northern Qi sculptures, they provide evidence for assigning these remarkable caves to the second half of the sixth century.

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Sam van Schaik is a.o known about his contribution to the International DunHuang Project.
He publishes his own website under the name

About Sam van Schaik
This site is an evolving resource for the study of the early history of Tibet, from the Tibetan Empire (7th to 9th centuries) to the dark age of the 10th century.
The main content of this site is a series of research notes (my own) presented in a weblog. My primary sources are the Stein collection at the British Library and the Pelliot collection at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. These are the most important collections of early Tibetan manuscripts. They were excavated from several sites in Chinese Central Asia, but most are from a single cave in Dunhuang, which was sealed in the early 11th century and not opened up again until the early 20th century. While some of these manuscripts are well known to scholars, many more continue to languish in obscurity. It is my aim here to bring some of these neglected sources to light.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Stolen Mongolian crown found at police station after 20 years

From The Local Sweden's News in English

Published: 3 Jul 09
A decorative Mongolian silver crown stolen in 1984 from a Stockholm museum has been found on the premises of the Swedish Police Service, where it has spent more than twenty years in accidental storage.
"We would like to thank the national police service for housing the silver Mongolian crown for such a long time," said museum chief Anders Björklund in a statement.
The crown, part of a woman's costume from Mongolia, was one of the Museum of Ethnography's most prized possessions when it first went on display in 1980.
But in 1984 the bejewelled piece of headgear mysteriously disappeared from the museum during a power cut.
A report was filed with Interpol to hinder the resale of the crown beyond Sweden's borders, but for 25 years staff at the museum were left scratching their heads.
Recently however the riddle was solved when the police service's main Stockholm offices underwent renovations and a long forgotten bag was found in storage.
Confiscated from a burglar more than twenty years ago, the bag was found to contain an unusual silver crown, along with silver cutlery and a selection of trophies.
When police called the Museum of Ethnography to see if it could shed some light on the find, the museum's Asia expert Håkan Wahlqvist was dispatched to the station and immediately recognized the stolen treasure.
Paul O'Mahony ( 656 6513)

Probably it was sto;en from the Swedish Museum of Etnography
So far, on their site there is no mentioning of this bizar event and therefor we don't know anything about the origins of the stolen crown.
More news later........

Chinese archaeologists sketch out layout of KublaiKhan's capital

Read at

For a fairly recent visit to the site, read about it in "Don Croner's World Wide Wanders Part 2"

The site itself has been listed on the tentative list of World Heritage from Unesco.

HOHHOT, July 8 (Xinhua) -- Chinese archaeologists said here on Wednesday that they have sketched out the layout of the first capital of Kublai Khan's empire, known as Xanadu in Marco Polo's Travel Notes, through a large-scale excavation.
"The most exciting findings are the layout of moat in front of the Mingde Gate to the royal capital and the highest building of Muqingge in the three-month long excavation on the ruins of Yuan Shangdu," said Yang Xingyu, a senior archaeologist with the Inner Mongolia regional bureau of cultural relics.
The capital Shangdu was built in 1256 under the command of Kublai Khan, the first emperor of Yuan Dynasty, who was enthroned there four years later. It became a summer resort after the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) moved its capital to present-day Beijing in 1276, and was destroyed during a peasant war at the end of the dynasty.
Yang said that the excavation program, the largest of its kind on the ruins, is expected to take three years to unearth and restore some of the ancient structures in Shangdu in an area of 1,500 square meters.

"We found the royal mansion of Muqingge built on a drained lake is of Han nationality characters, since the Mongolian emperor mainly deployed Han workers to build Shangdu," he said.
Italian traveler Marco Polo (1254-1324) once described the prosperity of Yuan Shangdu in his book, which aroused great interest from many overseas archaeologists, historians and travelers.
"The Italian traveler was probably received by the emperor Kublai Khan in Shangdu through the gate of Mingde, which could only be passed by royal members and dignities," said the archaeologist.
The ruins of Shangdu in the Zuolan Banner in north China's Inner Mongolia have been overgrown.
The regional government has submitted an application for World Cultural Heritage status for the site to the state department for the preservation of cultural and historical relics and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
The Web site of the World Heritage Site showed the historical remains at Yuan Shangdu has been part of China's tentative list.
"It is widely acknowledged in the archeological world that the building of the Yuan Dynasty capital in Beijing, known as Dadu, inherited that of Shangdu. The structures and many names of the landmarks are the same or similar," said Yang.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Caves of Dunhuang

From The New York Times of June last year a slideshow of 13 beautiful pictures.
Want to read the article, go to "Buddha's Caves"

Monday, 6 July 2009

Huge stash of Marijuana found in ancient tomb

Read in the Journal of Experimental Botany from November 2008:

The world's oldest stash of marijuana has been found in far western China, according to an article in the Journal of Experimental Botany.

An ancient Caucasian people, probably the Indo-European-speaking Yuezhi whose fair-haired mummies keep turning up in Xinjiang province, seem to have buried one of their shamans with a whopping 789 grams of high-potency pot 2,700 years ago.

That's about 28 ounces of killer green bud, worth perhaps $8,000 at today's street prices, and enough to keep Harold and Kumar happy for a couple of days.

"It was common practice in burials to provide materials needed for the afterlife," lead author Ethan B. Russo, a practicing neurologist and prominent medicinal-marijuana advocate based in Missoula, Mont., tells the Canadian Press. "No hemp or seeds were provided for fabric or food. Rather, cannabis as medicine or for visionary purposes was supplied."

But the researchers couldn't tell if the weed was meant to be smoked or eaten. No pipes, bongs or rolling papers were found in the tomb.

The ancient Greek historian Herodotus relates how the Scythians, Iranian-speaking nomads who roamed the steppes to the west of the Yuezhi in the first millennium B.C., liked to throw marijuana onto bonfires to induce trancelike states. It's possible the buried shaman followed similar practices.

For photo's go to Discovery Channel.

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Kaifeng’s ruins to be displayed in new museum

Along the River during Qingming Festival painted by Zhang Zeduan depicts the prosperity of Dongjing (now Kaifeng) during the Northern Song Dynasty.

Read in the the Global Times, June 30,2009:

By Wang Chunhong
The richness of China’s ancient architecture will once again come to the surface with yet another excavation project being undertaken, this time in Kaifeng, Henan Province, as was confirmed by local government officials last month.
The excavation reveals Kaifeng, once serving as the capital to seven dynasties, as not a single city but as a layered “city over city,” successively built upon the ruins of previous dynasties. In order to exhibit the partly unearthed site, the Xinzhengmen Museum will be constructed, also housing the site’s artifact center.
This so-called “city over city” will be displayed in an exhibit to the public revealing six cities overlapping each other, much like the layers of a pagoda. These different incarnations of Kaifeng include three capital cities, two provincial capitals and one major metropolitan area. Discovered at depths of 10 meters, 8 meters and 6 meters are layers representing the ruins of Daliang, Warring States period (475-221 BC), Dongjing, Northern Song Dynasty (960-1127) and Bianjing, Jin Dynasty (1115-1234), respectively.
“Regarding its scale and layers, Kaifeng is one of the most extraordinary constructions in Chinese history. To some extent, the city of Kaifeng reveals the flux of the changing dynasties, serving as a ‘living fossil,’ offering a glimpse of the customs and architecture during these key periods of ancient China,” Liu Chunying, an archaeologist and officer in Kaifeng’s Culture Relics Bureau, said

Construction of the now built Daliang Gate exhibition hall, Kaifeng. Photo: CFP
Boasting itself as one of the most important cities in ancient China, Kaifeng has long enjoyed its fame as the “ancient capital of seven dynasties,” its capital status spanning over 2,700 years. Kaifeng served as capital of the kingdom of Wei, (Warring States, 475-221BC) as well as the dynastic capital to the Later Liang (907-923), Later Jin (936-946), Later Han (947-950), Later Zhou (951-960), Northern Song (960-1127) and Jin (1115- 1234).
The classic masterpiece Along the River during Qingming Festival painted by Zhang Zeduan during the Northern Song Dynasty vividly captures the prosperity of Kaifeng (then known as Dongjing) in depictions of urban life, commerce and figures from all strata in society.
Chinese emperors favored Kaifeng as their capital for two main reasons. First, rich in water resources, Kaifeng has many key canals that act as a backbone of commerce, shipping and transportation unmatched by other cities. Second, being located in central China, Kaifeng’s strategic position, fertile soil and geographic advantages make for an ideal commercial and military center.
According to local historians, due to constant warring and the massive hydrological project of rerouting the Yellow River, Kaifeng was both destroyed and buried by silt due to floods many times. Despite the city’s tendency for disasters, the city was rebuilt repeatedly on the same location.
“Ever since the Tang Dynasty (618-907), the city’s location has not changed. This symbolizes the unyielding spirit of Chinese people in all situations,” Liu added.
The soon-to-be completed Xinzhengmen Museum, with an investment of 300 million yuan ($43.89 million), will demonstrate Kaifeng’s unique architecture buried thousands of years ago.
The “city over city” Xinzhengmen Museum will consist of both an artifact and exhibition hall when completed. The artifact hall will be located in the upper part of the ancient city wall, the exhibition hall at the southern part of the artifact hall.
According to Liu, the exact date of excavating the site is still uncertain, although the local archaeological department has already initiated initial survey work and clearance of the area.

Thursday, 2 July 2009

Searching for Afghanistan's Third Giant Buddha

Photograph courtesy Zemaryalai Tarzi

Read in " National Geographic News":

June 10 , 2009--In Bamiyan, Afghanistan, archaeologist Zemaryalai Tarzi is unearthing and restoring important reminders--like this fourth-century Buddha head--of a more peaceful past.

When the Taliban blew up two colossal Buddha statues in Bamiyan in 2001, nobody was more aggrieved than Tarzi, who had protected them with steel reinforcements in the 1970s as Afghanistan's Director of Archaeology.

Now he is determined to bring Bamiyan's other ancient riches to light. He returned to begin new excavations in 2002, after 23 years in exile. Tarzi is searching for a third giant Buddha--one that's reclining and is believed to stretch 1,000 feet (300 meters) long underground.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Ancient boat traces old sea route

A traditional wooden-hulled boat has recently been recreated in the Philippines. And now it has set sail on a voyage around Southeast Asia aiming to trace the roots of the "Vikings of Asia".
The boat is a faithful recreation of the "Balangay" -- a traditional wood-hulled boat used some 1,700 years ago. It set sail from Manila on Saturday.
The Balangay was the first wooden watercraft ever excavated in Southeast Asia. It's also thought to be among the oldest seafaring vessels in human history.
A crowd of 300 gathered at Manila Bay harbor to witness the historic occasion. They counted down the seconds until the vessel was launched in the water and cheered as it sailed forward.
Art Valdez, expedition leader said, "Although we built this boat here in Manila, in the Philippines it is a Southeast Asian boat. It's a regional boat. We can not totally claim that it is a Filipino boat. But it's a way again of showing what the Malayo-Polynesians or the Indo-Malays have accomplished. They were known as great ship builders and seafarers. As a matter of fact, they were the equivalent of the Vikings of Asia."
Construction of the vessel in Manila was completed in 44 days. Master boat builders from the southernmost island of Tawi-Tawi crafted the vessel using only traditional methods. Among their techniques -- using planks of hardwood, held together by natural resin from mangrove trees as well as wooden pegs and ropes made from dried tree bark. Not a single nail was said to be used.
Balangays traditionally had wooden hulls reinforced with rib-like wooden frames and palm cords. They were used as dwellings, cargo boats and war ships.
Rey Santiago, archaeologist, said, "By using this kind of watercraft, they were able to reach other places, far places, especially in Southeast Asia and exchange technology, language, other cultures and beliefs spread out in Southeast Asia through these boats."
The crew is made up of the first Filipino team to conquer Mount Everest, as well as representatives from the coast guard and navy. Meanwhile, several Badjaos, popularly known as "men of the seas" will take charge of navigation. They hope to sail around 75 ports in the Philippine archipelago before heading around Southeast Asia. And then sail as far as Madagascar off the southeast coast of Africa during their five-year long voyage.

Also have a look at: The Voyage Of The Balangay Starts On June 24


On the internet one can find an interesting blog about a possible link between European people and people from the Silk Road, called:


"There seems to be an interesting connection between the ancient Nordic Goths and the ancient Khotan people. The Khotans were according to different sources a melting pot of people from different cultures i.e. Ancient India (Mahajanapada, Maurya, The middle kingdoms including the Kushan empire), Persia, Greece, China, Tibet and Turkestan or Turkmenistan (before and during Kanishka). The Khotan people inhabited in an ancient kingdom present areas of Kashmir (Jammu and Kashmir) and the culture in the northern – western frontier of India before and under Vedic period India (a few hundred years before and after the Common Era). The Khotans were closely related to the Gandhara - Taxila Mahayana Buddhism of Peshawar (Read more: 1. Mahayana, 2.)."

Sunday, 28 June 2009

Dunhuang Caves by the Dunhuang Research Institute

There is an excellent site from the Dunhuang Research Institute about the Dunhuang caves.
Although the site is in Chinese all caves can be entered and viewed without specific knowledge of the language, just try !!!

Go to:

In cooperation with the Department of Art of the Northwestern University an English based website was produced.
For this site, go to:

Dunhuang and the Cave of Manuscripts
Dunhuang has 492 caves, with 45,000 square meters of frescos, 2, 415 painted statues and five wooden-structured caves. The Mogao Grottoes contain priceless paintings, sculptures, some 50,000 Buddhist scriptures, historical documents, textiles, and other relics that first stunned the world in the early 1900s.

The Mogao Caves, or Mogao Grottoes (also known as the Caves of the Thousand Buddhas and Dunhuang Caves) form a system of 492 temples 25 km (15.5 miles) southeast of the center of Dunhuang, an oasis strategically located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road, in Gansu province, China. The caves contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist art spanning a period of 1,000 years. Construction of the Buddhist cave shrines began in 366 AD as places to store scriptures and art. The Mogao Caves are the best known of the Chinese Buddhist grottoes and, along with Longmen Grottoes and Yungang Grottoes, are one of the three famous ancient sculptural sites of China
According to local legend, in 366 AD a Buddhist monk, Le Zun , had a vision of a thousand Buddhas and inspired the excavation of the caves he envisioned. The number of temples eventually grew to more than a thousand. As Buddhist monks valued austerity in life, they sought retreat in remote caves to further their quest for enlightenment. From the 4th until the 14th century, Buddhist monks at Dunhuang collected scriptures from the west while many pilgrims passing through the area painted murals inside the caves. The cave paintings and architecture served as aids to meditation, as visual representations of the quest for enlightenment, as mnemonic devices, and as teaching tools to inform illiterate Chinese about Buddhist beliefs and stories. The murals cover 450,000 square feet. The caves were walled off sometime after the 11th century after they had become a repository for venerable, damaged and used manuscripts and hallowed paraphernalia.
In the early 1900s, a Chinese Taoist named Wang Yuanlu appointed himself guardian of some of these temples. Wang discovered a walled up area behind one side of a corridor leading to a main cave. Behind the wall was a small cave stuffed with an enormous hoard of manuscripts dating from 406 to 1002 AD. These included old hemp paper scrolls in Chinese and many other languages, paintings on hemp, silk or paper, numerous damaged figurines of Buddhas, and other Buddhist paraphernalia.
The subject matter in the scrolls covers diverse material. Along with the expected Buddhist canonical works are original commentaries, apocryphal works, workbooks, books of prayers, Confucian works, Taoist works, Nestorian Christian works, works from the Chinese government, administrative documents, anthologies, glossaries, dictionaries, and calligraphic exercises. Wang sold the majority of them to Aurel Stein for the paltry sum of 220 pounds, a deed which made him notorious to this day in the minds of many Chinese.
Rumors of this discovery brought several European expeditions to the area by 1910. These included a joint British/Indian group led by Aurel Stein (who took hundreds of copies of the Diamond Sutra because he was unable to read Chinese), a French expedition under Paul Pelliot, a Japanese expedition under Otani Kozui which arrived after the Chinese government's forces[clarification needed] and a Russian expedition under Sergei F. Oldenburg which found the least.
Pelloit was interested in the more unusual and exotic of Wang's manuscripts such as those dealing with the administration and financing of the monastery and associated lay men's groups. These manuscripts survived only because they formed a type of palimpsest in which the Buddhist texts (the target of the preservation effort) were written on the opposite side of the paper. The remaining Chinese manuscripts were sent to Peking (Beijing) at the order of the Chinese government. Wang embarked on an ambitious refurbishment of the temples, funded in part by solicited donations from neighboring towns and in part by donations from Stein and Pelliot. The image of the Chinese astronomy Dunhuang map is one of the many important artifact found on the scrolls.
Today, the site is the subject of an ongoing archaeological project. The Mogao Caves became one of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in 1987.

Source: Mogao Caves Wikipedia

Friday, 26 June 2009

Mongolian Princes in Urga, 1922

Found on a photograph of Mongolian princes in Urga in 1922 probably made by R.C.Andrews.
Roy Chapman Andrews was an explorer and naturalist who eventually became director of the American Museum of Natural History.
He is primarily known for leading a series of expeditions from 1922 to 1930 through the fragmented China of the early 20th century into the Gobi Desert and Mongolia. The expeditions made important discoveries and brought the first-known fossil dinosaur eggs to the museum.

Fantastic to be able to look back 87 yeats into a long gone era.
Click on the photo to enlarge it !!!

Database for Buddhist Cave Temples in China

Published on June 9, 2009 in The Digital Silk Road Project:

A database on representative Buddhist caves in China, namely :

Dunhuang Mogao Caves,

Bezeklik Caves,

Kizil Caves, is released.

Thursday, 25 June 2009

Digital Turfan Archive

Since the IDP Project less relevant but at the German site "Turfanforschung Digitales Turfan-Archiv" one has access to an impressive number of "Mitteliranische, Soghdische, Chinesische, Chinesisch- Uigurische, Baktrische, Khotansakische, Mongolischen, Neupersischer, Mittelpersischer, Tumshukasiche und Uigurische" texts.

Wednesday, 24 June 2009 is a website by N.Nyamaa about Mongolian coins and banknotes of all time.
Next to the website there is a book, called " Coins of Mongol Empire & Clan Tamgha of Khans" which can be ordered via this site.

Following is copied the introduction to the website:

In 1206 the Great Khurultai of all Mongol Lords was held at the start of the Onon river to unite Mongol provinces and small tribes into one nation of Mongol Statehood.
At this Khuraltai Temujin was declared as the Great Khagan of Mongols and given the name of Chinggis Khan.

2006 celebrates the 800-th anniversary of the declaration of Mongol Empire. I’ve been working on a website of Mongolian coins and paper banknotes of all times and targeted its release to this commemorative date.

The term Numismatic does not only relate to a small group of people with a hobby to collect coins and banknotes but it also refers to the history, politics, economy, language and culture, and even science of any given country. It is a much broader subject than a lot of people seem to think.

That is why so much time, attention and effort are invested in to this subject. The importance of Numismatic has earned it the status of a separate subject of science to study. In many countries the coins and banknotes of the past are stored in museums and treasured as national historic items.

On my website the coins and banknotes are divided into two main categories: ancient and contemporary.

Among the ancient historical valuables a special emphasis should be made to the coins and banknotes of XIII-XIV centuries. These coins and banknotes are unique in their shape and style, they have specific writings minted on them and they were used throughout the vast lands.

Undoubtfully, they cover a lot of world history of their own time and hence are subjects of interest to many numismatics and historians alike. Hundreds of publications worldwide are devoted to the research of these coins and banknotes.

Several valuables of Mongolian Numismatics can be found in museums of Russia, China, England, Germany, USA, Taiwan, Uzbekistan, Georgia, Armenia, Turkey and other countries. For example, Yapi Kredi Bank of Turkey and El Khalifa Bank of Saudi Arabia have a treasure collection of beautiful and rare coins of Mongol Empire.