Monday, 26 April 2010

Exploring Central Asia 1896-1899

Exploring Central Asia: Collecting Objects and Writing Cultures from the Steppes to the High Pamirs 1896-1899
by Esther Fihl and Ida Nicolaisen

In the 1890s, the Danish lieutenant Ole Olufsen set out to lead two expeditions to Tsarist Central Asia. Exploring areas that were still blank on European and Russian maps, the participants spent more than a year travelling on horseback in the pamirs and adjacent valleys bordering Afghanistan, China, and British India. They lived with Kyrgyz nomads who carved out an existence for themselves above the tree line with their sheep, goats, and yaks. Travelling along the river Pandsh, they were the first Europeans to collect ethnographical information on the transhumant pastoralists in the elevated valleys bordering Afghanistan. On the steppes of the western lowlands, the Danish expeditions stopped in Samarkand, Khiva, and Bukhara, commercial hubs on the old Silk Road. As official guests of both the emir of Bukhara and the khan of Khiva, they studied the handicrafts of the bazaars and the irrigation agriculture practiced by the Tajiks and Uzbeks. On visits to Merv they also spent time with Turkmen nomadic tribes who had only recently been fighting the Russian colonial power. Esther Fihl offers an in-depth study of these Danish expeditions and presents the magnificent collection of objects brought back to the National Museum of Denmark. Drawing on diaries, reports, and published works and a scrutiny of the guiding principles for their collecting of objects, she demonstrates how these explorers portrayed the cultures encountered. This work is a treasure for anyone interested in Central Asia, early anthropological theory, material culture, or European travel literature. Esther Fihl is an associate professor at the University of Copenhagen.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Pakistan - Where civilizations meet - 1sr-6th centuries - Gandharan Arts

In Musee Guimet in Paris !!

Pakistan - Where civilizations meet - 1sr-6th centuries - Gandharan Arts
21 April -16 August 2010

The Gandhara is a former kingdom with a Hellenistic influence which spanned the North West provinces of today’s Pakistan. This civilisation contemporaneous with the Romans in the west and the Chinese Hans in the east, peaked between the 1st and 3rd century AD, in the era of the successors of Alexander the Great and the Kushan Empire.

A land of encounters, a land of Buddhism, invasions and exchanges, but also a land of ancient culture and diversities, Gandhara witnessed the birth and development of a brilliant civilisation combining Greek influences, resulting from the conquests of Alexander the Great, and Persian and Indian inspirations.

In this exhibition, statuettes or statues of Buddha and revered deities (bodhisattva, etc.), low reliefs of temples and stupas, will appear alongside terracotta and stucco items from monasteries or palaces.

Gandharan art bridges the gap between continents, between western and eastern cultures, offering a multiplicity of artistic forms which invite us to discover a world where beauty and humanity prevail.

Thursday, 22 April 2010

The Golden Summary of Cinggis Qayan

NEW (December 2009) from the Harrassowitz Publishing House

The Golden Summary of Cinggis Qayan
Cinggis Qayan-u Altan Tobci
Rogers, Leland L

The Golden Summary of Cinggis Qayan is the earliest post-Mongol Empire period compilation of legends of the Chinggis Khaan mythos known to date. These stories are the original legends from which many later Chinggis Khaan Chronicles were based and were central to the mythos of the Cult of Chinggis Khaan. The stories within legitimize the rules of Chinggis Khaan and his descendants through divine acts, but also clearly show the human side of Chinggis Khaan, of how he erred from lust and anger, and of his willingness to correct his mistakes, to listen to reason, thus making him the great just and righteous emperor. This book contains together with extensive commentary the first full Latin transcription, English translation and word index of the pages unearthed in Inner Mongolia in the Mid-20th Century

If you want to read a review of this book, go to:

Monday, 19 April 2010

Mannerheim and Paul Pelliot

Two years ago I bought a photograph in Musee Guimet in Paris, originally made of Paul Pelliot in January 1908 in Qomoul (Ha-Mi).

This photograph, taken by Charles Nouette shows Paul Pelliot surrounded by Yang Jinbang, the military mandarin and Liu Runtong, the civil mandarin and their escort.

Especially the comment of Paul Pelliot is very amusing as he writes: "Nous allons voir le mandarin civil et y trouvons aussi le mandarin militaire; ces deux bons vieux y passent leur temps a jouer aux cartes ensemble. [...] Tous deux essaient de se deshabituer de l'opium avec force de drogues..."

The intriguing figure, at first glance is the the person on the right as he looks familiar to a similar person on a photograph in the book "Ratsain halki Aasian" by Mannerheim.
Below is an enlargment of this person on the photo with Paul Pelliot:

This person, according to Paul Pelliot, the civil mandarin, Liu Runtong looks very familiar to a person on a photograph with Mannerheim:

This photograph was taken in March 1907 in the city of Aksu and shows Mannerheim with the daotai of Aksu to his right and the dshentai to his left.
An enlargment of the person to the left of Mannerheim shows that this person resembles Liu Runtong mainly because of the similar clothing and his mustache but at the other hand he looks definitely younger than the person on the photo of Paul Pelliot (which is from January 1908)

Furthermore, according to Mannerheim this person is the miltary mandarin Tan (and therefore not a civil mandarin)and the location (Aksu) is a long way from Ha-Mi.

Therefor we decided to look at photo's taken bij Mannerheim in Ha-Mi and found this particular photograph, taken in Ha-Mi of the dshentai of Barkul (the Mohammedan ruler of Ha-Mi), probably the person on the foreground to the right and the sietai (probably the person on the left).
In the text of the book a little more is explainded about the sietai by the mentioning by Mannerheim that the local commander is called "Sietai Jang".

This person, on the foreground (Sietai Jang)to the left must be Yang Jinbang, the military mandarin in the photo from Paul Pelliot.
A second photo from that meeting in Ha-Mi with Mannerheim shows a.o the guards of Sientai Jang who resemble the guards in the photo from Paul Pelliot(see below).

The relevance of this article is that there was a known direct link between both major players in "The Great Game", they travelled a part of the route even together but Paul Pelliot discovered what was still left of the treasures of Dun Huang (after Aurel Stein had been there first)and Mannerheim did not.
Although they travelled apart, they must have met a lot of the same players and rulers in this particular area.
The focus in the literature is logically on the documents and paintings of Dun Huang, who found them and who did not but the persons on the background are equally interesting especially when they resurface through photographs.

To learn more about the history of Paul Pelliot and Mannerheim, read the article below ( from

"In 1906 a French scientist Paul Pelliot asked for permission to start a scientific expedition from Russia to China. The estimated length of the expedition was two years and the route as follows: Tashkent - Kashgar - Kutsha - Lobnor - Shatshzhou - Shi-an-fu - Ta-tong-fu - Peking.

The objectives of the expedition were scientific: arhaeological, geographical, ethnograpic, linguistic, historical and biological.
In those days the Russian main staff considered it very important to acquire information about the Heavenly Empire, particularly about the conditions in the border areas. Measures were taken in western China to reorganize the army according to Japanese model, so that this territory could be colonized by the Chinese and joined more permanently to China proper. There were also active British interest spheres in the area, and Dalai Lama had been forced to take refuge in eastern Turkestan. With the consent of Foreign and War Ministries, the decision was made to take advantage of the Pelliot expedition and to acquire the permission of the French government to include a Russian officer as a "civilian" in the expedition. He was to be equipped with all kinds of means, appropriate for ethnological and biological research. According to various programmes, he was to assemble military intelligence about the western and northern border provinces of China, the reforms in the army and government and the military political situation as well as the march routes from Russia in the direction of Lanzhou and Peking.

The chief of the main staff, Palitshyn, chose Mannerheim to be the representative in the expedition, because he was acquainted with China, Pelliot knew him or at least knew about him, he was fluent in several languages, was of Finnish origin (and was able to use the Finnish passport instead of the Russian one) and met the other requirements that he would be confronted with. The final decision was reached in 1906. For his commanding mission Mannerheim was afforded two years’ salary in advance, the travelling costs from St Petersburg to Peking, money for equipment, and additional salary amounting to 15,000 francs a year. Nevertheless, the Finnish Colonel had to collect money for ethonological and historical research also from Finland. The trip eventually lasted for more than two years, and the general staff had to make corrections to their estimate.

Pelliot was favourably disposed towards Mannerheim’s participation in the expedition, but in addition to the permission of the French government, he required that the officer in question would be subordinated to him in all matters concerning the route and management of the expedition. All the arrangements were to be made in a fashion that would not arouse any suspicions or ill-will in the Chinese authorities. Pelliot asked for support and financial assistance for the expedition. In return, he promised that any observations and results of interest would be at the disposal of the Russians after the expedition.

Mannerheim travelled in the company of the French explorers from Tashkent to Kashgar, from July till October 1906. Louis Vaillant, a medical officer of the 2nd rank in the Colonial Army, and photographer Charles Nouette were also members of the expedition. The relations between Pelliot and Mannerheim were strained to the utmost in questions of finance and command. Mannerheim found Pelliot stingy and extremely particular about his position as the leader of the expedition. After some negotiations Mannerheim disengaged himself from the subordinate position and formed his own expedition soon after they had crossed the Chinese border. Despite the plans he had made, Mannerheim never caught up with Pelliot’s expedition during the two years the trip lasted.

According to the mission he had been given, Mannerheim became familiar with the military situation in China, made notes in his diary, took photographs and drew sketches of maps. The authorities were very willing to give him information. Mannerheim spent a month in the autumn of 1908 in the Russian embassy of Peking arranging his notes, and after his return wrote an extensive report on the journey. He was also given a chance to introduce the results of the expedition to the Emperor. The main idea was to occupy the provinces of Sinkiang and Gansu and to cut China in two. The report was printed in 1909 for official use in the Russian army."

Next time we will take a look at the photo's of Aurel Stein of that period and try to find familiar faces and persons and bring them back to life.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Videos of IDP's Xinjiang Field Trip

The IDP site ( International Dunhuang Project) is by far the best site on the World Wide Web with regard to the history of the Silk Road.

Most recently the UK team of the IDP started a Blog, Flickr, Facebook, Delicious and YouTube.

The most recent publication are videos from a field trip in 2008 on the track of Aurel Stein:

"Over a century ago the Hungarian scholar Marc Aurel Stein set out on what was to be his first of four expeditions to Chinese Central Asia. He was in search of ancient civilisations, almost forgotten to history yet with ruins which could potentially provide archaeological evidence of the rich cultural mix engendered by the opening of the international trade routes across Eurasia – the Silk Road. Stein’s expeditions and finds exceeded his expectations: he uncovered hundreds of archaeological sites, discovering over 50,000 artefacts. He also mapped his journey and the sites and took over 5,000 photographs, recording the sites, people he encountered, everyday life, officials and the changing landscape. In November 2008 members of a joint project between IDP and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology in China (XJIA), retraced Stein’s footsteps to retake his site photographs a hundred years on. Read more about IDP's field trip in IDP News Issue 32.

Videos of IDP's field trip are now available on our YouTube channel. Footage is available of sites including Miran and Endere. "

Source: IDP UK

Saturday, 17 April 2010

China explores ancient sailors' legacy

The national museums of China and Kenya are joining hands for an archeological dig on and around the Lamu Islands in Kenya.
Tantalizing clues exist as to the connection between the UNESCO World Heritage Site and China since long ago.

The national museums of China and Kenya are joining hands for an archeological dig on and around the Lamu Islands in Kenya.
The goal of the three-year project is to excavate the sites where Chinese navigator Zheng He arrived in Kenya some 600 years ago.
Archaeologists from China National Museum will go to Kenya and work with their Kenyan counterparts for two months every year. They will investigate sites both on land and underwater, and examine the many examples of Chinese porcelain that have been unearthed.The Lamu Islands, lying to the north of Kenya, are rich in history. In the hub of the Indian Ocean, the islands were one of the key points Zheng He's fleet passed on the way to Africa.
China has dispatched teams of experts since 2005 to the Islands. With local assistance, they have already confirmed the exact location of a legendary capsized Chinese ship which has been lying deep on the sea floor since 1415.
Chinese archaeologists believe the project will shed new light on China's trading history.

Source: CCTV.COM

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Secrets of the Silk Road

Penn Museum, Philadelphia
February 5, 2011 through June 5, 2011

In the late 1990s, the western world learned about the existence of an astonishing collection of ancient, and exquisitely preserved, mummies, all excavated in the vast Tarim Basin desert of East Central Asia—a crossroads of the Silk Road. This new blockbuster traveling exhibition from China features more than 150 extraordinary objects representing the rich cultural heritage of the region over more than 4,000 years.

The materials come from the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology in Urumqi in northwest China. Jewel-encrusted vessels, masks, jewelry, clothing, highly valued silk and other textiles, wooden and bone implements, and coins testify to the remarkable international trade that passed through the region. Perhaps most remarkable, however, are three astonishingly well-preserved ethnically-diverse mummies dating from 1800 BCE to 400 CE—a man, a woman popularly known as the “Beauty of Xiaohe,” and a child—and related artifacts from those burials.Penn Museum is the first and the last stop on the east coast for this exhibition featuring mummies from China never before seen in America. Secrets of the Silk Road starts its US tour at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, California from March 27 - July 25, 2010.

Monday, 12 April 2010

Correspondence in the 3rd Century CE in the Shan-Shan Kingdom

T. Burrow

From:The Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland

The documents are those discovered by Sir Aurel Stein, primarily at the Tarim Basin site of Niya. Their approximate date range, as established by Brough, is ca. 235-ca. 325 CE. The documents were written in the Kharosthi script in a version of the north Indian Prakrit language related to that used in Gandhara. Users of American English should be aware that Burrows' "corn" refers generically to grain, not to American maize. The writing material is wooden tablets, some rectangular in shape, some wedge-shaped, which had covers and were tied with string and sealed (see photographs).

Transcriptions of the originals and photographs of a number of the tablets were published by A. M. Boyer et al., Kharosthi Inscriptions Discovered by Sir Aurel Stein in Chinese Turkestan, Parts I-III (Oxford, 1920-1927). On the political and social context for the documents, which originated in the Shan-shan Kingdom, see John Brough, "Comments on Third- Century Shan-shan and the History of Buddhism," Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 28 (1965): 582-612 and Christopher Atwood, "Life in Third-fourth Century Cadh'ota: A survey of information gathered from the Prakrit documents found north of Minfeng (Niya)," Central Asiatic Journal, 35/3-4 (1991): 161-199. A good overview of Niya's exploration, with some lovely photographs, is that of Christoph Baumer, Southern Silk Road: In the Footsteps of Sir Aurel Stein and Sven Hedin (Bangkok: Orchid Press, 2000), Ch. VIII, pp. 97-106. Stein's own well-illustrated account is in his Ruins of Desert Cathay: Personal Narrative of Explorations in Central Asia and Western Most China, 2 vols. (London, 1912), Vol. I, Chs. XXIII-XXV, pp. 269-299. For new perspectives in the analysis of the Niya and other Tarim Basin archaeological evidence, see Mariner Padwa, "Archaeological GIS and Oasis Geography in the Tarim Basin," The Silk Road (Newsletter of the Silkroad Foundation), 2/2 (December 2004): 26-29. -- Daniel C. Waugh]

For more information, please visit: Silk Road Seatle and go to "Historical Texts".

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Archaeology and Landscape in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia (2)

This time, it's time to visit this very complete and comprehensive website about the cultural landscapes and archeology of the Altai Mountains in Mongolia.

Archaeology and Landscape in the Altai Mountains of Mongolia

"The information presented on this website is the result of eighteen field seasons in the Altai Mountains of Russia and Mongolia. The extensive materials we have been able to gather and document represent the first broad inventory of surface archaeology in northwestern Mongolia.
This website draws on three major resources: analysis of the region’s cultural monuments, accessed through the Archaeology section; an Image Gallery, consisting of digitized photographs of monuments and landscape; and a set of maps which include 1) a series of static image maps, and 2) a searchable Interactive Map. All maps are derived from the Project’s extensive Geographic Information Systems (GIS) database. The static maps consist of Basin Maps, located in the Altai Region Basin pages, and View Shed Maps, accessed in the Cultural Landscape section. The Interactive Map is designed to allow users to display map layers dynamically, pan and zoom the Altai region, and view specific monument types. Many of the map features have a direct link to the photographic archive, also accessed through the Image Gallery."

Friday, 9 April 2010

Heritage Key Outranks British Museum on Alexa

In 2009 a brand new historical interactive website started, called:
Have a look and have fun.
Beneath is an update from the founders of the site of their fast success!!

It’s a small milestone for our work on Heritage Key that the site now outranks the British Museum in Alexa rankings–both US and UK. We opened our site only in August 2009 and the British Museum has more than 5 million physical visits, sells tickets to events and is generally the greatest museum for ancient world history. Today our ranking is Alexa global ranking is 57,100 and BM is 57, 196 — we are also even better in the UK (3,995 vs 4,176) which is a surprise to us.

I don’t really know how solid the Alexa rankings are, but they are something relative. Looking at our Google stats and system info is obviously more detailed. We are also happy to see our Google page rank at 5 now. The BM is as you would expect, 7.

In fairness, I don’t think the BM is that bothered about their online presence. Their very interesting series with BBC is probably pulling a lot of traffic (although the flash bit isn’t crawlable) and there is even a nice questing game. We have perhaps a lot more interactive content with virtual Stonehenge, King Tut as well as quizzes on-site. We also did expect to pass the BM in rankings as we are more focused on SEO and create a lot of new content targeted toward online users — like new video such as the Boudicca episode for Ancient World in London which is getting a lot of views. The BM also isn’t allowing comments or any UGC.

Main take-aways for this milestone:

* Brands like Heritage Key that can span interests across many traditional things like museums, movies, television and events will out-rank individual sites. We see this also even in publishing with one of our favourite sites the Daily Beast. But you can’t just be an umbrella — you need the strong brand and original content (we have already posted more than 8,000 pieces of new content as well as have the amazing 3D virtual online experiences).

* Traditional Brands might not be that worried (the BM is posting more and more footfall each year), but they are missing out on monetizing the global online audience. Check the stats on where that market is heading here. The actual cost to participate in the online boom for trusted brands is not that high, but it will require attention and action.

* Community sites are the future of the web. Push publishing and searching catalogues are not compelling enough to get above the noise. There needs to be something interesting and relevant to define the soul of community. Check sites like Livestrong where they got it going on already.

Next steps — Louvre (41,109) and then the Met (21,213)!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

The Great Game- Exhibition Essen/ Germany

New exhibition about the beginning of the 20th century with a.o the adventures of contempories of Aurel Stein like Lawrence of Arabia and Sven Hedin.

Das Große Spiel
Archäologie und Politik zur Zeit des Kolonialismus

12. Februar bis 13. Juni 2010
Ruhr Museum, Essen- Germany

Die Ausstellung thematisiert die spektakulären Ausgrabungen und Expeditionen u.a. von Lawrence von Arabien, Gertrude Bell und Carl Humann. Sie zeigt den Einfluß der europäischen Mächte bei den archäologischen Entdeckungen vor allem im Orient in der Zeit von 1840 bis 1940.

"Das Große Spiel" präsentiert über 800 hochkarätige Objekte aus den großen, international renommierten Museen und zahlreiche aus Privatbesitz.

Also a book has been published abour this subject and this exhibition!!
Das Große Spiel
Charlotte Trümpler

Begleitbuch zur Ausstellung im Ruhr Museum, Weltkulturerbe Zollverein, Essen, 2010. Die Geschichte der frühen Archäologie liest sich wie ein Abenteuerroman: Wer sind die Männer und Frauen, die sich im 19. und frühen 20. Jahrhundert auf den Weg machen, um in Sandwüsten und Steppengebieten nach verborgenen Gräbern oder verschütteten Skulpturen zu suchen und sie unter lebensbedrohlichen Umständen zu entdecken und freizulegen? Männer wie der deutsche Baron Max von Oppenheim, der Engländer Thomas Edward Lawrence, der als Lawrence von Arabien in die Geschichte eingehen wird, der ungarische Graf Laszlo Almasy, der als Vorbild für den Film "Der englische Patient" zu später Berühmtheit gelangt, der Schwede Sven Hedin und auch Frauen wie die Engländerin Gertrude Bell reisen nach Afrika, Zentralasien, in den Nahen Osten und nach Ägypten, nach Mesopotamien und Kleinasien. Welche Interessen hatten die Auftrag- und Geldgeber der Pioniere? Was waren die Motive für die Auseinandersetzung mit antiken Kulturen und ihren Hinterlassenschaften? Kurz: Woher stammt die archäologische Wissenschaft?

Rezensionsnotiz zu Süddeutsche Zeitung
Ein heißes Eisen hat Charlotte Trümpler mit diesem Buch angepackt, meint Rezensent Martin Flashar. Denn die Verbindungen der deutschen Archäologie zur Politik wurden bisher kaum in den Blick genommen, wie er weiß. Der Katalog zur Ausstellung "Archäologie im Fadenkreuz imperialer Interessen", die erst 2010 im Essener Ruhrlandmuseum gezeigt werden wird, ist nun mit 700 Seiten für Flashar "wahrlich ein Handbuch zum Thema". Besonderes Interesse zeigt Flashar an den "archäologischen" Unternehmungen von Kaiser Wilhelm II. während des Ersten Weltkrieges, die für ihn "in einem eigentümlichen Licht" erscheinen. Als einzigen Mangel des Bandes sieht Flashar das fehlende Register. Außerdem quält ihn die Frage, warum die Untersuchung gerade mit dem Jahr 1940 enden muss.

Rezensionsnotiz zu Frankfurter Rundschau
Mit großem Lob bedenkt Rüdiger Heimlich diesen von Charlotte Trümpler herausgegebenen Band über die Archäologie im Zeitalter des Nationalismus. Die Beiträge über "imperiale Archäologie" im Mittelmeerraum, Zentralasien, China und Japan, ihre Bedeutung für Militär und Diplomatie fallen in seinen Augen allesamt höchst instruktiv aus. Ebenso die Lebensläufe berühmter und weniger berühmter Archäologen. Deutlich wird für Heimlich, dass sich die Pioniere der Archäologie ihrer nationalen Mission sehr wohl bewusst waren. Der einzige Schwachpunkt des "wundervoll illustrierten" Bands scheint ihm, dass die Frage nach den moralischen Skrupeln der Ausgräber und Entdecker etwas unterbelichtet bleibt.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

Archaeology and Landscape in the Mongolian Altai

Archaeology and Landscape in the Mongolian Altai
An Atlas

by Esther Jacobson-Tepfer, James E. Meacham

Archaeology and Landscape in the Mongolian Altai is an atlas that examines the distribution of ancient surface archaeological discoveries within the mountainous region of northwestern Mongolia. For thousands of years, this region was inhabited by hunters and pastoral nomads who erected great stone altars, burial mounds, and standing stones in the valleys through which they moved. They left behind huge concentrations of rock art in the high valleys – figures that effectively recount their lives. With vivid maps and photographs this book presents the cultural heritage of this rugged environment, focusing on the interconnection of the surface structures and the landscape. This atlas will appeal to both the specialist and the general reader interested in ecotourism, preservation, geography, and ancient human cultures.

Monday, 5 April 2010

The Odyssey of Ibn Battuta: Uncommon Tales of a Medieval Adventurer

Recently published (NEW )!!

The Odyssey of Ibn Battuta: Uncommon Tales of a Medieval Adventurer
by David Waines

'By highlighting Ibn Battuta's encounters with sex, strangeness and the sacred, David Waines makes this deservedly most famous of medieval travellers more intelligible, more enjoyable and more rewarding than ever.' --Felipe Fernández-Armesto, William P Reynolds Professor of History, University of Notre Dame, and Professorial Fellow of Queen Mary, University of London

'In this thoroughly engaging book David Waines places the famous Moroccan traveller in the colourful context of medieval story-telling and travellers tales, establishing which of his writings were borrowed from other authors and which are plausible accounts of his own remarkable adventures. Waines shows how the details about food, hospitality, dress and sexual customs registered by Ibn Battuta fit into the broader milieu of a medieval world in which marvels and miracles, slave-girls and sultans, generosity and cruelty jostle for space and attention. The Odyssey of Ibn Battuta is a perfect companion-piece to the master-traveller's own extraordinary record.' --Malise Ruthven, author of Islam: A Very Short Introduction and A Historical Atlas of the Islamic World

'This book is more than just a highly entertaining account of the travels of Ibn Battuta in Arabia, Africa and South East Asia. It is innovative and offers a remarkable insight into the world of this intrepid globetrotter who travelled as far as China. David Waines has succeeded in making the reader feel as if they were really there, so clearly does he present the various anecdotes and the captivating details of ordinary life. It is a work of great scholarship and will be of interest to both academe and the general reader. A valuable contribution to Islamic travel literature.' --Dionisius A Agius, Al Qasimi Professor of Arabic Studies & Islamic Material Culture, University of Exeter

Ibn Battuta was, without doubt, one of the world's truly great travellers. Born in fourteenth-century Morocco, and a contemporary of Marco Polo, Ibn Battuta has left us an account in his own words of his remarkable journeys throughout the Islamic world and beyond: journeys punctuated by adventure and peril, and stretching from his home in Tangiers to Zaytun in faraway China. Whether sojourning in Delhi and the Maldives, wandering through the mazy streets of Cairo and Damascus, or contesting with pirates and shipwreck, the indefatigable Ibn Battuta brings to vivid life a medieval world brimming with marvel and mystery. Carefully observing the great diversity of civilizations which he encountered, Ibn Battuta exhibits an omnivorous interest in such matters as food and drink, religious differences (between Christians, Hindus and Shi'a Muslims), ideas about purity and impurity, disease, women and sex. Recounting the many miracles which its author claims to have experienced personally, his al-rihla or 'Travelogue' is a fascinating mosaic of mysticism and reportage offering a prototype magic realism. David Waines discusses the subtleties of the al-rihla, revealing all the wonders of Ibn Battuta's world to the modern reader. This is a gripping treatment of the life and times of one of history's most daring, and at the same time most human, discoverers.

Sunday, 4 April 2010

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens

Recently published (NEW)!!

The Secret History of the Mongol Queens: How the Daughters of Genghis Khan Rescued His Empire

By Jack Weatherford

The Mongol queens of the thirteenth century ruled the largest empire the world has ever known. Yet sometime near the end of the century, censors cut a section from The Secret History of the Mongols, leaving a single tantalizing quote from Genghis Khan: “Let us reward our female offspring.” Only this hint of a father’s legacy for his daughters remained of a much larger story.

The queens of the Silk Route turned their father’s conquests into the world’s first truly international empire, fostering trade, education, and religion throughout their territories and creating an economic system that stretched from the Pacific to the Mediterranean. Outlandish stories of these powerful queens trickled out of the Empire, shocking the citizens of Europe and and the Islamic world.

After Genghis Khan’s death in 1227, conflicts erupted between his daughters and his daughters-in-law; what began as a war between powerful women soon became a war against women in power as brother turned against sister, son against mother. At the end of this epic struggle, the dynasty of the Mongol queens had seemingly been extinguished forever, as even their names were erased from the historical record..

One of the most unusual and important warrior queens of history arose to avenge the wrongs, rescue the tattered shreds of the Mongol Empire, and restore order to a shattered world. Putting on her quiver and picking up her bow, Queen Mandhuhai led her soldiers through victory after victory. In her thirties she married a seventeen-year-old prince, and she bore eight children in the midst of a career spent fighting the Ming Dynasty of China on one side and a series of Muslim warlords on the other. Her unprecedented success on the battlefield provoked the Chinese into the most frantic and expensive phase of wall building in history. Charging into battle even while pregnant, she fought to reassemble the Mongol Nation of Genghis Khan and to preserve it for her own children to rule in peace.

At the conclusion of his magnificently researched and ground-breaking narrative, Weatherford notes that, despite their mystery and the efforts to erase them from our collective memory, the deeds of these Mongol queens inspired great artists from Chaucer and Milton to Goethe and Puccini, and so their stories live on today. With The Secret History of the Mongol Queens, Jack Weatherford restores the queens’ missing chapter to the annals of history.

About the Author
JACK WEATHERFORD holds the DeWitt Wallace Chair of Anthropology at Macalester College in Minnesota and an honorary position at Chinggis Khaan University in Mongolia. In 2007 he received the Order of the Polar Star, the highest award for service to the Mongol Nation for writing Genghis Khan and the Making of the Modern World., He is also the author of Indian Givers, Native Roots, Savages and Civilizations, and The History of Money

Saturday, 3 April 2010

From Xanadu to Dadu: The World of Khubilai Khan

The Metropolitan Museum of New York
September 20, 2010–January 2, 2011
The Tisch Galleries, 2nd floor

Dadu or Shangdu ,the city of Khubilai Khan. The palace is in the inner square, lower center.

This exhibition will cover the period from 1215, the year of Khubilai's birth, to 1368, the year of the fall of the Yuan dynasty in China founded by Khubilai Khan, and will feature every art form, including paintings, sculpture, gold and silver, textiles, ceramics, lacquer, and other decorative arts, religious and secular. The exhibition will highlight new art forms and styles generated in China as a result of the unification of China under the Yuan dynasty and the massive influx of craftsmen from all over the vast Mongol empire—with reverberations in Italian art of the fourteenth century.