Saturday, 28 August 2010

Precious historical documents of Xinjiang exhibited

Xinjiang Historic Documents Exhibition will open at Xinjiang Museum on August 20 and lasts for one month. This exhibition which is held by the Government of the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, and co-sponsored by Department of Culture of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, National Library of China and Library of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region will exhibit precious historic documents of Xinjiang for the first time since the founding of People's Republic of China.

The 106 pieces of documents in 24 languages exhibited will include documents on wood slips and paper contributed by National Library of China and big libraries and museums in Xinjiang. The 25 pieces of precious documents enlisted in the National Directory of Precious Ancient Books will also be exhibited.

The exhibited documents fall into different times. For example, there are 27 pieces of documents from the Pre-Qin, the Western and Eastern, the Southern and Northern Dynasties, 24 pieces from Sui, Tang and 5-Dynasty Periods, 18 pieces from Song and Yuan Dynasties and 43 pieces from Ming and Qing Dynasties.

It is learned that Work Conference on Protection of National Ancient Books will also be held during the exhibition.


Friday, 27 August 2010

Amdo Notes III: Gold and turquoise temples

Since May 2007 Sam van Schaik writes a Silk Road related blog about the history of Tibet, called earlyTibet

Sam is based at the British Library, where he runs a.o. a research project on Tibetan and Chinese paleography, as part of the International DunHuang Project.

His research focuses primarily on the impact of social and historical factors on key issues in Tibetan culture. These include the contemplative tradition of the Great Perfection, the tantric ritual system and its social contexts, and the development of mythical narratives of imperial Tibet. He has also written on the intersection between orality and literacy, and on the social and historical context for the creation and development of the Tibetan writing system.

The site is an evolving resource for the study of the history of Tibet, mostly from the “early” period of the 7th to 10th centuries, but with occasional forays into more recent events and it is written very vividly and understandable for anyone.

On august 25 he published his latest article in a series of three about Amdo, a city at the far northeastern borders of the Tibetan Empire.

Amdo Notes III: Gold and turquoise temples

What brought us to Amdo in the first place was a pilgrim who passed this way in the 960s. He was a Chinese monk from Wutaishan, and like many Chinese Buddhists before him, he dreamed of travelling to India to study at the great university of Nalanda. We know about this particular pilgrim because he left his passport behind in Dunhuang, where it was sealed into the library cave and only emerged again in the 20th century. His name might have been Daozhao.
The passport is more like a series of letters of recommendation written to monasteries along the pilgrim’s route. Interestingly, though he was a Chinese monk, he took a fairly indirect route so that he could visit the major Tibetan Buddhist sites of Amdo. His itinerary through Amdo went like this:

-The city of Hezhou, now known as Linxia.
-The mountain retreat of Dantig (see the previous post).
-The city of Tsongka, near the modern city of Ping’an.
-The city of Liangzhou, now known as Wuwei.
-And then along the Silk Route to Ganzhou and Dunhuang.

All of these places (except Dantig) are now Chinese cities, with very small (if any) Tibetan population. So it’s difficult to imagine that three of them were once Tibetan kingdoms. After the fall of the Tibetan empire, these little kingdoms were strongholds of Tibetan culture and Tibetan Buddhism. The pilgrim’s itinerary tells us that he was visiting Hezhou and Tsongka to see their “gold and turquoise temples.” And these were not little kingdoms either. Chinese sources report that in the year 998 Liangzhou had a population of 126,000, the majority of whom were from Tibetan backgrounds.

So it’s strange to walk through the city of Ping’an now, and imagine what once was there. Tsongka appears in one of the earliest Tibetan inscriptions, the Zhol pillar in Lhasa (dated by Hugh Richardson to the 750s or 760s). Here Tsongka is the site of battles between the Tibetan and Chinese armies. Later, at the beginning of the 11th century, Tsongka came to the aid of China’s Song dynasty, as one of the last bastions holding out against the rising Tangut empire. Since Tsongka was friendly with the Chinese, it was their lifeline in maintaining the trade route with the West.
Tsongka continued as an independent kingdom until the 12th century when it was finally swallowed up by the Tangut empire. But it was still famous enough in the fourteenth century that a local boy who went to study in Central Tibet was known as Tsongkhapa: “the man from Tsongkha.”*

If you squint, can you see Tsongka’s shimmering gold and turquoise temples through the heat haze and pollution of Ping’an? Perhaps not. But you can go just a little way out of the city, where the mountains rise up on the other side of the Yellow River, and visit the ancient cliff temple of Martsang. Here, it’s said, was where the monks who fled the persecution of Buddhism by the emperor Lang Darma (see here), finally came to rest.

Below the temple at Martsang is this image, said to be a self-manifesting Maitreya. That is to say, the image is said to have emerged spontaneously from the rock. I heard that it was dated by scientists to the Tang dynasty, but I haven’t been able to verify that claim. In any case, as you can see, it seems to have been repainted fairly regularly.

And then we looked up… If the temple at Martsang isn’t old, this half-collapsed cave certainly is. Notice the three mandalas painted on the ceiling.

And notice as well the little square holes leading up to the cave. Perhaps this was once a walkway, or an even bigger structure built into the side of the cliffs. When you turn around and look back towards the modern city sprawling below you, and beyond that the lush Yellow River valley you can image that, yes, this could have been the home of a Tibetan kingdom.

Wednesday, 25 August 2010

The Yuan Revolution: Art and Dynastic Change

Exhibition in the MET in New York
August 21, 2010–January 9, 2011
Galleries for Chinese Painting and Calligraphy, 2nd floor, north wing

Unidentified Artist. Lotus and Water Birds (detail), ca. 1300. Pair of hanging scrolls; ink and color on silk; Each: 54 5/8 x 25 5/16 in. (138.7 x 66.9 cm). The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, Purchase, The Dillon Fund Gift, 1988 (1988.155).

Organized to complement the Museum's major loan exhibition The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty, this installation in the Museum's permanent galleries for Chinese painting and calligraphy traces the momentous stylistic transformation in painting and calligraphy that began under Mongol rule and culminated in the literati traditions of the early Ming. The exhibit will showcase some seventy Yuan and early Ming works of art from New York–area private and public collections.

Monday, 23 August 2010

Cao Cao's tomb a fake ?

Today's Modern Express ( 23 of August 2010) reports that a tomb in Anyang, Henan Province excavated late last year that was claimed to contain the remains of legendary warrior Cao Cao is fake.

Cao Cao was one of the three warlords competing for control of China after the downfall of the mighty Han empire (BC206 - AD 220 CE). Cao's life was popularized in The Legend of Three Kingdoms, a novelized history which has been revered as one of the four Chinese literature classics.

According to the Modern Express, 23 experts at an academic forum in Suzhou have declared that the tomb is a fake, citing anachronistic styles of engraving Chinese characters as one of the sources of their suspicion. The reports says that Chinese historians are now divided into "pro-Cao" and "anti-Cao" factions.

The article also notes that soon after the announcement, the excavation site was opened to the public, with a ticket price of 60 yuan a person.

The image shows a sculpture of Cao Cao and map of the alleged tomb.

Only December last year it was big news on the front pages of the major newspapers, the tomb of Cao Cao was recently excavated !!

The tomb of Cao Cao, one of the three competing warlords for control of China after the downfall of the mighty Han empire, was excavated recently in Anyang, Henan Province.

Cao's life was popularized in The Legend of Three Kingdoms, a novelized history which has been revered as one of the four Chinese literature classics. Thanks to the book's excellent albeit biased depiction, Cao's fame is perpetuated as a Machiavellian villain, a usurper who took a weak emperor hostage, a sneaky, paranoid ruler whose ruthlessness knew no bounds.

Nevertheless there has been no shortage of revisionists who would otherwise praise Cao as a man among the greatest.

Among them, arguably the most famous one, is Chairman Mao, who praised Cao as "a real man" and "on the side of justice". The similarities between them is unmistakable: both rose to power from the lower classes, both reached considerable acclaim for their poetry aside from their political careers, and both men's legacies are very controversial.

According to the Zhengzhou Evening News, a newspaper based in Zhengzhou, capital city of Henan Province: in addition to the artifacts recovered from the site, archeologists also discovered human bones which are believed to belong to three persons. Among them, one is believed to be a male who was in his sixties, which is consistent with the historical chronicle of Cao's death at 66. This assumption is also confirmed by multiple inscriptions found in the grave with Cao's temple name The Invincible King of Wei (魏武王).

Wang Liqun, a historian who attended yesterday's media conference held in Beijing about the excavation, said that he was hopeful that by examining the recovered skull, the scientists would pinpoint the cause of Cao's headache which supposedly propelled him to kill his doctors and eventually led to his own death.

Without any doubt to be followed !!

On the Silk Road and the High Seas

On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce On View at the Norton Museum of Art August 21 through November 21, 2010

West Palm Beach, FL – On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce examines why Chinese ceramics were such prized commodities, both at home and abroad. Examples of proto-porcelain appeared in China about 3,000 years ago and hard-paste porcelain began to be made around 1,800 years ago. This precious product was sometimes called “white gold,” especially in the West. Foreign trade and changing domestic markets played a role in stimulating Chinese potters to continually reinvent their repertoire of shapes and decorative techniques. These exchanges also illuminate important episodes in cultural history.

The earliest era of Chinese trade with lands to the west began over 2,000 years ago. Before there was a Silk Road, Chinese records refer to a Jade Road where traders from the East and West met at the oasis of Khotan in Central Asia. There the Chinese acquired the type of gemstone they valued most. From the 1st through the 14th century overland and maritime exchanges of ideas and goods between China, the Mediterranean world, Japan, and Central and Southeast Asia were never controlled by a single political power. The overland road for much of its length was a fragile chain stretched across inhospitable desert and mountain terrain. Ships sailed unpredictable seas from one small city-state to another. Many were swept off course and sank, such as two recently discovered cargos of 9th- and 14th-century Chinese ceramics.

During the 18th century a flourishing shipping business, known as the “China Trade,” developed between Western nations and the Chinese port of Canton in the upper reaches of the Pearl River Delta. Trade concentrated on tea, silk, and inexpensive porcelain. “Fancy” goods and special orders, like the armorial porcelain and large decorative pieces—particularly punch bowls—were privately traded by ships’ officers. At this time, the European porcelain industry was in its infancy and production of large pieces of porcelain was problematic there.
Throughout history, the exchange of goods and ideas was never one-sided. Novel ideas from the West fascinated the emperors of the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) inspiring the creation of imperial wares, such as the pattern known in the West as mille-fleur and in China as wanhuajin. Jesuits working in Chinese imperial workshops were a conduit for European imagery and thoughts, such as the mille-fleur design often depicted in easily transportable 18th-century European engravings. The Chinese version of the mille-fleur motif found favor as a pattern on Yongzheng imperial porcelain (1723–1735) and continues to be admired in China to this day. On such wares, flowers of the four seasons miraculously bloom at the same time. One reason for the appeal of this design is its association with a pre-existing Chinese proverb foretelling prosperity: “May one hundred flowers bloom.” Comprised of over 70 objects, On the Silk Road and the High Seas: Chinese Ceramics, Culture and Commerce explores these and other tales, revealing why Chinese ceramics were so desirable at home and abroad.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Update from Field Expedition Mongolia

1.000.000 tags reached!!
At 10 AM on August 17th, user PeterZ9 from the Netherlands was exploring the map above. PeterZ9 was a relatively new virtual explorer, having joined the expedition just 1 hour previous. But he (we're assuming that you're a "he", PeterZ9!) had already examined 47 maps before this one and was on his way to becoming a proficient virtual explorer.
PeterZ9 quickly identified the road running up the center of the map and then suspected that the winding lines, banked by trees on both sides of the map were probably rivers. Next, he examined the big black blotch to the south of the river on the left. PeterZ9 placed an "ancient structure" tag here, perhaps thinking that the regular, circular shape and unusual color were indicative of some man-made activity from years gone by.
He didn't know it at the time but this was the one millionth tag contributed by our virtual explorers!
PeterZ9 has built on the massive effort from all our virtual explorers over the past 2 months. Thousands of you have marked roads and rivers, spotted structures from modern and ancient times and identified all sorts of curious anomalies on the Mongolian landscape that have puzzled, provoked, intruiged and inspired the Valley of the Khans expedition team. It would never have been possible for our team alone to analyze so many images with such intensity and expertise. So, from the entire Valley of the Khans and National Geographic team, a big THANK YOU to all our virtual explorers for the fantastic effort and great work that you have contributed.

But don't get complacent!
There are still thousands of maps that have not been explored and many more discoveries to be made.
Now is the time to redouble our efforts and find out who's going to make tag number 2,000,000!

Go to: National Geographic Field Expedition Mongolia

Saturday, 21 August 2010

Behind the scenes of Secrets of the Silk Road in Bowers Museum

The collection department from the Bowers Museum wrote an interesting and informative blog a.o. about the preparation of their Secrets of the Silk Road exhibition. Just have a look at

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Secrets of the Silk Road - Uncrating

Infant Mummy
c. 8th century B.C.
Excavated from Zaghunluq, Charchan

Two of the world's best - and most mysterious - mummies were unveiled to the press, in advance of the opening of Secrets of the Silk Road in The Houston Museum of Natural Science on Aug. 27. Keep an eye out on the news for the next few days to get a peek - and then come see them for yourself when the exhibit opens Aug. 27 - Jan. 2, 2011.

Infant Mummy
c. 8th century B.C.
Excavated from Zaghunluq, Charchan

The Beauty of Xiaohe
c. 1800 - 1500 B.C.
Excavated from Xiaohe (Little River)

Before the Unveiling of "The Beauty of Xiaohe

The Beauty of Xiaohe
c. 1800 - 1500 B.C.
Excavated from Xiaohe (Little River)

The Beauty of Xiaohe is one of the best-preserved mummies excavated along the Silk Road, in China's Tarim Basin.

Curator of Anthropology Dirk Van Tuerenhout answers questions about The Beauty of Xiaohe.

Source and copyright: Houston Museum of Natural Science

Online Chat! Secrets of the Silk Road - Revealed

From the Houston Museum of Natural Science and
The Secrets of the Silk Road Exhibition!

Time August 24 · 7:00pm - 8:00pm
Location Your Computer

Extraordinary mummies, discovered along an ancient road. Artifacts representing lavish goods, technologies and ideas exchanged between East and West thousands of years ago. Uncover these mysteries even before out Secrets of the Silk Road exhibition opens during our upcoming Online Chat!

During this online event, Curator of Anthropology Dirk Van Tuerenhout previews the exhibition, presents a never-before-seen video delving into recent genetic studies done on these striking mummies, and answers your questions about the amazing secrets it reveals.

Who were the people buried in Asia almost 4,000 years ago - with Caucasian characteristics? What do their genes tell us about where they came from? When exactly did mankind's desire to explore first push him to traverse these deserts? What was ordinary life like for these extraordinary travelers?

Explore these questions and many more during our Online Chat on Aug. 24!


Teaser Video:

Uncover The Secrets of the Silk Road from HMNS on Vimeo.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Extracts of Cyrus Cylinder found in China

A very interesting piece of news, not directly related to the main subjects of this blog but so special was published recently in the Art Newspaper.
An earlier article about this subject, called "New dicoveries made about Cyrus cylinder", published in January this year in Press TV gives more information about this subject and is added at the end of the first item.

Extracts of Cyrus Cylinder found in China
British Museum curator has identified cuneiform text inscribed on horse bones

Two fossilised horse bones with cuneiform inscriptions have been found in China, carved with extracts from the Cyrus Cylinder. They were initially dismissed as fakes because of the improbability of ancient Persian texts turning up in Beijing. But following new research, British Museum (BM) specialist Irving Finkel is now convinced of their authenticity.
This discovery looks set to transform our knowledge about what is arguably the most important surviving cuneiform text, written in the world’s earliest script. Dating from 539BC, the Cyrus Cylinder was ceremonially buried in the walls of Babylon. Its text celebrates the achievements of Cyrus the Great, ruler of the Persian empire. The clay cylinder was excavated by BM archaeologists in 1879 and sent to London, where it is one of the museum’s most important antiquities.
The texts found in China inexplicably have fewer than one in every 20 of the Cyrus text’s cuneiform signs transcribed, although they are in the correct order. The two inscribed bones were donated to the Palace Museum in Beijing in 1985 by Xue Shenwei, an elderly Chinese traditional doctor who died later that year. He said that he had learned about the pair of inscriptions in 1928. He bought the first bone in 1935 and the second in 1940, and named the sellers. Xue acquired them because he thought they were written in an unknown ancient script, presumably from China. In 1966, during the Cultural Revolution, he buried the bones for protection, digging them up later. Chinese scholars who have pursued the story believe that Xue’s account is credible.
In 1983 Xue offered the bones to the Palace Museum in the Forbidden City, which collects inscriptions. It was then that specialists told him they were written in cuneiform. It was not until two years later, when Xue donated the objects, that specialist Wu Yuhong realised that the text of the first bone came from the Cyrus proclamation (the text of the second was not identified).
The discovery
Until this year it was generally assumed that the Cyrus Cylinder was a unique object, created for ceremonial burial, and that the text had not been disseminated. Then in January two fragments of an inscribed clay tablet in the BM’s collection were found to contain part of the proclamation, suggesting that it might have been widely copied. Finkel returned to the pair of Chinese bones, to reconsider whether they might be authentic. He realised that the text on the second bone was also from the Cyrus proclamation (which had been missed in 1985), and requested more information from Beijing.
Chinese Assyriologist Yushu Gong went to the Palace Museum store to examine the bones, and also arranged a new rubbing of the inscription (done with black wax on paper), which provides a much better image of the text than existing photographs. Yushu took these to London, for a workshop that was held at the BM on 23-24 June.
Are the bones fakes?
The obvious question is whether the inscriptions are fakes—although they would be bizarre objects to fake. Why would a faker use fossilised horse bone, a material never used before for this purpose? If the bones had indeed been acquired by Xue by 1940, it would not have been easy for a Chinese forger to have gained access to the Cyrus text, which only became widely known later in the 20th century. Why would a faker have carved only one in 20 of the characters, which meant that it took years before the Cyrus text was identified? And why would a faker have sold the bones in China, where there has been virtually no market for non-Chinese antiquities?
The clinching factor for Finkel is that the partial text on the bones differs slightly from that on the Cyrus Cylinder, although it is correct in linguistic terms. Cuneiform changed over the centuries, and the signs on the bones are in a less evolved form than that of the cylinder. The individual wedge-like strokes of the signs are also different and have a slightly v-shaped top, a form that was not used in Babylon, but was used by scribes in Persia.
“The text used by the copier on the bones was not the Cyrus Cylinder, but another version, probably originally written in Persia, rather than Babylon,” Finkel believes. It could have been a version carved on stone, written with ink on leather, or inscribed on a clay tablet. Most likely the original object was sent during the reign of Cyrus to the far east of his empire, in the west of present-day China.
Scholars at the workshop had little time to digest the new evidence, and inevitably there was some scepticism. But Finkel concludes that the evidence is “completely compelling”. He is convinced that the bones have been copied from an authentic version of the Cyrus proclamation, although it is unclear at what point in the past 2,500 years the copying was done.

Source: The Art Newspaper

New discoveries made about Cyrus cylinder

New theories about the history of the Cyrus cylinder have postponed the Achaemenid clay document's exhibition in Iran.
The relic, which is currently housed at the British Museum in London, was set to be displayed in Iran from Jan. 16, 2010.
The museum recently announced in a letter that some new parts of the cylinder's broken pieces have been found, which might be a clue to some other documents sent by Cyrus the Great to other regions.
"The British Museum has invited an Iranian team to collaborate on studying the newly-found pieces," head of Iran's Cultural Heritage, Handicrafts and Tourism Organization (ICHTO) Hamid Baqaei told reporters on Saturday.
"The new finding supports the theory that 10 cylinders were made by Cyrus and sent to different territories," he said, adding, "We might start excavations to find traces of some other cylinders in Iran."
Baqaei said that in order to make up for the exhibition delay, the ICHTO has asked the British Museum to send some other ancient Persian relics to be displayed along with the cylinder.

The Cyrus cylinder is inscribed in Babylonian cuneiform with an account by Cyrus II, king of Persia (559-530 BC) and is considered the world's first charter of human rights.

Source:Press TV

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

The virtual collection of (Asean) masterpieces

More than 80 museums participate in this project by donating in principal 25 virtual artifacts each. When completed the virtual museum will have a collection of around 2.000 items.
Very useful is that this website provides a list with all the current events and exhibitions of the participating museums.

The Virtual Collection of Masterpieces is a project of ASEMUS - the Asia Europe Museum Network.
The project uses the Internet and masterpieces in the collections of contributing museums to promote mutual understanding and appreciation between the peoples of Asia and Europe.

More than eighty museums in ASEM countries have already contributed a selection of 25 masterpieces from their own collections. These finest examples of Asian and European creativity present compelling images and information and allow the telling of forceful stories. Stories that draw attention to the similarities and differences between civilizations. Stories that enhance mutual understanding of cultural differences and highlight similarities. Stories that stimulate dialogue between peoples and illuminate their histories.

The VCM will be advanced in phases. The first operational phase was the creation of this website and the expansion in ASEM countries. Subsequent phases and follow-up steps in its development such as extending the size of the collection or number of contributors and expanding the access to the collection will be defined and performed now that phase one is accomplished.

Monday, 9 August 2010

IDP Newsletter 34 is out !!!

IDP Newsletter 34 is just on line. Just have to read it still but everybody is warned, go to

Articles include The Iconography of Buddha on a Wooden Panel from Khotan, Stars on Earth — De Filippi’s 1913-4 Karakorum Expedition and a report of the St. Petersburg Dunhuang Studies Conference held in September 2009.

The image above shows the peak at Burji-La from Filippo De Filippi's 1913–4 expedition to the Karakoram.
Courtesy of the Historical Archive of the Astrophysics Observatory of Arcetri (Florence).

Sunday, 8 August 2010

A Passage to Asia, Exhibition at the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels

25 Centuries of Exchange between Asia and Europe

Friday 25.06 > Sunday 10.10.2010

To mark the 8th ASEM (Asia-Europe Meeting) summit, the Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels is presenting an exhibition (from 25 June 2010 until 10 October 2010) that looks at the historical, philosophical, economic, and cultural links between Asia and Europe, and between the Asian countries themselves. Trade and religion are the threads running through this absorbing voyage of discovery through Asia.

Together, Asia and Europe form a single gigantic continent, Eurasia, with an endless variety of landscapes, climates, fauna, and flora and an equally great diversity of peoples and cultures. For millennia past, Asia and Europe have had intense relations with each other. Both by land and by sea, commercial and political links developed between East and West. Conquerors such as Alexander the Great, Attila, and Genghis Khan set out in search of glory, wealth, and power. Marco Polo was fascinated by what he saw on his travels through Central Asia and the Far East. Vasco Da Gama and Magellan sought new routes to China. The Chinese admiral Zeng He sought diplomatic contacts with the West by sea.

Two cultural factors seem to have brought East and West into contact with each other over thousands of years: trade and religion. The land route between China and Rome, which later became known as the "Silk Road", was not the only network of trade routes. Greek, Roman, and Chinese historians noted the existence of shipping routes and ports along the coasts of the Red Sea, Yemen, the Persian Gulf, India, and South-east Asia. Commodities such as tea, spices, ceramics, and jewellery and exotic products such as ivory, perfume, incense, feathers, and even living animals were often transported across thousands of kilometres.

In the wake of the traders came pilgrims and religious and spiritual leaders. The great religions, including Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam were carried along the same trade routes. Their adherents also brought with them cultural traditions, architecture, and other art forms; these found their way throughout the continent of Asia. Trade and religion, hand in hand, made their way right across Eurasia.

The exhibition

A Passage to Asia exhibition throws light on 2,500 years of exchange between Asia and Europe via a selection of over 300 objects. From ancient times, it includes imposing burial urns, ritual bronze "Dongson" drums, and sophisticated jewellery in gold, glass, and semi-precious stones, alongside Buddhist and Hindu images from India and South-east Asia. The spread of Islam and Christianity led to the intensive production and trading of ivories, manuscripts, miniatures, and liturgical objects. Old maps and illustrated travellers' tales give an idea of the travelling conditions of the time. Mongol weaponry from the time of Genghis Khan conjures up images of the Silk Road and world conquest. Other highlights include expensive textiles from India, superbly woven and decorated, whose use as a means of payment persisted into the 19th century. The exhibition also presents recent discoveries made by underwater archaeology: the cargoes of shipwrecks that have preserved merchandise from the East down the centuries, as in a time capsule, untouched by human hand.

The works of art in A Passage to Asia form part of the cultural heritage of 16 Asian ASEM countries. ASEM stands for "Asia-Europe Meeting", a political-economic organisation that brings together the 27 member states of the European Union and 16 Asian countries: Brunei, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Laos, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, Pakistan, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The ASEM summit takes place in Brussels on 4 and 5 October 2010.

Genghis Khan, the exhibition in San Jose, USA

Genghis Khan, the exhibition
in the Tech Museum in San Jose, USA
From May 22, 2010

After a three-month run at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science which drew 175,000 visitors, "Genghis Khan: The Exhibition," opened on May 22, 2010 at the Tech Museum in San Jose. On display is an array of artifacts, many of which have never previously left Mongolia, and elaborate re-creations of Mongolian life during Chinggis Khaan"s time.
The organizers note that "there"s hardly anything that is known to have been owned by Chinggis or that his hand touched," they were able to assemble close to 250 artifacts drawn from Mongolia"s Archaeology Institute, five Mongolian museums, private collectors and — in the case of an 800-year-old mummy — the Smithsonian. They include shamans" costumes, elaborately woven silk robes, finely crafted gold bracelets and beautifully detailed swords, saddles and armor from the period.

William Fitzhugh of the Smithsonian Institution"s Arctic Studies Center, says Chinggis was an extraordinary ruler whose historical legacy needs to be reassessed in the West. Records from the period, many only now being uncovered, "give you a view of a person who is a superb organizer, a superb lawmaker, a fair and judicious ruler, somebody who supported women and gave women a lot of rights," says Fitzhugh, who is a consultant for the exhibition. "It"s wrong to say that Chinggis created a democracy, but, for the time, he was remarkably enlightened." It is the accomplishments of this "other Genghis" — as well as the achievements of his sons and grandsons — that are at the heart of the show.

The exhibition has 10 videos on aspects of life at the time, giant video maps, interactive (and kid-friendly) games and one exhibit that gives you the sense of being caught in the middle of a herd of horses. There are replicas of tribal villages and such war technology as a trebuchet, a siege engine designed by Chinese engineers that the Mongolians incorporated into their armies.

Each visitor"s ticket has a representation of one of five or six different people who would have lived during the time of the empire, and in each room, there are computers where you can go and see what happens to that person over the course of time.

In addition, "we have a whole bunch of demonstrators showing how the villages were set up and letting you fire a catapult. You get to put on Mongolian-style robes, and what I really like is that we have live entertainment every day for a couple of hours. The same traditions of dance and music that were around then are still around now — which is wonderful," the organizers have said in a promotional interview.

They predict that those who visit the exhibit will not only come away with just a very different view of Chinggis Khaan but also of "ancient history in Asia, something Americans generally don"t know very much about. That"s the central thrust of the exhibit: Let"s familiarize Americans with a particular period of Mongol history from a time when Mongol and Asian history changed the world."


Wednesday, 4 August 2010

Focus on 3 major Chinese Archeology Events

CNTV has created a number of very informative webpages with the focus on some major archeology events in China,namely:

The excavation of the sunken Nan'ao-I

The Tomb of Cao Cao

"Welcoming Buddha relics"

Tuesday, 3 August 2010

Preparation Secrets of the Silk Road in Bowers Museum

From March till July recently was in the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana the beautiful exhibition "Secret of the Silk Road" (Whoever missed this once in a lifetime opportunity, there is a second chance when this exhibition visits the Penn Museum in Philadelphia from February 5 till June 5 2011).
On YouTube some very vivid videos were published relating to the preparation of this exhibition:

The arrival of "The Beauty of Xiahoe", a Bronze Age Caucasian mummy whose origin, culture and fate remains a mystery, but whose existence extends the history of the Silk Road back over 2000 years and redefines the ancient world.

For the very first time, three well-preserved mummies from the Tarim Basin in western China have been brought to the United States. Bowers Museum offers the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to come face to face with Yingpan Man's lavish tomb goods and personal belongings including Roman glass, bow and arrows for protection, a satin perfumed sash and fine silk clothing.

Our final inspection and packing of objects for Secrets of the Silk Road took us back to Beijing where we spent half of a day at the World Art Museum. A gold funerary mask decorated with ruby-colored stones was definitely a highlight and especially the incredible Yingpan Man, an actual Silk Road trader whose clothing and funeral mask were very fine in quality. His robe's pattern appears Mediterranean in influence and even the pillow his head rests upon is exquisite in construction and design. The short movie below captures some of the highlights of the day.

Elizabeth Barber, author of "The Mummies of Urumchi" and noted scholar on the subject of ancient textiles, discusses the importance of the recent Bowers Museum Exhibition "Secrets of the Silk Road".

Monday, 2 August 2010

6 "new"books on Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books

From the Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books !!

From January 2010 the news that 6 more books were added to this site to review, read and enjoy. The total number of books on this site is now 116 with a total of 30.091 pages.
The books that were added are:

Atlas der Alterthümer der Mongolei

Title Atlas der Alterthümer der Mongolei
Subtitle Arbeiten der Orchon-Expedition
Author Radloff
Description Radloff’s 1891 Orchon Expedition report. In addition to this book containing the published materials from the expedition, he also came out with a separate work, Die altturkischen Inschriften der Mongolei, on the discovery of the Orkhon script.

An abridged one-volume version of Radloff’s original four volume expedition report, it is both in German and Russian.
Year of Publication 1892
Location of Publication Russia / St. Peterburg
Volume Information 1 Volume
ISO639-1 GermanRussian
ISO639-3 deu/orv

Aus Siberien : vol.1

Title Aus Siberien
Subtitle lose Blätter aus meinem Tagebuche
Author Radloff
Description Monograph made by Radloff based on one of his early expeditions to Siberia. From 1859-1870, Radloff traveled to Siberia, Altai, and Turkestan 10 times where he researched local languages, anthropology and archaeology. The results of his studies were published in this monograph, and Radloff went on to become a pioneer in the field of Central Asia and Turkic studies.

Includes a summary of the geography and other statistical data of western Persia; a summary of the Altai and Kyrgyz Steppe region; it also includes commentary about Western Siberia and the Dzungar people; as well as other Turkic people/Turkic nomads of Western Siberia.

About Shamanism and its religious practices, the volume also includes an account of Radloff’s expedition to ancient sites in Siberia, as well as to the Siberian border regions with China and western Mongolia. In addition, there is commentary about the Ili and Zarafashan river valleys
Year of Publication 1893
Location of Publication Germany / Leipzig
Volume Information 2 Volumes
ISO639-1 German
ISO639-3 deu

Aus Siberien : vol.2

Title Aus Siberien
Subtitle lose Blätter aus meinem Tagebuche
Author Radloff
Description Monograph made by Radloff based on one of his early expeditions to Siberia. From 1859-1870, Radloff traveled to Siberia, Altai, and Turkestan 10 times where he researched local languages, anthropology and archaeology. The results of his studies were published in this monograph, and Radloff went on to become a pioneer in the field of Central Asia and Turkic studies.
Year of Publication 1893
Location of Publication Germany / Leipzig
Volume Information 2 Volumes
ISO639-1 German
ISO639-3 deu

Iz Zaisana Cherez Khami v Tibet i na Verkhov'ya Zheltoi reki : vol.1

Title Iz Zaisana Cherez Khami v Tibet i na Verkhov'ya Zheltoi reki
Author N.M. Przhevalskii
Description Przhevalskii’s expedition report on his third expedition from 1879-80. The expedition started off from Zaysan in the eastern part of Kazakstan. From there, the team proceeded south from Dzungaria crossing the Tian Shan Mountains then on across the Barkol range to reach Hami. From there, the team crossed the Gobi desert to Suzhou in Gansu Province. The team then crossed the southern range of mountains to enter the Qaidam Basin where they investigated the source of the Yellow and Yangzi rivers. In addition to documenting information about the temple caves at Dunhuang, the team also discovered several unknown mountains in the Qaidam Basin area. This book is thought to express the very best of Przhevalskii’s travel writing in terms of both literary style and content.
Year of Publication 1883
Location of Publication Russia / St. Peterburg
Volume Information 1 Volume
ISO639-1 Russian
ISO639-3 orv

Across Asia : vol.1

Title Across Asia
Subtitle from West to East in 1906-1908
Author Mannerheim
Description Mannerheim’s expedition report on his solo journey (1906-1908) on behalf of the Russian army. Departing Saint Petersburg by train in 1906, he journeyed to Kashgar by way of Tashkent and Andizhan. From there, he continued on to explore Yarkand and Khotan. He also visited Urumqi and Turfan, before heading on to Hami, Barkul, Dunhuang, and then on to Suzhou in Gansu Province and Taiyuan/Wutai Mountain before arriving in Beijing in 1908. It was a solo journey covering some 14,000 kilometers. Acquiring 1200 relics, 2000 old manuscripts and other fragments, as well as taking 1370 photographs, his expedition was valued highly by scholars. His account was first published by the Finno-Ugrian Society in 1940, and this edition is a reprint of that manuscript. The book was published in two volumes, one on the account of his travels and the other on the artifacts he brought back. The Toyo Bunko archives only contain the first volume travel account.

Expedition report from Mannherheim’s 1906-1908 solo expedition; includes his expedition journal starting from July 6, 1906 to July 1908; with the route maps from Kashgar to Beijing and over 700 expedition site photographs.
Year of Publication 1969
Location of Publication Netherlands / Oosterhout
Volume Information 1 Volume
ISO639-1 English
ISO639-3 eng

Central Asia Atlas : vol.1

Title Central Asia Atlas
Subtitle Reports from the Scientific Expedition to the North-Western Provinces of China under the leadership of Dr. Sven Hedin : the Sino-Swedish Expedition
Author Sven Hedin
Description Hedin’s expedition report on his 1927-35 Sino-Swedish Expedition. His 47th expedition report, the Central Asian Atlas was compiled from the large quantity of astro-fix and radio-longitude data taken by the Sino-Swedish Expedition team. When work on the atlas compilation was started in 1938 it was planned to have the work published in Germany, but Germany’s defeat in WWII put the project on hold. In 1945, the Army Map Service in Washington DC took up the project. After amending various territory names, the atlas was published in 1950 as part of their AMS-1301 series. In 1966, the atlas was re-published as a Sino-Swedish Expedition publication. This latter publication had additional detailed data on local vegetation and bodies of water. Out of the countless maps created by Hedin, this particular atlas is the most well known and it, along with the maps created by Aurel Stein, remain essential reference material for those involved in Silk Road research.
Year of Publication 1966
Location of Publication Sweden / Stockholm
Volume Information 1 Volume
ISO639-1 English
ISO639-3 eng

Sunday, 1 August 2010

The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty

The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty

This is the catalogue, accompanying the exhibition in the MET in NY.

In 1215, the year Khubilai Khan (1215–1294) was born, the Mongols made their first major incursion into North China and initiated a period of extraordinary creativity in the arts that was encouraged by the confluence of many cultures and ethnic groups. This period lasted approximately 150 years and had its greatest flowering in the Yuan dynasty, founded by Khubilai in 1271 and lasting until 1368.

Xanadu to Dadu is a groundbreaking study of the art and culture produced at this time by the Chinese and by the highly skilled craftsmen from Western and Central Asia, who were selected for their abilities and brought together in Northern Chinese workshops, where they exchanged ideas, styles, and art forms. The works they produced created a new art style that would influence the arts of China in all subsequent periods. In the 11 essays included in this volume, art historians discuss the origins of new art forms, daily life in Yuan China, in particular at the imperial court and in the capital cities of Xanadu (Shangdu) and Dadu (Beijing), and the impact on the arts of the religions practiced at this time, including Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, Manichaeism, Hinduism, and Islam. The essays are accompanied by beautifully reproduced color illustrations of artworks from Chinese and international collections.

The details of this exhibition are following:
The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty
Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

•September 28, 2010- January 2, 2011
•Press preview: Monday, September 20, 10:00 a.m. - noon

The Metropolitan Museum of Art will present a major international loan exhibition devoted to the art of the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368)—one of the most dynamic and culturally rich periods in Chinese history—beginning September 21. Bringing together some 220 works drawn principally from China, with additional loans from Japan, Europe, and the United States, The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty will explore the art and material culture that flourished during the pivotal and vibrant period in Chinese culture and history dating from 1215, the year of Khubilai Kan's birth, to 1368, the fall of the Yuan dynasty. The assemblage of extraordinary works will include paintings and sculpture, as well as decorative arts in gold and silver, textile, ceramics, and lacquer, and the exhibition will highlight new art forms and styles that were generated in China as a result of the unification of the country under the reign of Khubilai Khan. The majority of works on view have never before traveled outside China.

The exhibition is made possible by the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, The Dillon Fund, The Henry Luce Foundation, Wilson and Eliot Nolen, the National Endowment for the Arts, and Jane Carroll.

During the Yuan Dynasty, China was completely subjugated by foreign conquerors for the first time in its history and became part of a larger political entity: the Mongol empire. Ironically, during this century of alien occupation, Chinese culture not only survived but was invigorated. The Mongols—lacking experience in the administration of a complex empire—gradually adapted Chinese political and cultural models in order to rule the vast domains. As the most skilled craftsmen from all over Western and Central Asia were brought into North China's workshops, the exchange of idea, styles, and art forms between native Chinese and immigrant artists began. The stimulus of this communication resulted in the creation of new art styles that provided the model for the arts of China in all subsequent periods until the 20th century.

Organized thematically, the exhibition will be presented in four parts. It will open with a section on daily life illustrating the appearance of things in China during the Yuan dynasty, particularly at the imperial court and the capital cities: Xanadu (Shangdu) and Dadu (present-day Beijing). It will include portraits of emperors and their consorts, architectural elements in stone and pottery, costumes, jewelry, and other luxury items for daily use. This section will provide the visitor with a very good idea of what greeted the eyes of Marco Polo when he first reached Dadu, the capital of the Great Khan Khubilai.

The next section will feature paintings and sculpture relating to various religions practiced in Yuan China, including Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity, Islam, Manichaeism, and Hinduism. It will also feature works associated with Nestorian Christianity, which is not well known in the U.S. and Europe but flourished in Central Asia for centuries; extremely rare examples from Inner Mongolia will be on view in this section.

Paintings and calligraphy of every major artist and school of the period will also be featured in the exhibition. Highlights of this third section will be two paintings datable to the period between the Mongols' initial incursion into north China in 1215 and the conquest of the Southern Song in 1276; they will be put in a proper context in Chinese art history for the first time in an exhibition. Chinese art became a major influence on Persian painting in Iran and Central Asia in the 14th century.

The final section of the exhibition will concentrate on the decorative arts, with emphasis on porcelain, lacquer, and textiles. The beginning and early development of underglaze decorated porcelain will be presented by important examples, particularly blue-and-white, which eventually became a universal type of porcelain in both Asia and Europe up to the present time. Textiles will be represented by luxury silks from Central Asia and China—apart from their visual appeal, they also demonstrate the exchange of motifs and weaving techniques between China and the Iranian world. A magnificent example on view will be the "cloth of gold," made famous over the world by travelers to Yuan China such as Marco Polo. A highly unusual carpet woven in the tradition of the nomadic peoples of the Eurasian steppes, with a Chinese motif surrounded by a Kufic border, will also be included in this section.

The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Metropolitan Museum and distributed by Yale University Press.
The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
In conjunction with the exhibition, the Metropolitan Museum will offer a variety of educational programs.
A special feature on the Museum's website ( will acquaint visitors with key works of art and themes from the exhibition.
The World of Khubilai Khan is organized by James C. Y. Watt, Brooke Russell Astor Chairman of the Metropolitan Museum's Department of Asian Art