Sunday, 31 July 2011

Journeys on the Silk Road

Journeys on the Silk Road by Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters
Imprint: Picador Australia
ISBN: 9781405040419
Publication Date: July 2011

The remarkable story of the world's oldest printed book begins in a meditation cave on the edge of the Gobi Desert. In 1900, a monk who guarded the sacred Caves of the Thousand Buddhas in western China discovered a hidden library that had been sealed for more than a thousand years. When explorer Aurel Stein arrived during a dangerous and secret journey in 1907, he persuaded the monk to part with some of the treasures, including a copy of the Diamond Sutra – dated AD868. Printed 500 years before Gutenberg's famous Bible, the discovery has illuminated the spread of Buddhism along the Silk Road and coincided with the growing appeal of this ancient tradition in the West. The Diamond Sutra, a key teaching of the Buddha, has influenced Jack Kerouac and the Beat Generation and continues to inspire the Dalai Lama.

Written by respected journalists Joyce Morgan and Conrad Walters, Journeys on the Silk Road is an explorer's tale, a literary investigation, an evocation of the travelling power of the book and of the impact of a spiritual tradition that has resonated with the modern world.

Author Information

Joyce Morgan has worked as a journalist for more than three decades in London, Sydney and Hong Kong. Her work has appeared in The Guardian, The Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, The Bangkok Post and The Dawn (Pakistan). She is a former arts editor of The Sydney Morning Herald and now a senior arts writer. She has also worked as a radio producer with ABC radio.
Conrad Walters has worked in the media for more than thirty years in the United States, where he won awards for investigative journalism, and in Australia, where he is a senior feature writer and book reviewer at The Sydney Morning Herald.

For more news and articles, go to

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Afghanistan rebuilds Buddhist statues destroyed by Taliban

July 27, 2011 | Joanna Kakissis | National Public Radio

The Taliban destroyed the historic statues a decade ago. But in a painstaking process, the two giant carvings of Buddha are being reconstructed on the side of a cliff in central Afghanistan.
When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan a decade ago, they were fanatical about eliminating everything they considered un-Islamic.

Their biggest targets — literally and figuratively — were the two monumental Buddha statues carved out of the sandstone cliffs in central Afghanistan. One stood nearly 180 feet tall and the other about 120 feet high, and together they had watched over the dusty Bamiyan Valley since the sixth century, several centuries before Islam reached the region.
Despite international opposition, the Taliban destroyed the statues with massive explosions in 2001. At the time they were blown up, the statues were the largest Buddha carvings in the world, and it seemed they were gone for good.

But today, teams from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, along with the International Council on Monuments and Sites, are engaged in the painstaking process of putting the broken Buddhas back together.
Up to half of the Buddha pieces can be recovered, according to Bert Praxenthaler, a German art historian and sculptor, who has been working at the site for the past eight years. He and his crew have sifted through 400 tons of rubble and have recovered many parts of the statues along with shrapnel, land mines and explosives that were used in their demolition.

But how do you rebuild the Buddhas from the rubble?
"The archaeological term is 'anastylosis,' but most people think it's some kind of strange disease," said Praxenthaler.
For those in the archaeology world, "anastylosis" is actually a familiar term. It was the process used to restore the Parthenon of Athens. It involves combining the monument's original pieces with modern material.

On a recent day, Praxenthaler was leading a group through a tunnel behind the niche where the smaller of the two statues once stood.
"We are now on top of the Buddha," he explained. "There was just a wall and a small opening to sit on the top, or the head, of the Buddha. But now there is no head."
The workers were busy removing scaffolding after months spent reinforcing the wall where the Buddha's head once was.

Mixed Feelings About Project
Bamiyan is an extremely poor and remote land in one of the world's most underdeveloped countries. The Buddha statues were once a major tourist attraction, but Afghanistan has been at war virtually nonstop for more than three decades. The fighting drove away the tourists years before the Taliban blew up the statues.
The restoration project is designed to rebuild the historic site, as well as bring back the tourists. The project has the support of Habiba Sarabi, the popular provincial governor. And there are reasons to be hopeful. Bamiyan is now considered one of the less dangerous places in Afghanistan.

Yet others, like human rights activist Abdullah Hamadi, say the empty niches where the Buddhas stood are a reminder of the Taliban's fanaticism, and should be left as they are.
"The Buddha was destroyed," said Hamadi. "If you made it, rebuilt it, that is not the history. The history is the broken Buddha."
Hamadi is from the nearby district of Yakawlang, where the Taliban massacred more than 300 members of a minority group, called the Hazaras, in 2001. Those killings took place just two months before the Taliban blew up the Buddha statues.

While Bamiyan is much safer today, the Taliban can still strike. Recently, Taliban insurgents kidnapped and beheaded Jawad Zahak, the head of the Bamiyan provincial council, while he was driving his family toward Kabul, about 150 miles to the southeast.
Some in Bamiyan say they would rather see the money for the restoration project go toward services like electricity and housing, which are in desperately short supply.

Homeless Take Shelter In Caves
In fact, the caves at the site of the Buddha statues are the only shelter some Bamiyan residents can find. Homeless villagers like Marzia and her six children are living in one of the caves, while the family's goats bleat nearby. Marzia, who like many Afghans uses only one name, said she has no use for the statues.

"We don't have a house, so where else can we live?" she said.
A few enterprising villagers have found ways to make money off the story surrounding the Buddhas. One is Said Merza Husain, known around town as the man who was forced to help the Taliban blow up the statues.
He said he had no choice but to obey the Taliban a decade ago. If he had resisted, they would have killed him. One of his friends refused to take part, and the Taliban shot him.
But that is the only information Husain will share for free. To hear more of the story, he charges anywhere between $20 and $100.

Meanwhile, Bert Praxenthaler's team was about to halt their work temporarily during the scorching Afghan summer. One longtime worker, Ali Reza, was picking up his pay. He signed his name and received a wad of Afghanis.
Praxenthaler also handed him a certificate and thanked him first in Dari, then in English. Piecing together Bamiyan's Buddhas will take many more years. After a summer break, Praxenthaler's team plans to resume their work in the fall.

On the Silk Road: Tashkent

Special photography display now showing in the Archives hallway of the Penn Museum

A collection of albumen prints from the early 1890s illustrating the manners and customs of the Kyrgyz people, and localities in the vicinity of Tashkent and Samarkand in Uzbekistan. Photographed by Bolojinsky, the images were purchased in 1896 by a Penn Museum representative attending the coronation of Czar Nicholas II and the Czarina Alexandra. These rare images offer a glimpse into a world now remote.

Photo: Saiyid Muhammad Rachim, Khan of Khiva (ruled 1864-1910). Photograph by Bolojinsky, ca. 1890. Penn Museum Image 195123.

The albumen photographs exhibited in On the Silk Road: Tashkent were purchased in 1896 by Zelia Nuttall at the annual Pan-Russian Industrial and Art Exhibition held at Nijni-Novgorod (modern Gorki) east of Moscow, where exhibitors brought artifacts, products, and other types of merchandise from all over the Russian Empire for sale or display. They illustrate the manners and customs of the Kyrgyz people, and localities in the vicinity of Tashkent and Samarkand in Uzbekistan. They were photographed by Bolojinsky, whose studio was located in Tashkent. No details of this photographer's career are known to the Archives staff, but his skill is self-evident. These rare images offer a glimpse into a world now remote.

The Story of the Collection

In 1896, Zelia Nuttall, a well-known scholar, was engaged to travel to Russia as a representative of the University of Pennsylvania Museum. The purpose of the trip was to set up exchanges with Russian museums, and to help sponsor archaeological excavations in Russia.

This opportunity came about when Phoebe Apperson Hearst (mother of William Randolph Hearst, newspaper magnate) was forced to cancel her trip to attend the coronation of Czar Nicholas II and the Czarina Alexandra. At the suggestion of Dr. William Pepper, Jr., President of the Museum's Board of Managers, Mrs. Hearst put her reservation and accommodations in Moscow at the disposal of the Museum.

Zelia Nuttall attended the coronation ceremonies and visited a number of museums. The collection she amassed comprises over 400 objects from Russia, Finland, Poland, and Russian Turkestan, including items of clothing, household implements, pottery, tools, and photographs. As a personal gift to the Museum Nuttall presented color lithographs of the coronation ceremony, as well as other coronation souvenirs such as mugs, a plate, and handkerchiefs.


Timur (1336–1405), known as Tamerlane in English, was a fourteenth-century leader and founder of the Timurid Empire in Central Asia. Through intelligence, military skill, and sheer brutality, Timur conquered an empire stretching from Russia to India, and from the Mediterranean Sea to Mongolia. His grand plan was to control the Silk Road, the central land route between Europe and China. Timur is also known as a great patron of art in Central Asia and the Middle East, especially in his capital city, Samarkand.

Wednesday, 27 July 2011

Nomad summer court of Han Dynasty discovered in Xinjiang

Archeologists in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region have something to celebrate. The ongoing excavation work in Barkol Kazakh Autonomous County has revealed a site of summer court. The site once belonged to Northern Hun people during the Han Dynasty, and some experts believe this is a ground-breaking discovery that will benefit the historical studies of Nomads.
Located on the south of Barkol County, the Heigou Excavation Site is now famous for its rich resource of archeological studies. Scholars from Northwestern University have led the excavation since last year, and so far they have found 4 residential sites and 12 ancient tombs as well as a large amount of cliff paintings, ceramics and bronze wares within the 9 square-kilometer area.
Wang Jianxin, professor of Northwestern University, said, "This is a summer court, which is similar to a temporary residential site. But common herdsmen would go from place to place, live in tents and take their livelihoods and families with them. So those who stayed in one temporary court must be of the nobles and their servants."
Historians have supported the archeologists with detailed historical records. The earliest possible period of the court may trace back to 2-thousand years ago, when Hun people had defeated Yue Zhi people and already dominated this area. This deduction indicates that long before the Silk Road, communications between Chinese and foreign people had already been established.
Wang Jianxin said, "It's a unique phenomenon because there were no similar discoveries before. Other well-known nomads, such as the Mongolians, they never had a summer court like this, even until today."
As China's National Museum and Xinjiang Archaeological Institute have joined the excavation project, an in-depth study on the settlement of ancient nomads will be carried out soon under the guidance of State Cultural Relics Bureau. The first phase is divided into 19 individual projects, and is expected to conclude in 2015.


A 21st Century Approach to Ground Surveying

From Field Expedition Mongolia / Valley of the Khans

A 21st Century Approach to Ground Surveying
Jul 26, 2011 by Andrew Huynh, Dr. Alex Novo and Nathan Ricklin

Continuing the tradition of years past, the VOTK team is using the data collected through the joint UCSD and National Geographic human computation system to find possibly ancient and undiscovered archeological sites. The discovery of these sites is an important part of the ongoing preservation of cultural heritage and could provide new insight into our past.

Our tech for the field increases exponentially every year we come back to Mongolia.

Aiding us in this effort is an exciting new remote controlled helicraft known as a hexacopter, created by none other than Radley Angelo, the youngest member in our team whose mechanical and electrical prowess has helped immensely throughout the exploration effort. Together with me, Andrew Huynh and the virtual explorers at home, we are taking our citizen science efforts to new heights as we explore archeological sites from above.

Since joining the UCSD graduate program I have been making sense of the millions of data points collected, pinpointing many possible sites throughout Mongolia. This seemingly massive undertaking is done utilizing the concept of clustering. For a particular site, hundreds of virtual explorers will independently click on a point boosting the "agreement" or validity of the point as an archeological site.

The hexacopter will provide us with an eye in the sky, revealing hidden structures or formations that may not be viewable with our ground team. The documentation and discovery of these new sites is vital to their preservation, so that future generations may experience the same awe and wonder of our ancient history as a very select few have today.

For scanning under the ground we have two different three dimensional imaging systems: The Electro Resistivity Tomography (ERT) instrument and a brand-new ground penetrating radar (GPR), just introduced to the US market last week. These instruments will allow us to see up to six meters under the ground to find objects and structures of historical significance.

Along with all of these tools we have the latest Trimble Total Station (not yet available on the market) that we'll use for precisely aligning the results of all scans and imagery into one cohesive visualization. Combined with in-house designed databasing and visualization technology, this will be perhaps the most technologically advanced archaeological survey yet done.

This year, Dr Alex Novo (Geostudi Astier, Livorno), is bringing new geophysical equipment to map the regions identified as highly significant by crowd sourced image analysis and historical survey.

3D ERT (Electrical Resistivity Tomography) is going to be used for detection and investigation of shallow and deep targets. The instrument is a Syscal Kid (Iris) which is a compact resistivity-meter. The system is multi-electrode switching (up to 24 electrodes). With 3D ERT we will be able to penetrate 6 meters into the ground.

Even though we already used GPR technology last year, now we will use a novel GPR array system composed by 7 antennas spaced at 12 cm with a center frequency of 200 MHz. The main aim is obtaining full-resolution GPR data of ... The system called STREAM (Swath Tomography Radar Equipment for Asset Mapping) (IDS of Italy) is a new revolutionary system for archeaological mapping (it was introduced in the US market this month).

In order to use these tools in such a difficult environment, our field system engineers have been fashioning on the fly sleds, cables, carts, stakes, and circuit boards. If our results are as good as their soldering we are in good shape!

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

In the Shadow of the Golden Age: Art and Identity in Asia from Gandhara to the Modern Age

In the Shadow of the Golden Age: Art and Identity in Asia from Gandhara to the Modern Age
International Conference
13. - 15. October 2011
The University of Bonn
Location: Main building of the University / Akademisches Kunstmuseum


Keynote adress:
Prof. Dr. Partha Mitter (University of Sussex and University of Oxford)
Prof. Dr. Nalini Balbir (University of Paris-3 Sorbonne-Nouvelle)
Prof. Dr. Parul Dave-Mukherji (Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi)
Prof. Dr. Christoph Emmrich (University of Toronto)
Prof. Dr. Julia A. B. Hegewald (IOA, The University of Bonn)
Regina Höfer (MA) (IOA, The University of Bonn)
Dr. Jennifer Howes (The British Library, London)
Prof. Dr. John C. Huntington (Ohio State University, Columbus)
Prof. Dr. Susan L. Huntington (Ohio State University, Columbus and Princeton University)
Prof. Dr. Mallica Landrus (Princeton University)
Prof. Dr. Ciro Lo Mucio (University of Rome La Sapienza)
Dr. Tiziana Lorenzetti (University of Rome La Sapienza)
Daniel Redlinger (MA) (IOA, The University of Bonn)
Dr. Petra Rösch (Museum für Ostasiatische Kunst, Köln)
Dr. Sarah Shaw (The University of Oxford)
Dr. William Southworth (Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam)
Dr. Eva-Maria Troelenberg (FU Berlin / Florenz)

This international conference brings together specialists in the visual arts and humanities working on material from a wide range of periods and regions throughout Asia, the Islamic world and the Western diaspora. Instead of concentrating on the so-called ‘high points’ and ‘golden ages’ of art, which have so far stood generally at the centre of art-historical enquiries, this symposium focuses on visual expressions of confrontation with the ‘other,’ struggle or isolation during times of change. These challenging but artistically fertile periods were marked by intense efforts by communities in search for new identities. Through their art and frequently through the re-use of old symbols in new settings they succeeded in redefining themselves so as to strengthen their religious, cultural or political position. In the history of art, these less investigated phases raise issues, which hold the promise of new significant contributions to the subject.

What happened to Gandharan art after its main phase of flowering came to an end in its traditional heartland? How does Hindu temple architecture react to a majority Christian cultural environment in Goa? In which ways do new rulers and religions, e.g. in medieval South India and at Angkor, relate to the sacred places and icons of previous cultures and religious groups and how do the disposed and dispossessed deal with their loss and react to the new?

The confrontation with the ‘other’ has been particularly pronounced during periods of colonisation throughout Asia. How did British colonial officials and Indian artists commissioned by them represent the different facets of the empire, how was world art exhibited and interpreted in the West and how were (and are?) categories such as ‘masterpiece’ or ‘golden age’ employed to classify and judge art?

A further particularly fertile area of enquiry is the modern age in which many traditions (religious, regal or social) appear to be threatened by globalisation and changes in value. The diverse examples of modern day artistic expressions taken from Arabia, India, Nepal and Thailand to be presented during this conference, however, suggest impressive acts of survival and creative adaptation, which enable continuity and the endurance of forms, meanings and practices under new disguises.

Organisation: Prof. Dr. Julia A. B. Hegewald (

Abstracts: click HERE

For more information, click HERE

Monday, 25 July 2011

Spirit of the Mountain

From Field Expedition Mongolia / Valley of the Khans

Spirit of the Mountain
Jul 23, 2011 by Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin

A few days ago a group of seven Shaman priests approached our camp to confer with the spirits of the holy mountain. In Shamanism (the ancient religion of Genghis Khan) mountains, rivers, lakes, trees, and other natural focal points are inhabited by the spirits of old, and the Shaman priest can call upon these spirits through sacred ceremonies.

That night while listening to the sound of the ancient drums beating in the distance, I received a message that the head shaman asked to see the leader of our group, to understand the people who were at the holy mountain. It immediately dawned on me that as the head of my team I had been summoned to be judged by the ancient spirits of the land.

Trembling with both anxiety and excitement I prepared myself for the impending moment of reckoning. I cleaned my nails, washed my face, and centered my mind.

The elements of time began to haze as I walked away from our technology-filled expedition ger (Mongolian yurt/tent) and moved through the misty night towards the beating drums. The shaman sat in front of a shrine near a small fire, massive feathers rising up from an intricate head dress. Thin black cords hung down in front of his brow like a curtain, completely covering his face. As I knelt in front of him I repeated the greeting words that had been taught to me minutes before: "Amaraa banu oho."

Bowed down low, many thoughts traveled through my mind as I listened to his low guttural words. Spoken in tongues, then translated into Mongolian, and then translated to me, I was told that my ancient ancestors on the side of my mother came from the Jurchid Tribe of old and that this was the reason for the blue spot that was a birthmark on my back as a child--the "Mongolian spot."

I was invited into their ger to learn of the culture that I had once belonged to. Through the incredible haze of smoke that filled the enclosure from the open fire at its center I could make out seven shrines with the tools of the shaman covering each. Although I was not allowed to take a photo I attempted to draw a description hours later in the confines of my own camp. It would be impossible to capture completely, but I had to try to document the incredible window into the sacred world that honored me with this moment.

When this ancient, overwhelmingly sensory and spiritual ceremony had ended, I was left with a feeling that emphasized the weight of importance and urgency that surrounds our work here, to identify, understand, and preserve our collective cultural heritage.

Sunday, 24 July 2011

The First Emperor and His Legacy Conference

The First Emperor (259 – 210 BCE), or Shi Huangdi, unified China and established the imperial system that continued until the early 20th century. He remains an intriguing historical personality in part due to the life-size terracotta army that has been associated with him. Emperors of the following Han dynasty could not avoid his example, whether in matters of the state or in the art of death. This one-day conference in English, featuring an international panel of academics and archaeologists, will provide deeper insight into the culture, funerary art, and traditions of the Qin and Han dynasties. It is held in conjunction with the current special exhibition, Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and His Legacy.

Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and His Legacy Conference
Programme Sunday, 21 August 2011 Ngee Ann Auditorium, Asian Civilisations Museum, Singapore

8.45AM – 9.00AM
9.00AM – 9.10AM
Opening remarks
Dr Alan Chong (Director, Asian Civilisations Museum)
9.10 – 10.00 AM
History’s greatest villain: examining the myth of the First Emperor
Dr Frances Wood (Head of the Chinese Section, The British Library)
10.00 – 10.50 AM
Tracking the footprints of Emperor Qin Shihuang’s ancestor: Archaeological evidence
Prof Sun Zhouyong (Associate Professor, Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology)
10.50 – 11.10 AM
Morning Tea
11.10 AM – 12.00 PM
The First Emperor’s tomb and its Eastern Zhou models: A comparative perspective
Mr Shi Jie (Ph.D. Candidate, Department of Art History, University of Chicago)
12.00 – 12.50 PM
Religion and empire in early China
Prof Lai Guolong (Assistant Professor of Chinese Art and Archaeology, University of Florida)
12.50 – 1.20 PM
Discussion / Q&A
1.20 PM – 2.30 PM

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Dunhuang art works exhibited in S China

Visitors look at the exhibited Dunhuang art works in Shenzhen of south China's Guangdong Province, July 21, 2011. An exhibition of the Dunhuang art works was opened in Guanshanyue art gallery here on Wednesday, exhibiting multiple cultural relics, including paintings and scriptures. (Xinhua/He Youbao)

Friday, 22 July 2011

Ancient Silk Road continues to wait for World Heritage status

A timetable for the submittal of an application to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) for adding historical sites along China's 2,000-year-old Silk Road to the organization's World Heritage List has been postponed numerous times, with the project having been in the works for over five years.

"Our plan to submit the final application in 2012 has fallen through, as several obstacles have caused our work to progress slowly," said Tang Wei, director of the Division for World Heritage of China's State Administration of Cultural Heritage.

The newest timetable, created during the second meeting of the Silk Road joint application project's coordination committee in Turkmenistan, states that the application should be submitted on Feb. 1, 2013.

However, Chinese officials are not optimistic about the new schedule.

"Every meeting concludes with the creation of a new schedule, but none of them have been fulfilled," said Tang.

China and several central Asian countries, including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, launched an effort to have the road listed back in 2006.

The six countries signed an agreement in Paris in October 2007 that determined the application plan and process. It also stated that historical sites along the Silk Road in China and central Asia would be first in line to apply for the World Heritage List.

"However, the central Asian countries lack expertise, funds and knowledge of cultural heritage protection and management. We still have a long way to go in meeting the list's international requirements," said Tang.

Jing Feng, chief of the Asia and Pacific section of the UNESCO World Heritage Center, said that such a large-scale multinational joint application is unprecedented.

"The joint world heritage application for the Silk Road provides a good opportunity for international and regional cooperation. However, the difficulties the project is facing are not small," said Jing.

"The Silk Road project involves a wide range of countries, and the situations in different countries are very complicated," Jing said.

"The UNESCO World Heritage Center can only help promote the application. The actual application work has to be accomplished by the applying countries, depending on inter-governmental coordination," said Jing.

Jing added that several of the central Asian countries involved have unstable political situations. These are all obstacles delaying the application process, he said.

Starting from the ancient city of Chang'an, now known as Xian, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province, the ancient Silk Road extends to the Mediterranean region in the west and the Indian subcontinent in the south. The total length of the Silk Road is over 10,000 km, with 4,000 km located within China.

As the longest and most culturally influential trade route in the world, the Silk Road played an important role in bridging the East and West and creating opportunities for prosperity and wealth for the denizens of both regions.

China has added 48 historical sites along the Silk Road, located in the provinces and autonomous regions of Henan, Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, Ningxia and Xinjiang, to the application waiting list. The six provinces and autonomous regions have compiled application documents and implemented a series of cultural heritage and environmental protection projects at the selected sites.

China's central government spends 80 million yuan (about 12.38 million U.S. dollars) every year to protect heritage sites along the Silk Road in its western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region. The government of Xian has invested 12.2 billion yuan toward a protection project for the Daming Palace, which is also on the application list.

Enthusiasm for the application has been spreading. The nations of Japan, the Republic of Korea, India, Nepal, Afghanistan and Iran have also joined the project. However, this has also complicated the application process, as Japan, Iran and India have been aiming to take a leading role in the process.

"Although the number of countries participating in the project has increased to 12, we have always believed that China and the five central Asian countries are the core members," Jing said.

"What I worry about is that if the joint application for China and the central Asian countries continues to be postponed, other countries might apply ahead of us," said Tang.

Source: Xinhua

A Window into the Past

From Field Expedition Mongolia / Valley of the Khans

A Window into the Past
July 20, 2011 by Dr. Kostas Stamatiou

We are back to the sacred lands of Northern Mongolia, after a relatively smooth journey from Ulaan Baatar (we only got stuck a couple of times and no sheep jumped off the truck to save themselves from impending doom). For a third year in a row, we are looking for the clues that will open the window to the 13th century. We have learned a lot, but many questions remain unanswered. Why is this landscape considered sacred in the hearts of the Mongol people to this very day? Is it actually the homeland of Genghis Khan, where he prepared and prayed before starting his campaigns?

The clues are hidden in historical records that span eight centuries. Searching through the files of the Royal Geographical Society, we discovered the accounts of explorers that ventured into Mongolia in the beginning of the previous century. Even at that time, they noted that the magistrate of Ulaan Baatar would visit the sacred lands, with a retinue of considerable size, to pray to the great nature spirits. This tradition has continued unchanged to this day.

Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan

Echoes of the Past: The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan
Freer Sackler / The Smithsonian's Museum of Asian Art
February 26–July 31, 2011 Arthur M. Sackler Gallery

Majestic sixth-century Chinese Buddhist sculpture is combined with 3-D imaging technology in this exploration of one of the most important groups of Buddhist devotional sites in early medieval China. Carved into the mountains of northern China, the Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan (響堂山, pronounced "shahng-tahng-shahn") were the crowning cultural achievement of the Northern Qi dynasty (550–77 CE). Once home to a magnificent array of sculptures—monumental Buddhas, divine attendant figures, and crouching monsters framed by floral motifs—the limestone caves were severely damaged in the first half of the twentieth century, when their contents were chiseled away and offered for sale on the international art market.
In Echoes of the Past, ancient sculptural masterpieces are united with a set of innovative digital components, including a video installation that offers an immersive, kinetic re-creation of one of the largest stone temples. Touch screens and research kiosks offer more detailed information about the site and the themes explored in the exhibition.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Where Art Meets Science: Ancient Sculpture from the Hindu-Buddhist World

Where Art Meets Science: Ancient Sculpture from the Hindu-Buddhist World

Norton Simon Museum, Pasadena, California
April 22, 2011 - August 01, 2011

Before ancient objects enter a museum collection, they often travel vast distances and endure various periods of use, disuse, loss, and rediscovery. Their original meaning and function can become lost or obscured. For this reason, museums conduct extensive research on all objects entering their collections. Curators and conservators faithfully survey objects for any hints about their origins and provenance to ensure their overall general health, factual documentation and preservation. Where Art Meets Science: Ancient Sculpture from the Hindu-Buddhist World, a focused exhibition of primarily Cambodian sculpture from the Norton Simon foundations’ permanent collections, examines the connoisseurship and conservation involved in identifying and preserving these ancient objects.

A collaboration between the museum’s assistant curator of Asian art, Melody N. Rodari, and its conservator, John Griswold, this small installation explores how the place of origin and date of an object can be determined by the rendering of drapery pleats, hairstyles and ornaments of iconic statuary from South and Southeast Asia dating from the 3rd through 13th centuries. Furthermore, analytical methods to help identify traces of pigments, binders, and applied organic materials will be introduced, as will a discussion about distinguishing ancient tool marks from later ones.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Return to the Valley of the Khans

The third expedition from the team of Albert Yu-Min Lin has started and we can watch it live at National Geographic's Field Expedition Mongolia and participate by looking for ancient structures on the maps supplied by this site.

Find it out your self!!

Read about daily progress by following the site's blog!!

Return to the Valley of the Khans
Jul 12, 2011 by Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin

Hello friends!

Today we embark upon the third major expedition of the Valley of the Khans project, with the goal of applying noninvasive technologies to a search for the tomb of Genghis Khan. Over the years we have increased the sophistication of our tools, collected clues, and honed in on this region of interest. We will be carrying with us the most advanced ground-penetrating radar and electro-magnetic detection systems and satellite and aerial drone technologies. Also, thanks to the amazing citizen science platform we will also carry with us the combined efforts of over 1.8 million image analytic contributions from participants like you.

While this search leads us to a physical understanding of a legacy, it has opened our eyes to the metaphysical understanding of a man who changed the world. Mongolia is a place of unending beauty, where grassy steppes wipe away the hands of time. And what remains is a spirit of pride and determination that defined the modern world.

On behalf of our whole team I would like to thank you for your continued effort as each data point generated impacts our decisions in the field! It is an honor to be a part of this massive collaborative effort of exploration!

Albert Yu-Min Lin and the VOTK team

The Trek to Base Camp
Jul 15, 2011 by Dr. Shay Har-Noy

"Time is an uncertain notion in Mongolia."

They say that you should measure distances in Mongolia by hours rather than by kilometers. Over the last two days we have covered maybe 200 km but had to travel 12 hours each day. These aren't 200 km of freeways, city streets, or traffic. Rather, almost that entire distance is composed of muddy roads, river crossings, politicking, logistical maneuverings, thunderstorms, scouting with horses and car break downs. Just lunch alone can be a daunting challenge. Consider having to feed 25 people two to three times a day where there are no restaurants, supermarkets or convenience stores.

Over the last two expeditions we have learned that on travel days, one must carry on their person anything they might need including rain gear, food, and water as we are constantly switching between vehicles, horses, and walking. Nonetheless, during this year's journey we still managed to be caught during high noon with little water or food only to have the sun disappear to a fast moving thunderstorm. These are the times in which the entire team bands together and shares whatever they can find.

As I look outside of our ger (Mongolian yurt) I see our fleet of expedition vehicles: 2 Russian vans, 2 Russian military trucks (aka "the 66"), 2 jeeps, 12 horses, 1 goat, and 1 sheep. I would like to say that it was due to our tenacity we were able to arrive at our main base camp. However, tenacity is only a prerequisite. As the skies parted, we realized that we'd only made it because the mountains had permitted our passage.

Amazing Collaboration
Jul 18, 2011 by Dr. Fredrik Hiebert

Our team is comprised of a diversity of people: engineers, archaeologists, photographers, technology specialists, and historians. Not to mention the horsemen, cooks, drivers, translators and our esteemed co-PI and specialist on Mongol history and culture Dr. Ishdorj.

Between the two authors of this post, one is the oldest of the US group (ha! I’m not going to tell you how old) and one is the youngest at 19. Andrew (computer science) says “this is awesome.” We have the most amazing conversations that cross disciplines and topics – from the history of Mongolia to how to take apart electronic equipment and put it back together better than it was. This is really the best part of the expedition - the exposure to and the immersion in such a variety of ideas and disciplines.

Nevkat – An Ancient Silk Road City

From the Blog " Postcard from Bishkek / Observations from an expat" by Ian Claytor in the Kyrgiz republic, the following article which he wrote on May 15, 2011:

Nevkat – An Ancient Silk Road City

About eight kilometres East of the city of Kant in Northern Kyrgyzstan lies the modern village of Krasnaya Rechka, (“Red River”). This is the site of the ancient towns of Suyab and Nevkat (“New City”), a Silk Road city that flourished between the 6th and 12th centuries. The identification is based on manuscripts found at the site.

By all accounts, Nevkat was a major metropolis. Indeed, it was probably the largest of all the medieval cities in what is now Kyrgyzstan – and, according to one author, was the “most north-easterly of the central Asian ‘super cities’” and was, at one time, “one of the world’s most important trading centres”.

Founded by the Sogdians, (an Iranian speaking people), in the fifth century, in the seventh and eighth centuries it boasted a population of 100.000. It had over 18 kilometres of city walls – as long as those of ancient Rome – which enclosed an area of 25 square kilometres. Inside these walls were public buildings, markets, gardens and even farms.

In the North-eastern part of the city was a vast citadel, built on a massive artificial platform – which is all that remains easily visible today. Measuring some 800m across and 20m high – 30m in the extreme South-Eastern corner where it is thought the ruler’s palace was located, the mound comprises some 13 million cubic meters of earth and mud bricks, it is five times the size of the Great Pyramid of Cheops in Egypt and it, apparently, is the largest man-made mound in the world. It has been estimated that a workforce of several thousand must have been employed in its construction – which could have taken a decade, or more.

This citadel was almost certainly an “upper town” for the ruling elite of the city – probably Sogdians, who are also known locally as Saks. However, it was not a mono-cultural city. A necropolis showed signs of a number of different funeral techniques and traditions. Other peoples who are thought to have populated the city include Chinese, Uighurs, Tibetans, Persians as well as the local Saks. Archaeologists have found artefacts showing that Buddhists, Zoroastrians Nestorians, Manicheans and pagans all thrived here.

Particular archaeological finds have included: the remains of a large sculpture of the Buddha, which would have stood 12 meters high when complete, which were discovered in the corridors one of the two Buddhist temples uncovered. Also shards of 1.000 year old pottery litter the site.

Nevkat and the other towns of the Chuy Valley are mentioned by the Chinese pilgrim Hsuan Tsang, who visited the area in around 620 CE.

All that remains today are irregular mounds and a couple of eroded clay walls of the ancient fortifications, but, as Daniel Prior writes in The Bishkek Handbook:
"For those who are able to sightsee without seeing standing buildings, Krasnaya Rechka – prettier in setting and more conducive to contemplation than the history-factory at Burana – offers a subtle vista on the past. From the summit of the citadel, where the ground underfoot is thickly strewn with pieces of thousand-year-old pottery, on a clear day, you can see almost to Ch’ang An and Byzantium."

Despite it’s place in history, finding Nevkat is not actually easy. A lot of local people are not aware that it is there, and there are no signposts. Indeed, I have attended a couple of meetings where I and other foreigners, (they tend to be Japanese, who seem to have a fascination with the Silk Road and this particular period), have talked about the difficulty of finding the place and even of having to abandon the search.

In fact, the easiest way to see Nevkat, (albeit from a distance), is when travelling from Bishkek to Issyk Kul on the new road that bypasses the villages and the towns of Kant and Tokmak. It is possible to see the mound of the citadel and the embankment that marked the site of the old town rising from the Chui plain.

To get to Nevkat: First, head for the modern village of Krasnaya Rechka, about 30 km east of Bishkek. Go just a bit more than 2 km past the gas station at the eastern end of the village, and you’ll see a dirt road off to your left (north). Turn onto the track and go on for about a kilometre. You can’t miss the citadel. It looms 20 meters over the valley floor.

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

Ruin in Tabriz

Just an old beautiful picture from Sven Hedin

Title: ruin building, Identity:1021.III.0222 1021.III.0222 Location: Iran: Tabriz ,Persons:SvenHedin, Sven Anders, Sven Hedin Foundation

After publishing "Studiolum" wrote the following comment:
"This is the famous Blue Mosque next the bazaar, I mean what has been left of its facade (the entrance iwan) after the earthquake of 1779. Shortly before the Islamic Revolution it has been restored, which has done good to the iwan, but has deleted the details of the walls which can be still seen on this picture".

Secret revealed of gold thread wrapping up Sakymuni

Under the head "60th anniversary of the Tibet's peaceful liberation" CCTV has put on their site a webpage fully dedicated to this subject.
Whoever knows the long history of Tibet ( which is definitely much longer than 60 years) will not be fooled by this cheap way of influencing the public opinion ( you have to be really stupid to fall for these kind of nonsense stories) but anyway, the history bits about Tibet are good, as usual with CCTV.

In 1987, Famen Temple was in the world's spotlight when over one thousand relics dating back to one thousand years ago were unearthed there. Over the following decades, experts have been researching the rare findings of the Tang Dynasty. The latest discovery has unveiled the secret of the gold thread silk that was used to wrap the relics of Sakymuni.
The five pieces shown here are the silk that packed Sakymuni's bones and the pearl-like beads found among the cremated ashes of the Buddhist spiritual master. They were among the over one-thousand pieces of findings discovered in the underground palace of Famen Temple. With a history of more than 17-hundred years, Famen temple is also known as the ancestor of the pagoda temple in the Guanzhong area or the lower valley of the Weihe River in northwest China.
Over 700 pieces of silk were found. They were used to wrap valuable jewelry offered by seven emperors of the Tang Dynasty. Most of the silk are decorated with gold threads, used exclusively for the imperial family in ancient China.
Deconstructed under the microscope, experts unveiled that those thin gold threads are composed of two parts: a very thin gold foil around a core of silk which is only one tenth of a millimeter in diameter. An analysis of 200 examples helps us to see that the gold foil is not pure but contains 15% silver.
Source CCTV

Kyrgyz archaeologists unearth Buddha statue

Archaeologists in Kyrgyzstan have unearthed a massive statue of Buddha in the hills outside the capital Bishkek.
A team of archaeologists working in an excavation site at Krasnaya Rechka, 35km outside the capital, discovered a 1.5 metre high Buddha.
Archaeologists from the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences, working with colleagues from the Russian Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, were digging in a series of fields which they believe cover the remains of a Buddhist monastery complex.
"This sculpture is as high as two humans. If we could straighten it out and put it vertically, its height would be about four metres. As it is sitting, it's about one and a half to two metres (high)," said Valery Kolchenko, an archaeologist from the Kyrgyz National Academy of Sciences.
Archaeologists believe the statue dates back to a time between the 8th to 10th centuries, though further tests are needed to pinpoint its exact age.
"The excavation of this sculpture is a very laborious task, that is why we cannot date this artefact to any particular time. First of all we need to excavate it and then we can say how old it is," said Asan Torgoyev from the Oriental Studies Department of the Hermitage.
Finding Buddhist remains of this kind is rare in the mountainous regions of Kyrgyzstan. Pre-Islamic Buddhist culture is well documented further south in Tajikistan, but very unusual in its northern neighbour, Kyrgyzstan.
Locals are accustomed to the excavations, knowing very well that their farm land is in a rich archaeological area.
In earlier excavations at the same site near the village of Krasnaya Rechka, archaeologists discovered the remains of a Buddhist temple, a fortress, a Karakhanid palace complex and Buddhist as well as early Christian cemeteries.

Source: NTDTV 18 July 2011

Monday, 18 July 2011

China unearthed in Africa: Chinese ceramics from archaeological excavations in Southern Africa

This lecture was held on July 12, 2011 at the Oriental Ceramic Society in London, UK by Alexander Duffey

This lecture traces the earliest contacts of China with Africa and shows how Chinese ceramics found their way into the interior of sub-Saharan Africa from as early as the 8th century onwards. Although much of the trade in Chinese ceramics was done by intermediaries, there were periods in which the Chinese entered into active contact with African communities. Recent archaeological excavations in the sub-Saharan interior, as well as marine archaeology, have brought new facts to light to reveal that Chinese ceramics from as early as the Tang and Song dynasties found their way into the Southern African hinterland. Such early Chinese ceramics have been found at Great Zimbabwe and Dhlo-Dhlo in Zimbabwe, Shashi in Botswana, Mapungubwe and Shroda in South Africa and Chibuene, Inhambane and Sena in Mozambique. In addition, superb examples of early Ming export porcelain have been found at many excavation sites in sub-Saharan Africa and also at various wreck sites of Portuguese and Dutch ships along the Mozambique and South African East coast. Recent finds and conclusions will be highlighted in this lecture.

Alexander Duffey studied History of Art at the University of Pretoria, where he became Associate-Professor in the Department of Art History in 1988 as well as Head of History of Art in the new Department Visual Arts and Art History. He has been the Head Curator of the Heritage Collections of the university since 2004 and from 2005 until 2008 he drafted new policies for the establishment of the University of Pretoria Art and Heritage Committee. He has been a Board Member of the National Cultural History Museum and Council member of the South African Association of Art Historians and Council member of the National Heritage Council. At present he is a Council member of the Pretoria Arts Association, the Heritage Objects Forum of the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) and the Art Advisory Committee of the South African Academy for Science and Arts. He is the author of numerous scientific publications and a number of books on South African art and culture. In June 2009 he was awarded the Stals Prize for his contribution to History of Art in South Africa and on 18 November 2009 he received the honorary medal of the South African National Association for the Visual Arts (SANAVA) for his contribution to Art and History of Art in South Africa.

Studies on the Mongol Empire and Early Muslim India

Studies on the Mongol Empire and Early Muslim India by Peter Jackson

The first section of this volume brings together five studies on the Mongol empire. The accent is on the ideology behind Mongol expansion, on the dissolution of the empire into a number of rival khanates, and on the relations between the Mongol regimes and their Christian subjects within and potential allies outside. Three pieces in the second section relate to the early history of the Delhi Sultanate, with particular reference to the role of its Turkish slave (ghulam) officers and guards, while a fourth examines the collapse in 1206-15 of the Ghurid dynasty, whose conquests in northern India had created the preconditions for the Sultanate's emergence. The final three papers are concerned with Mongol pressure on Muslim India and the capacity of the Delhi Sultanate to withstand it.

Preface; The Mongol Empire: The dissolution of the Mongol empire; From ulus to khanate: the making of the Mongol states, c.1220–c.1290; Hülegü Khan and the Christians: the making of a myth; The Mongols and the faith of the conquered; World-conquest and local accommodation: threat and blandishment in Mongol diplomacy. The Formation of Muslim India: The fall of the Ghurid dynasty; Turkish slaves on Islam's Indian frontier; The Mamluk institution in early Muslim India; Sultan Radiyya bint Iltutmish. The Mongols and the Delhi Sultanate: Jalal al-Din, the Mongols and the Khwarazmian conquest of the Panjab and Sind; The Mongols and the Delhi Sultanate in the reign of Muhammad Tughluq (1325–1351); Delhi: the problem of a vast military encampment; Index.

About the Author:
Peter Jackson is Professor of Medieval History in the School of Humanities (History) at Keele University, UK.

‘From his post in Keele, Peter Jackson has been able to produce a steady output of major scholarly works which have shaped the way the Mongol Empire has been viewed over the past three decades. … Variorum's timely publication of some of Peter Jackson's key papers places information spanning many enduring issues conveniently between the same covers. Many of these papers have maintained their relevance and importance over the decades and the reissuing of these reflections and studies from Jackon's valued career is very welcome.’ Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

Full contents list



The Mongols and the Ming

The Mongols & the Ming:
New Approaches to the Fourteenth Century

Workshop at the University of Warwick, Coventry, UK
10-11 June 2011

Friday 10 June: Ramphal Building (R0.3/4)
Convenor: Dr Anne Gerritsen

Programme (also available in PDF form):

9:00 Welcome

9:15-12:30 The Mongols (chair: Anne Gerritsen)

9:15-10:15 Morris Rossabi, ‘Notes on Mongol Influences on the Ming Dynasty’
10:15-11:15 Peter Jackson, ‘The Mongols and the Islamic World’
11:30-12:30 David Robinson, ‘In the Shadow Empire: The Early Ming Court in Eurasia’

13:45-17:15 Art Historical Approaches (chair: Stephen McDowall)

13:45-14:45 Ankeney Weitz, ‘All Puns Intended! Word-Image Play in the Yuan’
14:45-15:45 Yuka Kadoi, ‘Further Thoughts on Islamic Chinoiserie: Sino-Persian Artistic Interactions in the Late 14th century’
16:15-17:15 Shane McCausland, ‘What Art did Yuan Bequeath to Ming?’
17:30-18:30 ‘Ming China 1400-1450: Courts & Contacts’

Presentation by Craig Clunas & Jessica Harrison-Hall on a forthcoming exhibition at the British Museum (September 2014-January 2015).

Saturday 11 June: IAS Seminar Room

9:15-12:30 Material Culture (chair: Regina Llamas)

9:15-10:15 Dagmar Schäfer, ‘Multimedia Culture: Tao Zongyi writes about Practical Knowledge and Material Culture’
10.15-11.15 Anne Gerritsen, ‘Shufu Ceramics and the Material Culture of the Yuan Court’
11:30-12:30 Shih Ching-fei, ‘The Multiple Markets of Jingdezhen Blue-and-White Porcelain in the Mongol Yuan period’

13:45-17:15 Comparative Perspectives (chair: Regina Llamas)

13:45-14:45 Elif Akcetin, ‘Objects on the Move: A Reinterpretation of Qianlong-era Corruption Cases (1736-1795)’
14:45-15:45 Peter Ditmanson, ‘Gender and Daoxue in the Fourteenth Century’
16:15-17:15 Kaveh Hemmat, ‘Merchants, Material Culture, and the Sino-Islamic Contact Zone’

17:15-18:00 Final Discussion & Future Directions (chair: Anne Gerritsen)

The Mongols and Global History

The Mongols and Global History by Morris Rossabi

An accessible, documents-based introduction to the history of the Mongols.

The volume opens with a brief original essay by Morris Rossabi, one of the world's foremost scholars on the Mongols. Rossabi's essay gives a historical and interpretive overview of the Mongols and charts their invasions and subsequent rule over the largest contiguous land empire in world history. Following is a rich collection of primary sources translated into English from Armenian, Arabic, Chinese, Franco-Italian, Italian, Korean, Latin, Persian, Russian, Syriac, and Tibetan that will give students a clear sense of the extraordinary geographic and linguistic range of the Mongol Empire as well as insight into the empire's rise, how it governed, and how it fell. Each primary source includes a headnote and study questions. The volume ends with a list of further readings.

About the series: The Norton Casebooks in History provide students with everything they need for in-depth study of select topics in major periods studied in American and world history. Each volume consists of an introductory essay by the editor on the topic, primary sources, and recent essays by historians that explore different interpretations. Each volume combines the most authoritative text available with contextual and critical materials that bring the topic to life for students.

November 2010
ISBN 978-0-393-92711-5
202 pages



Map of Mongol Campaigns and Conquest
Genealogical Charts of the Four Major Khanates


Grigor of Akanc, History of the Nation of the Archers
John of Plano Carpini, Mission to Asia
Marignolli's Recollections of Eastern Travel
Kirakos of Ganjak, On the Mongols


The Secret History of the Mongols
Rashid al-Din, Compendium of Chronicles
The Secret History of the Mongols
Juvaini, The History of the World Conqueror
The Travels of Ibn Battuta
Rashid al-Din, Compendium of Chronicles
Changchun, The Travels of an Alchemist


The Chronicle of Novgorod
Grigor of Akanc, History of the Nation of the Archers
Marco Polo, The Description of the World
Rashid al-Din, Compendium of Chronicles
Baybars I of Egypt
The Letter of the Great Khan Güyüg to Pope Innocent IV


Rashid al-Din, Compendium of Chronicles
Marco Polo, The Description of the World
Anonymous, Portrait of Khubilai Khan (visual source)
Liu Guandao, Khubilai Khan on a Hunt (visual source)
Chŏng In-ji, Koryŏ sa
'Phags-pa lama, Prince Jin-gim's Textbook of Tibetan Buddhism
Francesco Balducci Pegolotti, Cathay and the Way Thither
Marco Polo, The Description of the World
Zhou Daguan, A Record of Cambodia
E. A. Wallis Budge, The Monks of Kublai Khan, Emperor of China


Juvaini, The History of the World Conqueror
Rashid al-Din, The Successors of Genghis Khan




Central Asia: A Maturing Field

On September 20- 22, 2011 will be held the 12th ESCAS Biennal Conference at the University of Cambridge, UK. ESCAS stands for: European Society for Central Asia Studies, University of Cambridge, UK

Accepted papers relating to this conference

- Dilyara Atajanova, "The Diversity between European and Central Asian Handicraft Statutes"
- Dilnoza Duturaeva, "Khitan-Nomadic, Chinese and Central Asian aspects of the Qara Khitai Culture"
- William Fitzhugh, "The Mongolian Deer Stone-Khirigsuur Complex and its Inner Asian Context"
- Ahmet Hojam, "The legends about “Fragrant concubine”: the collective memory of the Uyghur who had been migrated to
Peking after Manchu conquered East Turkistan"
- Richard Kortum, "Mongolian Deer Imagery from the Biluut Rock Art Complex"
- Kenneth Lymer, "Rock Art and Landscape in the later Bronze Age to Iron Age of southeastern Kazakhstan"
- Elena Paskaleva, "The Architecture of the Four- iwan Kosh"
- Zukhra Rakhimova, "Sufi Clothes in the Temurid miniature painting"
- Chienyu Shih, "Kashgar ‘Old City’ Dismantlement: a Project to Restructure Uyghur Social and National Identity"
- Heather Sonntag, "Re-Photography & Imperial Rule: A Contest for “Turkestan” in Album Images of the Shrine Complex of
Ahmad Yasavi"
- Sylvia Zhekova, "The miroir of the self or the beginning of photography in Turkestan"

For more information, go to the site of MIASU, the Mongolia and Inner Asia Studies Unit.

Saturday, 16 July 2011

25th Anniversary issue Sino- Platonic Papers no 208 is out !

Reviews XIII, edited by
Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations University of Pennsylvania

The first issue of Sino-Platonic Papers (SPP), entitled “The Need for an Alphabetically Arranged General Usage Dictionary of Mandarin Chinese: A Review Article of Some Recent Dictionaries and Current Lexicographical Projects,” appeared in February of 1986. Three things are noteworthy about that first issue of SPP:
1. It served as a manifesto that culminated in the ABC series of user-friendly, single sort, alphabetically ordered dictionaries for the study of Chinese that is published by the University of Hawaii Press.
2. It was in essence and in fact a review issue. 3. It came out a quarter of a century ago this month.
In the years that followed, twelve more issues of SPP appeared that were devoted entirely to reviews. This shows the great importance that we at SPP have placed upon reviews for the advancement of scholarship and the spread of knowledge. It should, incidentally, be noted that all twelve review issues of SPP are available for free download at the SPP website (www.sino-
From the beginning up to the twelfth review collection in 2005, the overwhelming majority of the reviews were written by the editor himself, although others have also contributed from time to time.
Given the close association between SPP and the mission of writing responsibly critical reviews on matters of language, script, and culture, plus the desire to celebrate the 25th anniversary of our series, we have decided to make this, the 208th issue of SPP (February 2011), the 13th review issue. We earnestly hope that the reviews gathered herein will serve the useful
purpose of introducing readers to the best new or under-recognized works in our various fields and cautioning them against publications that may be less worthy of their attention.
Finally, we will undoubtedly be assembling additional review issues in the future, and hereby warmly welcome all readers of SPP to submit reviews of publications which they wish to call to the attention of our colleagues and students who constitute the broad readership of this journal.

Read Sino- Platonic Papers and click HERE

Ancient China and Its Enemies: The Rise of Nomadic Power in East Asian History by Nicola Di Cosmo. Review written by John Didier

The Prehistory of the Silk Road by E. E. Kuzmina, ed. Victor H. Mair. Review written by Irene Good

Mozi: A Complete Translation by Ian Johnston. Review by Zhao Lu

Envisioning Eternal Empire: Chinese Political Thought of the Warring States Era by Yuri Pines. Review written by Kenneth W. Holloway

The Politics of Mourning in Early China by Miranda Brown. Review by Thomas Radice

The Revelation of the Magi: The Lost Tale of the Wise Men’s Journey to Bethlehem by Brent Landau. Review by Annette Yoshiko Reed

A Story Waiting to Pierce You: Mongolia, Tibet and the Destiny of the Western World by Peter Kingsley

Rome and China: Comparative Perspectives on Ancient World Empires, Walter Scheidel, editor Oxford Studies in Early Empires, ed. Nicola Di Cosmo, Mark Edward Lewis, and Walter Scheidel

The Camel’s Load in Life and Death: Iconography and 64 Ideology of Chinese Pottery Figurines from Han to Tang and Their Relevance to Trade along the Silk Routes by Elfriede Regina Knauer. Review by Victor H. Mair

Ethnic Identity in Tang China by Marc Abramson. Review by Sanping Chen

Imperial China, 900–1800 by F. W. Mote. Review by Erling Hoh

Burana Tower

This is the view from atop Burana Tower, a 10th or 11th century tower used to guard the silk road which passed through present day Kyrgyzstan.

The Burana Tower is a large minaret in the Chuy Valley in northern Kyrgyzstan. It is located about 80 km east of the country's capital Bishkek, near the town of Tokmok. The tower, along with grave markers, some earthworks and the remnants of a castle and three mausoleums, is all that remains of the ancient city of Balasagun, which was established by the Karakhanids at the end of the 9th century. An external staircase and steep, winding stairway inside the tower enables visitors to climb to the top.
The tower was originally 45 m (148 ft) high. However, over the centuries a number of earthquakes caused significant damage to the structure. The last major earthquake in the 15th century destroyed the top half of the tower, reducing it to its current height of 25m (82 ft). A renovation project was carried out in the 1970s to restore its foundation and repair the west-facing side of the tower, which was in danger of collapse.

The winding stairway inside the Burana Tower

The entire site, including the mausoleums, castle foundations and grave markers, now functions as museum and there is a small building on the site containing historical information as well as artifacts found at the site and in the surrounding region.

A legend connected with the tower says that a witch warned a local king that his newly-born daughter would die once she reached the age of eighteen. To protect her, he built a tall tower where he sequestered his daughter. No one entered the tower, except the daughter's servant who brought her food. The daughter grew up alone and became a beautiful young lady. One day, however, a poisonous spider was hiding in the food brought by the servant. The spider bit the girl, and she died in the tower, at the age of eighteen.

Friday, 15 July 2011

Site of Yuan Dynasty capital to open on July 15

Site of the Yuan Dynasty Upper Capital (Shangdu), also known as Xanadu, has been prepared for the application to be considered a World Heritage in 2012. It will be open to the public on July 15, said Liu Xinle, deputy governor of China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, in a government work report.
With a 740-year history, the site is located in Xilin Gol League of China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, 275 kilometers north of Beijing. In 1260 AD, Kublai Khan found the capital of the Yuan Dynasty here and four years later, he found another capital called Dadu (Middle Capital), geographically corresponding to today's Beijing.
Shangdu is among the few cities established by nomadic nations in history. And the site is also regarded as the best-preserved nomadic cultural heritage.

Editor:Wang Chuhan |Source: People's Daily

Ancient tombs along "south silk road" on Qinghai-Tibet plateau link cultures, attract thieves

The tombs of the Tuyuhun Empire (417-688) on the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau are believed to witness a solid history that show the amalgamation of Tibetan and Han peoples.

Dulan County, Qinghai Province, July 11 (Xinhua) -- In the silent mountains of the Qinghai-Tibet Plateau, an old Tibetan man herds his sheep near the 1,500-year-old tombs to protect them from grave robbers.H "The robbers used to be quite rampant here, and who knows how much treasure they stole, but it really hurts when I think about it," said Shihorgya, the 55-year-old grave keeper of the 2,000 tombs in Reshui Village in Dulan County in Haixi Mongol and Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture.
Growing up in the remote village, Shihorgya used to be a herd boy, sitting on the hills, staring at the tombs and wondering what secrets were buried there.
In the 1980s, the ancient tombs were identified as being built during the Tuyuhun Kingdom (417A.D.-688A.D.). They were listed as one of the top six national archeology discoveries of the year in 1983, and listed as one of the national key units of cultural relics protection in 1996.
As the connection between ancient central China and ancient Tibet, the Tuyuhung Kingdom was on the South Silk Road, which was unimpeded after the 7th century as the empire had been protecting the trade passage with their castles and daks, while the Silk Road in northern China was blocked by wars and riots, said Xu Xingguo, an archeologist at the Archaeology Institute of Qinghai Province, who is in charge of the excavation of the graves.
"The empire played an important role to protect the communication and trade between the two places, and the countless cultural relics are of great value," Xu said.
In front of Shihorgya's home, a nine-floored tomb was identified to be the most magnificent large imperial tomb belonging to Empire of Tuyuhun, which was built in the eagle-shaped mountains. It had been robbed before the archaeologists arrived.
The archaeological work was launched in 1983, but thieves remained rampant at the end of 2000, said Han Musheng, director of cultural bureau of Dulan County. Just in the year 2000, robbers raided 130 graves, he added.
"Robbers took everything they could get their hands on--they let nothing pass," Han said.
The tombs are praised to be "Tibetan-Han Civilization Pyramid," as hundreds of thousands of cultural relics from ancient central China and the Tibet have been unearthed here, Xu said.
"The graves are solid history that show the amalgamation of Tibetan people and Han people," Xu said.
Thousands of pieces of silk were discovered here, which still have clear patterns and bright colors.
The architect style of the tombs as well as the silk patterns are all in Tang Dynasty style, which means they were widely used in Yuyuhun and Tibetan areas, Xu said.
Special patterns that include birds and other animals were adopted in the silk patterns, and Chinese characters can be seen on the unearthed relics, he said.
As robbers continued to threaten site, the county's government has launched a series of measures to stop them, Han said.
More than 30 administers have been recruited among the locals by the county's government to patrol in the mountains and report suspects, Han said.
"The measures have been effective," he said. "They caught five robbers last year."
In addition, more than 2 million yuan (308,000 U.S. dollars) has been provided to build a protection station for the graves, and video supervision systems and earth-wave detectors will be installed, Han said.
Barrel-drains and fences will be built for the large graves and trees will be planted in the treeless mountains.
Some of the cultural relics were kept in the cultural relics administration within the police station.
"It might be the only police station that guards cultural relics,said Mao Lansheng, director of the administration.
A protection center with a new museum opened in May in the county and exhibited more than 200 precious relics, Mao said.
"We want to open a window to the Han, Tibet and Tuyuhun cultures, to let the world know more about the history of the Qinghai-Tibet plateau," he said.

Editor:Zou Xian |Source: Xinhua

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Chinas Erben - Handelskrieg auf hoher See

Watch Chinas Erben - Handelskrieg auf hoher See in Educational & How-To  |  View More Free Videos Online at

Chinas Erben
Handelskrieg auf hoher See
Eine Dokumentation von Robert Wortmann

Prächtige Blau-Weisse Porzellan Teller neben einer Flasche aus Porzellan. Die Teller stehen noch immer, wie sie ursprünglich zum Transport gepackt waren; nur der Sand ist entfernt worden. (Quelle: PHOENIX/ ZDF/ Franck Goddio)

Fast 100 Jahre vor Kolumbus und Magellan entsandte der chinesische Kaiser Zhou-Di eine Armada über die Meere, die größer und mächtiger war als alle Flotten Europas zusammen. Die Dokumentation rekonstruiert die letzten Fahrten dreier asiatischer Handelsschiffe.

Mit bis zu 130 Meter langen Dschunken segelten chinesische Seefahrer bis an die Küsten Afrikas. An Bord führten sie Kostbarkeiten wie Porzellan, Seide und Tee mit sich. Durch die Handelsbeziehungen zu China entstanden neue Siedlungen entlang der Küsten wie etwa Manila auf den Philippinen und Jakarta in Indonesien. Doch mit dem Tod Zhou-Dis fand die erfolgreiche Seemacht China ein jähes Ende.