Monday, 29 April 2013

Animal sculptures to be returned to China


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After over 100 years, two lost Chinese national treasures are finally coming home. After holding talks with Chinese officials in Beijing, Francois-Henri Pinault, a French luxury brand tycoon, has announced that he will return the famous bronze rat and rabbit heads to China.
The sculptures are two of 12 zodiac animal heads originally found in Beijing’s Yuan Mingyuan, also known as the old Summer Palace. The palace was looted and destroyed by French and British forces during the second opium war. The animal heads were scattered around the globe after the war.
In 2009, the rat and rabbit heads were put up for auction in France, drawing sharp criticism from China. The Pinault Family bought the artifacts and now plan to send them back to China later this year.
After over 100 years, two lost Chinese national treasures are finally
coming home.
After over 100 years, two lost Chinese national treasures are finally coming home.
After over 100 years, two lost Chinese national
treasures are finally coming home.
After over 100 years, two lost Chinese national
treasures are finally coming home.

Manuscripts under the microscope

From by Sam van Schaik
What I like about working with manuscripts is that there are so many different ways to approach them. You can read the texts written on them (and sometimes that’s as far as you get) but you can also look at their shape and size, how they were put together, how the writing is laid out on the page (codicology) and the style of the writing itself (palaeography). You can get into their materiality, feel the rough and smooth sides of a page, their coarse and fine fibres, the subtle patterns of laid and chain lines. If you’re lucky, you can find out who wrote them, who owned them and how they were used, who repaired and re-used them, and so on.
I like to think this isn’t just the idle curiosity of somebody who’s spent too much time around books. While most studies of the early Tibetan manuscripts from Dunhuang and other Central Asian sites are focussed on the texts, there’s a lot more we can find out from the physicality of the thing itself. Sure, we can discover what a text is about by reading it and comparing it with other texts. But there are a lot of things we won’t know, like who made the manuscript, who used it, and what it was used for. If we can get some kind of answers to those questions about the manuscript, our understanding of the text will be enriched. Or to put it another way, if we want to know the meaning of a text, we should look at how it was used.
* * *
A few years ago I started working with Agnieszka Helman-Wazny, a scientist specializing in the study of Tibetan and Central Asian paper. Agnieszka’s speciality is the microscopic analysis of paper fibres. She also looks at the patterns left on the paper by the process of making paper (such as the fine pattern of ‘laid lines’) and other aspects of the technology of papermaking. Gradually we developed a plan to bring the results of her analysis of the paper in the Tibetan manuscripts from Central Asia with the work I had done in the palaeography of the manuscripts, and of course the contents of the texts as well. We selected a group of fifty manuscripts, put everything we could find out about them into a table, and looked at the patterns that emerged.
One of the most interesting results was this: those manuscripts that had been brought to Dunhuang from Tibet itself, were made in quite different ways from those that were made locally at Dunhuang. Though our sample was limited, this opens up the possibility of ‘fingerprinting’ a manuscript to find out where it was made.
It looks like the manuscripts made in Dunhuang and other Central Asian areas inhabited by the Tibetans during the 8th and 9th centuries were made with rag paper, which is probably mainly recycled textiles. The technical apparatus of papermaking was a mould made from a sieve made from bamboo or reeds arranged on a wooden frame, which leaves the tell-tale pattern of laid lines on the finished paper. The advantage of this kind of mould is that you can lift out the piece of paper and leave it to dry while you begin to make another one. On the other hand, in places like Tibet, Bhutan and Nepal, the method to this day is to use a wooden frame with a cloth backing stretched across it. With this kind of mould the paper cannot be removed until dry, so the paper dries on the frame. This is obviously a slower method, and the paper produced this way does not have the laid lines characteristic of the sieve method.
DaphneTwo manuscripts, letters that we already thought may have been originated from Tibet, did turn out to have been made on a woven mould. Also, they were not made of rag paper, like the locally produced Central Asian manuscripts, but paper made from the Daphne orEdgeworthia plants, which grow along the Himalayas. As well as these letters, a sutra manuscript written in the archaic ‘square style’ also turned out to be composed of Daphne fibres.
Then there are the big Perfection of Wisdom manuscripts that were brought to Dunhuang to be used as models by the local scribes who had been ordered by the Tibetan emperor to produce copies. The Perfection of Wisdom manuscripts made in Dunhuang are composed of rag paper made on a sieve mould, like other locally made manuscripts. But those that were brought in are composed of Paper Mulberry (Broussonetia) fibres and were made on a woven mould. Paper Mulberry is not native to Central Tibet, but it is found in Eastern Tibet, so perhaps these Perfection of Wisdom manuscripts were produced in the Eastern regions of the Tibetan Empire, before being brought to Dunhuang. This would give us a triangle of geographic locations to which we can assign the manuscripts: Central Asia, Central Tibet and Eastern Tibet.
*  *  *
Though I can’t put the article in which we published our results on this site, I am going to make it briefly available for download here. Of course, the 50 manuscripts that we studied are a tiny proportion of the Central Asian manuscripts in Tibetan, so more work needs to be done to confirm what we have suggested. As well as using these results to pin down the geographical origin of early Tibetan manuscripts we can also say a bit more about what ‘Tibetan paper’ means in this early period. If we can begin to speak of a type of paper with specifically Tibetan characteristics, it is a paper composed of Daphne or Edgeworthia (from Central Tibet) or Paper Mulberry (from Eastern Tibet), made on a woven mould — a technology that continues to the present day.
*  *  *
Helman-Wazny, Agnieszka and Sam van Schaik. 2012. “Witnesses for Tibetan Craftsmanship: Bringing Together Paper Analysis, Palaeography and Codicology in the Examination of the Earliest Tibetan Manuscripts.” DOI: 10.1111/j.1475-4754.2012.00687.x
Iwao, Kazushi (forthcoming). “On the Tibetan Śatasāhasrikā-prajñāpāramitā sūtra from Dunhuang.” In Scribes, texts, and rituals in early Tibet and Dunhuang (eds. B. Dotson, K. Iwao and T. Takeuchi). Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag.
1. Paper mulberry (Broussonetia sp.) fibres stained with Herzberg stain, found in IOL Tib J 1560.
2. A large-size ‘floating’ mould, constructed with a wooden frame and attached woven textile, placed in water (a stream) in Gyantse, c. 1910–1920. Photo 1112/2 (139), © The British Library
3. The flower of the Daphne plant.
4. Sheets of paper left to dry on individual moulds on the mountain slope near Tawang, Arunchal Pradesh, 1914. MSS Eur/F157 (324), © The British Library.
*  *  *
Final Notes
Paper made from the Daphne and Edgeworthia species  is shog shing or dung lo main Tibetan. There is also a Tibetan paper made from the roots of both the Stellera chamaejasme species (re lcag pa in Tibetan) and, more seldom, Euphorbia fisheriana (re lcag gi rtsa ba in Tibetan). It has been suggested that re lcag pa is the “original” Tibetan paper. Though we did not find any of this paper in our study, finds from Tibet itself may help to confirm whether it was produced during the Tibetan imperial period or later. Also, it is hard not to oversimplify this complex research, and I had better clarify here (as we did in the article) that the rag paper in the Dunhuang manuscripts was also often made with the addition of Paper Mulberry and/or Hemp. Agnieszka Helman-Wazny’s continuing work on the Chinese manuscripts from Central Asia will no doubt add much more to our knowledge of Central Asian papermaking.
*  *  *

Wednesday, 17 April 2013

53 New Books in the Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books

The Toyo Bunko (Oriental Library) is a leading library in the field of Asian studies. Its collection amounts to 880,000 books of historical importance, and an especially interesting collection in the Toyo Bunko is "Morrison Library," which consists of 24,000 books about China and Asia written in several European languages. Regarding its relevance, scale and coverage, we decided to start our digital archive project from the Morrison Library, and initiated the digitization of precious books in 2002.
We are in the pursuit of two research directions. The first direction concerns the application of optical character recognition (OCR), machine translation and image processing for the automatic analysis of digitized documents. Our motivation behind this direction is the need for the management of large number of books; that is, we put more emphasis on speed in the speed and precision tradeoff in order to increase the number of books in the digital archive. Although the current OCR technology is imperfect, even imperfect results can support useful search. The second direction is the collaborative annotation environment for digital cultural resources. We begin with closed annotation by domain experts, but in the future we aim at establishing a mechanism for soliciting collective annotation in a collaborative environment.
User interface on the Toyo Bunko Portal is designed so that it suggests as many navigational links as possible to increase for a user the opportunity of browsing deep into the archive. We provide other mechanisms for defining various contexts in which digital archives are to be viewed using our proposed database engine. Finally, this project is within a framework of Digital Silk Road Project.

We added 53 new books to become the collection of 203 books, 59,358 pages.
  1. Im fernen Osten : vol.1
  2. Atlas zur Reiseroute in Ost-Asien : vol.1
  3. Mission archéologique dans la Chine septentrionale : vol.1
  4. Mission archéologique dans la Chine septentrionale : vol.2
  5. Mission archéologique dans la Chine septentrionale : vol.3
  6. Mission archéologique dans la Chine septentrionale : vol.4
  7. Mission archéologique dans la Chine septentrionale : vol.5
  8. Les documents chinois découverts par Aurel Stein dans les sables du Turkestan Oriental : vol.1
  9. Documents sur les Tou-kiue (Turcs) occidentaux : vol.1
  10. Un traité manichéen retrouvé en Chine : vol.1
  11. Les documents chinois de la troisième expédition de Sir Aurel Stein en Asie Centrale : vol.1
  12. Wall Paintings from Ancient Shrines in Central Asia : vol.1
  13. Wall Paintings from Ancient Shrines in Central Asia : vol.2
  14. China : vol.1
  15. China : vol.2
  16. China : vol.3
  17. China : vol.4
  18. China : vol.5
  19. Atlas von China : vol.1
  20. Atlas von China : vol.2
  21. Die Geographische-Wissenschaftlichen Ergebnisse meiner Reisen in Zentralasien, 1894-1897 : vol.1
  22. Scientific Results of a Journey in Central Asia, 1899-1902 : vol.3
  23. Scientific Results of a Journey in Central Asia, 1899-1902 : vol.4
  24. Southern Tibet : vol.1
  25. Southern Tibet : vol.2
  26. Southern Tibet : vol.3
  27. Southern Tibet : vol.4
  28. Southern Tibet : vol.5
  29. Southern Tibet : vol.6
  30. Southern Tibet : vol.7
  31. Southern Tibet : vol.8
  32. Southern Tibet : vol.9
  33. Southern Tibet : vol.10
  34. Southern Tibet : vol.11
  35. Southern Tibet : vol.12
  36. Meine Tibetreise : vol.1
  37. Meine Tibetreise : vol.2
  38. Reise in China und Tibet, 1905-1908 : vol.1
  39. Antiquities of Indian Tibet : vol.1
  40. Antiquities of Indian Tibet : vol.2
  41. 羽田博士史学論文集 : vol.1
  42. 羽田博士史学論文集 : vol.2
  43. Documente de l'Époque Mongole des XIIIe et XIVe Siècle : vol.1
  44. The Book of Ser Marco Polo : vol.1
  45. The Book of Ser Marco Polo : vol.2
  46. Ser Marco Polo : vol.1
  47. Marco Polo : vol.1
  48. Marco Polo : vol.2
  49. 圓明園東長春宮西洋樓圖 : vol.1
  50. India : vol.1
  51. Indische Palaste und Wohnhauser : vol.1
  52. Nouvelles recherches archéologiques à Bāmiyān : vol.1
  53. Shotorak : vol.1

Examining the Connection Between Ancient China and Borneo

Examining the Connection Between Ancient China and Borneo Through Santubong Archaeological Sites

by Wan Kong Ann,  Tsinghua University

Historical relations between China and Borneo can be traced back two thousand years or more. This is explained by the fact that, although Borneo was not a destination of the highest importance for China, it was, nevertheless, the largest island in the Malay archipelago, and one whose strategic geographic position ensured that it had an economic role to play in regional trade. Borneo has in fact been a significant part of China’s orbit ever since the Chinese conquered the South China Sea.
Though there are few specific records, we can trace a little of what transpired in that history by looking at Maritime Silk Road records and reading about the travels of Admiral Zheng He. We can also gather historical information from the ancient Chinese history books to augment our understanding of the reasons that Borneo was never really a backwater region. And now, through archaeological studies carried out in the Niah Caves and at Santubong, Sarawak, we are slowly getting a clearer picture.

Borneo is the third largest island in the world and the largest in the Malay Archipelago. On its western flank is the South China Sea, and far in the distance is the Middle Kingdom, China. Today Borneo consists of three different political entities, East Malaysia, which is made up of Sabah and Sarawak, Brunei Darussalam, and Kalimantan, Indonesia. 

In ancient times, it was referred to as “Poli” (婆利) in the history annals of China. It is difficult to trace records of Borneo in China, but not impossible if one digs deep enough. There are a number of small footnotes in China’s recorded history that, if collectively considered, suggest a picture of Borneo as it was in the past.
In the ancient records of China, Borneo crops up under various guises because it was at various times named “Poli (婆利),” “Boni (渤尼/渤泥/浡泥)” or “Polo (婆罗).” China and Borneo both possess a long history of recorded interactions. Thus if one were to travel through Borneo, one would still be able to see the Chinese influence clearly. For example, the Dayaks in Kalimantan and Sarawak treasure their family heirlooms: big gongs (tawak-tawak) and earthenware jars (tajau lama). On these can be found images of the dragon (“loong” totem 龙图 腾) that originates in China. Much like copper artillery and ancient chinaware, these big gongs, used mainly for dancing and ceremonial occasions, are a status symbol for the Dayak community.

Borneo in the annals of China
In the Song Shu (宋书 Liu Song History Annals), which was edited by Shen Yue (沈约, 441–513) during the Nan/Southern dynasty, are records concerning the Poli nation (婆利国). Liang Shu (梁 Liang Dynasty History Annals), Nan Shi (南史 History Annals of the Nan/Southern Dynasty), Bei Shi (北史 Bei/Northern Dynasty History Annals), Sui Shu (隋书 History Annals of the Sui Dynasty), Jiu Tang Shu (History Annals of the Old Tang Dynasty) and Xin Tang Shu (新唐书 History Annals of the New Tang Dynasty) all show records of the arrival of an emissary from the Poli nation to pay tribute to China (进贡). In the Song Shi (宋史 Song Dynasty History Annals), Borneo was called “Boni” (渤尼/渤泥), and in the Ming Shi (明史 History Annals of the Ming Dynasty), Borneo was also most often known as “Boni (浡泥).”

Most records authenticate the tale of the arrival of the emissary of the Poli nation with the object of paying tribute to the emperor of China...................


Xingjiao temple seeks to preserve buildings

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The Xingjiao temple is one of the city’s best known sites. Recently the temple was advised to remove some of its surrounding buildings in order to stand a better chance of receiving UNESCO World Heritage site status.
With a history stretching back over 1300 years, Xingjiao temple is the burial place of many eminent individuals, including Xuanzang, a buddhist monk and Chinese pilgrim to India during the Tang dynasty.
Now, in its quest to become protected as a UNESCO World Heritage site, local authorities are planning to preserve the Xuanzang Stupa hall, but demolish most of its surrounding buildings, including the temple’s abstinence hall and the monk’s living quarters.
The Xingjiao temple is one of the city’s best known sites. Recently the temple was advised to
remove some of its surrounding buildings in order to stand a better chance of receiving UNESCO
World Heritage site status.
Master Kuanshu, Xingjiao Temple, said, "If these buildings in the temple are removed, the monks will have nowhere to live, eat or read Buddhist scriptures. Their daily rituals will be damaged. This is one of our top concerns."
Local authorities emphasize the demolished buildings will be replaced, in accordance with the law, with new structures, resembling the originals.
Zhang Ning, Director of Changan District Religions Dept. Xi’an, said, "According to relic protection law, no buildings are permitted within 30 meters of the protected relics. For example, this Sanzang house is very near to these pagodas, so it violates relic protection law."
The Xingjiao temple is one of the city’s best known sites. Recently the temple was advised to
remove some of its surrounding buildings in order to stand a better chance of receiving UNESCO
World Heritage site status.
Many monks in the temple believe it is good to apply for World Heritage status, but that their daily religious lives are also an important aspect of these relics.
As a result, on Thursday the temple proposed withdrawing itself from the application in protest against the planned demolition. Many experts have called for more discussion and consultation on protecting this famous Buddhist temple.
Having world heritage status can bring better conditions to preserve these pagodas in the long run. But during the application process and after, local authorities must find a balance between protecting relics and religious activities. The monks’ Buddhist way of life should be guaranteed, after all it is those who have been looking after these relics all these years.
The Xingjiao temple is one of the city’s best known sites. Recently the temple was advised to
remove some of its surrounding buildings in order to stand a better chance of receiving UNESCO
World Heritage site status.

The Xingjiao temple is one of the city’s best known
sites. Recently the temple was advised to remove some
of its surrounding buildings in order to stand a better
chance of receiving UNESCO World Heritage site status.

Editor:Zhang Pengfei |Source:

Famous emperor's tomb found in E. China

The tomb of one of the most famous emperors in Chinese history was discovered on Sunday at a construction site in Yangzhou, Jiangsu province, while a fake burial site has been a tourist attraction for many years.

Famous emperor's tomb found in E. China
The tomb of Yang Guang, an emperor of the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618) [Credit: China Daily]
Archaeologists from all over the country rushed to Yangzhou and confirmed that the tomb found in Xihu township of Hanjiang district belonged to Yang Guang, who is considered to be one of the worst tyrants in Chinese history.

Generally, Chinese historians say Yang's tyranny brought the Sui Dynasty (AD 581-618) to an end. But he also completed several great construction projects during his reign, including the Grand Canal and the reconstruction of the Great Wall.

According to Shu Jiaping, director of Yangzhou's archaeological bureau, the inscription on a tablet found in the tomb proves that its owner was Yang.

"Yang's tomb wasn't even as luxurious as normal rich people's tombs in the Sui Dynasty, due to his sudden death when he fled revolts to Jiangdu, which is Yangzhou today," Shu said.

The tomb is only 4.98 meters long from north to south, and 5.88 meters long from east to west.

"Grave robbers had visited the tomb," Shu said. "Also, the roof of the tomb is not in good condition because some residential buildings were built above it."

Although the tomb had been robbed, four valuable articles that could be used only by ancient royal family members were found, including lion-shaped door knockers made of gold and iron, and a jade belt decorated with gold.

However, according to the local archaeological bureau, no remains or coffin parts have been found yet.

The discovery of the tomb turned out to be a happy surprise for people living nearby.

"We heard that construction workers continuously found bricks in the site, which they thought were from normal ancient tombs," said Zhou Jian, a resident. "It never occurred to me that I'm the neighbor of an ancient emperor, even if he was a notorious one."

Archaeologists also discovered another tomb nearby, which they say might belong to Yang's queen.

The discovery proves that another mausoleum, which is about 6 kilometers from the construction site and has been thought to be Yang's burial site since the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), is a fake, Shu said.

Compared with the tomb discovered, the "fake mausoleum" occupies an area of 30,000 sq m and has magnificent memorial arches, tomb doors and walls.

Author: Cang Wei and Song Wenwei | Source: China Daily [April 16, 2013]

Friday, 12 April 2013

Archaeologists on front lines of protecting ancient culture in turbulent regions

From University of Wisconsin- Madison,  April 11, 2013
Photo: Mes Aynak archaeological site
Plans for a massive copper mine threaten the site of Mes Aynak, an ancient monastery in Afghanistan. Archaeologists fear that artifacts dating to the Bronze Age will be destroyed.
Photos courtesy of Brent Huffman
J. Mark Kenoyer stands on a windswept peak in Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan, his head wrapped in a traditional scarf against the harsh sun.
As he chats in a mixture of Urdu and Pashto with an Afghan archaeologist, it’s easy to see why documentarian Brent Huffman wanted the University of Wisconsin-Madison professor of anthropology to appear in his upcoming film about Mes Aynak, a 2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery.
Huffman needed someone who could articulate what will be lost when a new copper mine destroys this archaeological treasure. Kenoyer, at home in the region and with the culture, was his man.
The camera follows Kenoyer’s gaze across a vast complex of stone houses, passageways, burial chambers, and stupas (ceremonial monuments), dotting the desolate landscape as far as the eye can see.
Photo: Mark Kenoyer at Mes Aynak archaeological site
“This whole mountain contains artifacts,” says Kenoyer. “They buried manuscripts inside the buildings that could tell us about life and commerce along the Silk Road. Archaeologists need 30 years to properly excavate this site.”
Unfortunately, all they have is three months.
The China Metallurgical Group said in June it will close the site to archaeologists and begin preparing the area to make way for a massive copper mine that will bring in an estimated $100 billion in revenue, of which $3 billion will be paid to the Afghan government. Archaeologists fear that everything will be destroyed, including artifacts from undiscovered levels beneath the Buddhist monuments that may date back to 3000 B.C., during the Bronze Age.
Though the mine will go forward no matter what, there is still a chance — a small chance — that the excavation site could exist alongside it.
“Miracles can happen,” says Kenoyer, which is one reason he agreed to travel for the first time to the heart of Taliban country to help make a dramatic case for preserving this vital piece of global heritage.
Around the world, archaeological sites are threatened by war, environmental degradation, mining, dam-building, and even mass tourism. Rebellions in Libya, Syria and Mali have endangered not only the lives of millions of people, but thousands of years of human history.
“This is a global problem. The question can be put to everyone on the face of the earth: What is worth saving?”
William Aylward
Archaeologists and anthro-pologists play an increasingly vital role in communicating not only the importance of what will be lost, but the potential benefits to tourism and culture if it can be saved. In the digital age, the impact of a well-crafted story, or petition, or documentary can resonate much further than it might have 15 years ago.
Aylward has witnessed this firsthand. In 2002-04, he was involved in documenting the rescue of thousands of artifacts from Zeugma, an ancient Greek and Roman frontier city on the Euphrates River in Turkey. One-third of the city was flooded by a massive hydroelectric dam.
“It took the threat of destruction to bring the site worldwide attention,” he says. “The New York Times ran a front-page story on it. Because of that, the Packard Humanities Institute launched a five-month rescue operation, with hundreds of archaeologists working as the waters rose in the river valley.”
Now, he says, Zeugma is on the radar of Turkey’s Ministry of Culture and Tourism. Archaeological teams now visit the site every summer, and the looting that had plagued the neglected site has ceased.
Aylward, whose Troy expedition has attracted much media attention, says scholars must walk a fine line between advocacy and courtesy.
“I always remember — and I impress upon my students — that we are international guests,” he says. “We are there at their invitation and subject to the limitations that they might impose. I respect those limits because I want to go back.”
Though the mine will go forward no matter what, there is still a chance — a small chance — that the excavation site could exist alongside it.
In war-torn or famine-devastated countries, archaeologists’ dilemma — and that of organizations like UNESCO, which helps countries create Global Heritage Sites — is how to advocate for ancient culture in places where people are just trying to survive.
That’s where language skills, ease with the media, and respect for local people can make a difference.
Take Kenoyer, an expert on the Indus Valley civilization. For 30 years he has been excavating at Harappa, Pakistan, focusing on ancient technologies, economics, and religion. He has also appeared on Pakistani TV and speaks fluent Urdu. All this made him an attractive figure to Huffman, an Emmy Award-winning documentarian.
“I knew I wanted him to be part of my film as soon as I met him,” says Huffman. “He’s a world-renowned archaeologist with a rare ability to accomplish things in impossible situations.”
Huffman drove with Kenoyer around Kabul and into the hills, stopping to film the anthropology professor as he asked people about the threat to Mes Aynak. Young men crowded close outside a walled garden in Kabul, eager to talk. But within minutes a policeman was on the scene, ordering them to disperse.
“More than five people gathering in one place is considered unsafe,” says Kenoyer.
But Huffman had what he needed: conversations across the barriers of language and culture, showing that Afghans did indeed know about the impending destruction at Mes Aynak —and they were disturbed by the lack of intervention.
“It’s their heritage, and their lives, impacted by the loss of these materials,” says Kenoyer.
Huffman, an assistant professor of journalism at Northwestern University, directed and produced “The Buddhas of Mes Aynak,” which he plans to submit to film festivals this summer (it is already being screened at universities). Meanwhile, Kenoyer has convened archaeology colleagues in five South Asian countries to discuss the site. He also plans to bring it up during a visit to the Chinese Academy of Science this spring.
Already, word has spread: a global petition to save Mes Aynak has garnered more than 60,000 signatures.
—Mary Ellen Gabriel

Thursday, 11 April 2013

Trésors de la Chine ancienne - Bronzes rituels de la collection Meiyintang

Le musée Guimet présente une centaine de bronzes archaïques chinois, chef-d’oeuvres de la prestigieuse collection Meiyintang.
110-1 enligne
Paire de vases pour les offrandes de nourriture dui, Couvercle pouvant former une coupe,
Bronze, 31,4 cm, Dynastie des Zhou occidentaux, Période des Royaumes combattants
Ve s. av. notre ère © Vincent Girier-Dufournier

Réunie depuis plus de cinquante ans par un collectionneur passionné, exigeant, admirable connaisseur de l’Asie et des arts de la Chine en particulier, cette partie de la collection Meiyintang bien qu’elle fût connue pour avoir fait l’objet d’importantes publications, n’a cependant
jamais été présentée au public. Elle le sera ainsi pour la première fois en France, au musée Guimet à travers le plus bel ensemble de bronzes archaïques chinois datant des deuxième et premier millénaires avant notre ère.
173-1 enligneA l’inverse de ce qui se rencontre dans les autres civilisations du bronze, les bronzes archaïques chinois n’ont pas de vocation utilitaire. Leur fonction est, dès l’origine, propitiatoire ou magique. En Chine, dès le XIXe siècle avant J.-C., ces bronzes sont les instruments privilégiés des
rites offerts aux mânes des ancêtres pour solliciter leur puissance, notamment sur le champ de bataille. Masquant les hésitations et la faiblesse d’une métallurgie qui cherche sa maîtrise, l’art du décor mais surtout l’audace des formes atteignent immédiatement à la perfection. En
témoigne l’extraordinaire élégance, le geste inspiré du grand jue, ou coupe à alcool, témoignage exceptionnel de la civilisation Erlitou (XIXe-XVIe siècles av. J.-C.) par lequel commencera l’exposition.
Photo ci-dessus : Verseuse à eau zoomorphe yi, Bronze, H. 15,8 cm, Dynastie des Zhou orientaux, Période des Printemps et Automnes, VIIe-VIe s. av. notre ère © Vincent Girier-Dufournier
Sous les Shang (XVIe-XIe siècles av. J.-C.) le décor s’enrichit de rinceaux et de masques taotie d’une fascinante abstraction.
Au cours des siècles suivants, sous les règnes des Zhou, les formes animalières fantasmatiques de plus en plus reconnaissables structurent le décor tandis que la maîtrise désormais acquise des techniques de fonte permet l’évolution et la complexification des modèles : la puissance
et la force subjuguent la séduction. Les rinceaux deviennent des pointes, les masques portent des cornes.
Pendant la période des royaumes combattants (Ve-IIIe siècles av. J.-C.), la fonction rituelle des objets de bronze fait place à l’ostentation : le décor s’enrichit d’incrustation et les formes deviennent précieuses jusqu’à l’exubérance.
55-1 enligne
Récipient à base carrée pour boissons fermentées fangfou
Décor imitant la vannerie, Bronze, H. 36,5 cm
Dynastie des Zhou orientaux, VIe-Ve s. av. notre ère
© Vincent Girier-Dufournier

Informations pratiques

Président du musée Guimet et commissaire général de l’exposition : Olivier de Bernon
Commissariat : Huei-Chung Tsao, chargée d’études au musée Guimet ; Marie-Catherine Rey, Conservateur en chef section Chine du musée Guimet
Scénographie de l’exposition : ISBA

Publication :

Catalogue sous la direction d’Olivier de Bernon
Auteur : Huei-Chung Tsao, 210 x 270 mm - 200 pages - 180 illustrations couleur

Activités culturelles autour de l’exposition :

Visite commentée de l’exposition, sans réservation au préalable dans la limite des places disponibles, à partir du 20 mars 2013, les lundis, mercredis, jeudis, vendredis et samedis de 14h00 à 15h30 (rendez-vous au niveau rez-de-jardin face à l’auditorium)
Conférences « le culte des ancêtres dans la Chine pré-impériale » par Lyce Jankowski, sans réservation préalable, dans la limite des places disponibles. Billets à retirer aux caisses du musée. Lieu des conférences : Grand salon du Panthéon bouddhique
- Samedi 30 mars à 14h30 : histoire des dynasties royales Shang et Zhou
- Samedi 20 avril à 14h30 : usage et iconographie des vases rituels
Tél. : 01 56 52 53 45 ; fax 01 56 53 54 36 ; courriel :

Auditorium :

Trois cycles de documentaires et de films de fiction invitent à un regard sur la Chine d’hier et d’aujourd’hui :
- la Chine des rituels : des sinologues derrière la caméra
- Pékin : embarquement immédiat !
- la Chine de Joris Ivens et Marceline Loridan

Wednesday, 10 April 2013

Ancient tomb with murals discovered in E China

NANCHANG, April 4 (Xinhua) -- Archaeologists in east China's Jiangxi Province on Thursday announced that they have discovered rare mural paintings with vibrant colors in a 600-year-old tomb.
The tomb, dating back to the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), was unearthed at the site of a parking lot being built in Xingzi County, the Archaeology Institute of Xingzi County said.
The wall paintings feature peonies, lotuses, chrysanthemums and sticks of bamboo with red, black, blue and yellow hues, and show a strong religious influence, the institute said.
The tomb has not been damaged by thieves or vandals, but most of the murals are in poor condition, except for some well-preserved paintings covering 0.5 square meters on the eastern wall.
Tombs with murals are common in northern China but very rare in the south. This is the first time that tomb murals created during the Ming Dynasty have been discovered in Jiangxi, according to experts with the institute.
Archaeologists said there should be a cluster of tombs in the area, adding that they will continue their excavation efforts and try to identify the owners of tombs.

A Fragment of Tangut Geography

We go back to Babelstone by Andrew West, 10 April 2013

Something I have always wanted to see is an original 12th or 13th century map of the Western Xia territory with place names written in the Tangut script. Unfortunately, as far as I know, no such map exists any longer. However, there is a Chinese map of the Western Xia territory (entitled the Western Xia Topographic Map 西夏地形圖) that probably dates back to the late Northern Song (circa 1108), although extant editions were printed between 1608 and 1895 :
  • Map included in the Collected Works of Fan Wenzheng in a Ming Wanli 36 (1608) edition of The Collections of Two Famous Song Dynasty Ministers (宋兩名相集), held at the National Library of China in Beijing
  • Map included in a Ming Wanli 37 (1609) edition of the Collected Works of Fan Wenzheng (重校范文正公集), held at Peking University Library
  • Map collected from China in the late 19th century by Konstantin Andreianovich Skachkov (1821–1883), held at the Russian State Library in Moscow
  • Map included in Zhang Qian's 張鑒 1895 Chronological History of the Western Xia 西夏紀事本末

Modern Redrawing of Zhang Qian's 1895 version of the Western Xia Topographic Map

As far as I know, there are no surviving examples of Tangut geographic or topographic works, but parts of the Western Xia Law Codes enumerate administrative divisions and list various place names. 150 fragments of the Western Xia law codes as established during the Celestial Prosperity era (1149–1169), collected from Kharakhoto by P. K. Kozlov in 1909, have been compiled by E. I. Kychanov and published as The Revised and Newly Endorsed Code for the Designation of Reign ‘Celestial Prosperity’ (1149-69)in 1989. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to see this book, but yesterday I came across a fragment of a page from a printed edition of the Western Xia law codes collected by Aurel Stein from Kharakhoto in Eric Grinstead's 1961 discussion of "Tangut Fragments in the British Museum" :
Fragment of an edition of the Western Xia Law Codes held at the British Library (original no. K.K. II. 0227.n)

This fragment consists of lists of Western Xia place names. I have transliterated and translated these in the table below :

(Li Fanwen 2008)
1.1*zjɨr"south" 南Southern Court 南院 (an administrative department)
1.2*iọ"court" 院
1.3*mjijr"palace" 宮Mobile Palace 行宮
1.4*bji̱j"to travel" 行
1.5*dzjɨ"to provide""three offices" 三司 = "State Finance Commission"
1.6*ka̱r"steelyard" (a balance)
2.1*śiaTranscribes Chinese sha 沙 "sand"Shazhou 沙州 (modern Dunhuang in Gansu)
2.2*tśjiwTranscribes Chinese zhou 州 "prefecture"
2.3*kjijTranscribes Chinese jing 敬, 經, jin 近, etc.Fiscal Commission 經治司
2.4*tśjiTranscribes Chinese zhi 至, 治, 志, etc.
2.5*səTranscribes Chinese shi 氏, si司, 斯, etc.
3.1*daTranscribes Chinese lin 臨, 林, etc.Linhe County 臨河縣 (modern Bayannur in Inner Mongolia)
3.2*xụ̃Transcribes Chinese hong 紅 "red", 洪, 弘, he和, 河 etc.
3.3*xjwãTranscribes Chinese xian 縣 "county"
3.4*poTranscribes Chinese bao 堡 "fort", 保, 包, etc.Baojing County 保靜縣 (in the viscinity of modern Wanghong 望洪 inYongning County in Ningxia)
3.5*tshjɨj"purple"; also transcribes Chinese qian 倩,qing 青, jing 靜, etc.
3.6*xjwãTranscribes Chinese xian 縣 "county"
4.1*ljạto pierce (also used in place names)?
4.2*wjijTranscribes Chinese wen 温,yong 永, ying 穎, etc.Yongchang County 永昌縣 (modern Yongchang County in Gansu)
4.3*śjow"to guard"; also transcribes Chinese shang尚, chang 昌, etc.
4.4*xjwãTranscribes Chinese xian 縣 "county"
4.5*khej"luxuriant"; also transcribes Chinese kai 開, 凱, etc.Kaibian County 開邊縣 (in the viscinity of modern Zhenyuan Countyin Gansu)
4.6*pjɨjTranscribes Chinese bian邊 "border"
4.7*xjwãTranscribes Chinese xian 縣 "county"
5.1*iọ"court" 院... Court ...院
5.2*zjɨr"south" 南Southern Court 南院 (an administrative department)
5.3*iọ"court" 院
5.4*su"to plot"; also transcribes Chinese su 肅Suzhou 肅州
5.5*tśjiwTranscribes Chinese zhou 州 "prefecture"
6.1*tśjiwTranscribes Chinese zhou 州 "prefecture"...zhou ...州
6.2*zjɨ̱r"water" 水Black Water 黑水. The Ejin River in Gansu and Inner Mongolia, perhaps referring specifically to the Tangut fortress city ofKharakhoto (黑水城), known to Marco Polo as Etzina.
6.3*nja̱"black, dark" 黑
6.4*•owCharacter used in Tangut surnames, of uncertain meaning hereBlack Mountains (the Wolf Mountains or the western part of the Yin Mountains 陰山 in Inner Mongolia). Transcribed in Chinese as 午腊蒻 wǔlàruò in the History of the Song Dynasty 宋史 vol. 485 (see Nie Hongyin 2008).
6.5*rar"hill, mountain" 山
6.6*nja̱"black, dark" 黑
7.1*lji"west" 西Western Court 西院 (an administrative department)
7.2*iọ"court" 院
7.3*su"to plot"; also transcribes Chinese su 肅Suzhou 肅州
7.4*tśjiwTranscribes Chinese zhou 州 "prefecture"
7.5*kiwaTranscribes Chinese gua 瓜, 寡, etc.Guazhou 瓜州 (modern Guazhou County in Gansu)
7.6*tśjiwTranscribes Chinese zhou 州 "prefecture"

Having translated the above fragment, I thought it would be a fun idea to plot the place names mentioned in it on Google Maps, with the names given in Tangut script. This I have done on the map below, with place names taken from the British Library fragment indicated by green tags, and place names I have taken from other sources indicated by blue tags. Click on a tag to see the name of the place in Tangut characters.

Google Maps map showing Western Xia locations with place names in Tangut

Note 1. Some Tangut place names are written with different characters in different sources, and where this is the case one spelling has been arbitrarily chosen. For example, Suzhou 肅州 is written as  (*su tśjiw),  (*zu tśjiw) or  (*su tśjiw) in different sources.
Note 2. Tags without a dot in the middle indicate that the exact location of the place is uncertain or unknown.