Wednesday, 30 July 2014

The Daming Palace of China's Great Tang Dynasty 大明宫

The Daming Palace ("Palace of Great Brilliance") was the imperial palace complex of the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD), located in its capital Chang'an. It served as the royal residence of the Tang emperors for more than 220 years. Today, it is designated as a national heritage site of China. The area is located northeast of present-day Xi'an, Shaanxi Province.

The Tang dynasty (618-907AD) was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms period. It was founded by the "Li" family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire. The Tang dynasty maintained a civil service system by recruiting officials through standardized examinations and recommendations to office. The Tang government also gave great reputations and respect to outstanding foreign officals and scholars who work or study in empire and Tang also got lots of respect from other countries. The Tang empire took a heavy toll from the An Lushan Rebellion and then became weak until the ending date of 907.

The golden age of Tang dynasty were open, colourful, hardworking, confident, peaceful and stable. In two censuses of the 7th and 8th centuries, the Tang records estimated the population by number of registered households at about 50 million people. The capital Chang'an (present-day Xi'an), which at the time was the richest international city in the world with maximum of 1,000,000 people, is generally regarded as a high point in Chinese civilization - a golden age of cosmopolitan culture. There were the biggest prosperous market which attracted foreign businessmen from the Silk Road. People from different region lived together in respect, peace and harmony. Learning with each other modestly without conflicts of race, culture and religion. The women in Tang Dynasty got unbelievable social freedoms. The Wu Zetian was the only female emperor in Chinese history. 

Through use of the land trade along the Silk Road and maritime trade by sail at sea, the Tang were able to gain many new technologies, cultural practices, rare luxury, and contemporary items. From the Middle East, India, Persia, and Central Asia the Tang were able to acquire new ideas in fashion, new types of ceramics, and improved silver-smithing. To the Middle East, the Islamic world coveted and purchased in bulk Chinese goods such as silks, lacquerwares, and porcelain wares. Songs, dances, and musical instruments from foreign regions became popular in China during the Tang dynasty. Chinese culture flourished and further matured during the Tang era; it is considered the greatest age for Chinese poetry. Two of China's most famous poets, Li Bai and Du Fu, belonged to this age, as did many famous painters such as Han Gan, Zhang Xuan, and Zhou Fang. There was a rich variety of historical literature compiled by scholars, as well as encyclopedias and geographical works. Tang also exerted a powerful cultural influence over neighboring states such as those in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

There were many notable innovations during the Tang, including the development of woodblock printing, Chinese medicine and gunpowder.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Bactria (Thousand Cities)

Bactria (thousand Cities ) is the current exhibition at the National Museum of Afghanistan

Wednesday, 05 March 2014 

 The region of Bactria, considered by many to be the original habitation of the Arians which always been very famous for its beauty. Bactria or the present-day northern Afghanistan is located between the Hindu Kush and the Oxus River (Amu Darya). On its southern and eastern flanks the Hindu Kush mountain range divides the region from Tibet and India; on its western side lays the grassy downs of Aria and Marginal, today also known as Herat and Marv.
Classical historians speak of the famous wealth of Bactria, its thousand cities, and the outstanding fertility of the soil. The ancient inhabitants are usually depicted to be of brave nature and in order to defend the fertile land of Bactria they were often in confect with the people of the surrounding regions such as the Scythians.
Balkh, the capital of Bactria, played a crucial role as cultural and political center of the famous Pishdadian, Cyanides and Aspa dynasties. It was also known to be the trade centre and crossroads of western and eastern cultures during the Achaemenid period and later. Balkh’s rolls as the trade centre of Bactria would persevere for a long time, as it became the capital of great Greco-Bactrian, Kushan, and Hephtalite Kingdoms.
During the Achaemenid period, Bactria was a semi-autonomous Satrapy (province) and to a large extent preserved its autonomy from the central government .At the same time, it served as a great support for the central government by defending against Scythians and Indians, which were a threat to the eastern part of the Achaemenid Empire in Bactria.
Religious life in Bactria was characterized by a number of religious beliefs and cults of different origin. The Zoroastrian religion emerged in Bactria in the 6th century BC and was founded by Zoroaster, who started the religion by preaching in the Gusshtasp court in Balkh. Buddhism has been also practiced there, until the sacred religion of Islam started flourishing and most of the population became Muslim.
During the last century, several archaeological teams performed excavation work in Bactria and shed more light upon the very little known history of the region.
The archaeological sites date to different periods:
-          Stone Age: Qara Kamar,Aq Kupruk,Darra-i-Kor,Darra-i-Dadil
-          Bronze Age: Dashli,Tepe Fullol,Hazar Som
-          First periods of Arians and Achaemenid period: Citedal of Balkh, Chashma-i-Shafa
-          Greco-Bactria and Scythian period: Ai Khanum, Tela Tepe, Dilberjin Tepe
-          Kushan and later periods: Surkh Kotal, Chamn Qala, Chaqalaq Tepe, Qala Ahngaran
The numerous Archaeological sites discovered in the region of Bactria only support the statements of the Classical historians who speak about the thousand cities of Bactria.
The exhibition includes many artifacts dating from different periods and that were found in different locations in the region Of Bactria.
Stone Age of Bactria
Foreign teams of archaeologist, especially Americans, have led excavations and research on the Stone Age in Bactria. During these excavations many archaeological sites were found and important artifacts belonging to the Stone Age were discovered. The Stone Age is divided into three different periods, based on the sophistication and methods of tool design, namely the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic.
Excavated artifacts from archaeological sites as Qara Kamar, Aq Kupurk, Zistgah Zadyan, Chinar Ginjishkan, and Darra-i-Kor in Bactria belonged to the Paleolithic, Mesolithic, and Neolithic periods. The identifiable material of these artifacts consists mainly of quartz and flint stones. They were mostly used as tools or weapons.

In the Paleolithic period, human life was very simple. During this time people started using tools. Human mostly lived in caves near rivers, lakes, and streams, locations that could easily be defended against predators and rivals. The people subsisted by hunting wild animals for meat but they also gathered food.
During the Mesolithic period gradual domestication of plants and animals started, as well as formation of settled communities. New and more developed stone tools, seen in the development of chipping techniques, characterize the Mesolithic material culture. Sites in Bactria belonging to this period areGharMordaGosfand, Ghar Mar, Darra-i-Kor, Darra-i-Dadil, and Aq Kupurk.
During the Neolithic period, which is also known as the new Stone Age, dependence on domesticated animals and plants increased. Hereby, Human settlements became more permanent.
The technical development of the Neolithic period is characterized by stone tools which are shaped by polishing and grinding. Traces of crafts such as pottery and weaving are also found in this period.
Bactrian sites dating from the Neolithic period are: Darra-i- Kor, Darra-i-Dadil, Aq Kupruk, and Ghar Mar. Artifacts that were discovered include stone circles, Knife-shaped tools, arrowheads, etc.
Bronze Age of Bactria
The Bronze Age in Bactria heralded the emergence of civilization. During the Bronze Age, people started making tools and weapons out of metal. In the Beginning, only pure copper and stone tools were used. Later, by mixing tin with copper humans discovered the copper alloy, Bronze, which was widely used until the discovery of iron around 1000 BCE.
During the Bronze Age, a large Arian ethnic group inhabited Bactria. They established their own Kingdom with an organized system of governance. The Arians introduced irrigation systems that led with several civilized centers of the ancient world. Besides the productivity of the agricultural lands, Bactria was also known for having large mineral resources such as Lapis Lazuli. The semi-precious stone Lapis Lazuli has been found in jewelry of Egyptian pharos and in royal burials of Ur (Iraq), dating back to 2600 BCE which indicate the foreign trade relations of ancient Arianna, when lapis Lazuli was exported from Badakhshan to the major cities of Mesopotamia and further west to Syria and Egypt. Another indication of trade relations are the grave goods from Tepe Fullol and their artistic similarity with artifacts in the Mesopotamian and Indus civilizations. Finds of ceramic, stone, and metal object indicate the presence of adroit craftsmen in the region. Archaeological sites in Bactria dating from the Bronze Age are Dashli, Shortughai, Hazar Som, and others that have not yet been excavated.
Expedition of Alexander and the Greco-Bactrian Kingdom
After the defeat of king of the Persian Achaemenid Empire, Darius-III, Alexander entered Afghanistan through the city of Aria (Herat) and after crossing the Hindu Kush, reached Bactria.
Around that time Basses was the Satrap (governor) of Bactria who also fought together with Darius’ army against Alexander. Unfortunately, he was defeated and Alexander conquered Bactria. However, it took several years for Alexander to establish control in Bactria and suppress the strong insurgency campaign.
In order to secure safe settlements for the many Macedonian and Greek soldiers he left behind, Alexander initiated a massive building campaign and built a series of fortresses. Thus in the 4th century BC one of the first Greek cities in Bactria was formed, called Alexandria of the Oxus. In order to strengthen his relationship with the people of Bactria, Alexander also married Roxana, daughter of Bactrian chief.
After the death of Alexander and the division of his empire, Bactria came under control of the Seleucid dynasty which was founded by Seleucids. Dioditus I rebelled against the Seleucid dynasty and created and independent kingdom. In the 3rd century BC he became known as the governor of Bactria. Thus the Greco-Bactrian numismatic evidence, 41 kings and     queens from this Greco-Bactrian dynasty ruled Bactria and the region south of the Hindu Kush. Greek historians described Bactria as an extraordinary combination of wealth. According to Strabo; everything was produced in Bactria except for olive oil.
Naturally, with the rule of the Greek and Macedonians in the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, Hellenistic culture also flourished. Thus, Greek script was used for the Bactrian language, and buildings were built according to the Greek architectural styles by suing elements such as Corinthian, Ionic, and Doric column types.
The excavation of the city of Ai Khanum in Bactria represents a clear evidence of Greeks in the region. While Greek art and the city plan with a gymnasium and temple of gods were made according to the Greek city plans, some native building techniques were also preserved in plans of corridors of the palace, temples, and houses. The ivory pieces found in Ai Khanum are similar to the ivory pieces of Nyssa in Mary and were most probably imported from India to these regions. They show the highly developed trade network of the ancient Scythians, and later the Yuezhis (Kushan), invaded the region.
In recent years the evidence for Corinthian and Ionic capitals has also been discovered in Tepe Zargaran, which may be another important city of the Greco-Bactrian period.
Kushan in Bactria
Greek rule ended with the invasion of yuezhis (Kushan). According to the Chinese sources, Kush an  were nomads that consisted of five tribes. After their emergence in Bactria, the Kushan tribes unified and the Kushan Empire was formed under the leadership of Kujula Kadphises. The Kushan Empire grew strong and with time it also extended its control into North India and established an extensive empire.
During the rule of the Kushan, trade with both eastern and western parts of the world improved via the Silk Road. Balkh, the capital of Bactria, becomes an important city for the exchange of products and a connection for Chine, Central Asia, India, and other countries from the West.
Kanishka the Great was the most powerful King of this dynasty and is known for being a liberal king who gave freedom to his people. The coins of his time depict 20 different gods and deities, proving the religious freedom that people enjoyed at his time. The Greek influence on art and literature was still visible in this period and the Greek script was used in the reverse of Kushan coins until the mid-second century AD. Bactrian language written in the Greek script was also used in official papers.
Surkh Kotal is the most famous archaeological site from the Kush an period. Other sites, such as Cham Qala, ChaqalaqTepe, and QalaAhangaran, have also been excavated. At Surkh Kotal inscriptions in the Greek script and Bactrian language have been found as well as statues of theKushan Kings.After the Kushan, Bactria was ruled by Sasanians, Kushano-Sasanians, Kidarites, Hephthalites, and Turk-Shahis. Thereafter, the sacred religion of Islam flourished in the region.
Buddhism in Bactria
In the third century BC, three centuries after the emergence of Buddhism in India, Buddhism spread south of the Hindu Kush. In the second century BC it also spread north of the Hindu Kush into Bactria. It was spread by missionaries sent by Asoka, the Maryann emperor of India who, after embracing Buddhism and committed himself to spread Buddhism in other countries. During this time, Bactria was ruled by Euthydemus of the Greco-Bactrian dynasty. Euthydemus had planned to conquer India and it was in his interest not to prevent the spread of Buddhism in the region of Bactria. However, neither Euthydemus nor any other Greek kings of Bactria, except for Menander, the under-lord in Punjab, ever embraced Buddhism.Therefore, during the 200 years of Greco -Bactrian rule Buddhism remained an unofficial religion that was able spread among the people due to religious freedom.
The most glorious stage of Buddhism in North and Central Afghanistan was during the Kushan period. In this period Kushan Kings, especially Kanishka the Great, was a high patron of this religion.
Hsuan-tsang, the famous Chinese pilgrim who visited Afghanistan in 7th century AD, mentioned that Kunduz in Bactria had more than 10 monasteries and hundreds of monks. He also refers to Balkh, the capital of Bactria, as having 100 Buddhist monasteries and 3000 monks. Buddhist monasteries have been found in excavations conducted in Cham Qala, Chaqalaq Tepa, and Qala Ahngaran. Another Buddhist site in Bactria is the Monastic stupa complex of Takht- e Rustam with sites in Samangan and New Bahar in Balkh. 

Sunday, 27 July 2014

The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Silk Roads

The History of Central Asia: The Age of the Silk Roads 2 

Hardcover – 30 Jul 2014

Life along the Silk Road

Life Along the Silk Road 

Paperback – 25 Mar 2015

Saturday, 26 July 2014

Archaeologists find bizarre burials in Burnt City

Grave 2810 of the 5200-year-old Burn City contains the body of a man, who it is surmised was beheaded for some offense. (Photo by CHN)
Grave 2810 of the 5200-year-old Burn City contains the body of a man, who it is surmised was beheaded for some offense. (Photo by CHN)
Tehran Times, 21 july 2014

An archaeological team, which has been assigned to reconstruct the ancient society of the 5200-year-old Burnt City in a new research project, have found several bizarre burials.
“From 1200 graves, which have been discovered in the Burnt City since 1975 during various archaeological excavations, there are several burials which are very odd and mysterious,” team director Seyyed Mansur Sajjadi told the Persian service of CHN on Monday.
Located 57 kilometers from the Iranian town of Zabol in Sistan-Baluchestan Province, the Burnt City was excavated for the first time by the Istituto Italiano per l’Africa e l’Oriente (IsIAO) team led by Maurizio Tosi in 1967. The team conducted nine seasons of excavations until 1978.
“One of the odd burials is in Grave 1003, which had been excavated by our Italian colleagues,” Sajjadi said.
The skeleton of 45-year-old man is located in the center of the circle-shaped grave and skulls of two dogs are placed above his head. In addition, 12 human skulls were placed on the north side of the grave, he stated, adding that to date, no other example of such a burial has been discovered in the Burnt City.
Due to the structure of the grave, Sajjadi stated, “The grave undoubtedly belongs one of the peoples who had migrated from the Central Asia to the Iranian Plateau. This kind of burial indicates strong relations between the people of the region and Central Asia.”
The archaeologists say that the grave may date back to a period before the advent of Zoroastrianism or it may belong to the people who were living in the region before the Iranian people settled in the area.
According to Sajjadi, Grave 2810 features another strange burial in the Burnt City.
“This grave belongs to a man who died sometime between the ages of 25 and 30. The head of the man was buried in the lower part of his right side and two daggers or cutting tools were also placed on his right side,” he stated.  
The archaeologists surmise that the man was beheaded with the cutting tools.
“In the grave, there are some pottery bowls and vases, which were used during formal funerals in ancient times. Therefore, we surmise that the man was executed for some offense, but due to the evidence of the formal funeral that was held for the man, he must have been a respected member of the community,” Sajjadi said.
Another odd burial was discovered in Grave 609.
The grave contains six skulls with a large number of long human bones, Sajjadi said.
“All these burials raise a number of questions: Why were the men buried in such styles during the third millennium? Were the men buried in these styles by accident or on purpose? Were the men buried in such ways to save ground in the graveyard? Or are there other reasons behind these burial styles and we are unaware of them,” he asked.
Iranian and foreign archaeologists have conducted 31 seasons of excavations in the Burnt City, which was registered on UNESCO’s World Heritage List in June.
A 10-centimeter ruler with an accuracy of half a millimeter, an artificial eyeball, an earthenware bowl bearing the world’s oldest example of animation and many other artifacts have been discovered among the ruins of the city in the course of the 22 seasons of archaeological excavations conducted by Iranian teams.

Friday, 25 July 2014

Reconfiguring the Silk Road: New Research on East-West Exchange in Antiquity

Reconfiguring the Silk Road

New research on East- West Exchange in Antiquity

(from the symposium in 2011)

by Colin Renfrew (Foreword), 
Victor H. Mair (Editor), 
Jane Hickman (Editor)

  • Hardcover: 136 pages
  • Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology & Anthropology (5 Aug 2014)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1934536687

From the Bronze Age through the Middle Ages, a network of trade and migration routes brought people from across Eurasia into contact. Their commerce included political, social, and artistic ideas, as well as material goods such as metals and textiles. Reconfiguring the Silk Road offers new research on the earliest trade and cultural interactions along these routes, mapping the spread and influence of Silk Road economies and social structures over time. This volume features contributions by renowned scholars uncovering new discoveries related to populations that lived in the Tarim Basin, the advanced state of textile manufacturing in the region, and the diffusion of domesticated grains across Inner Asia. Other chapters include an analysis of the dispersal of languages across the Eurasian Steppe and a detailed examination of the domestication of the horse in the region. Contextualized with a foreword by Colin Renfrew and introduction by Victor Mair, Reconfiguring the Silk Road provides a new assessment of the intercultural evolution along the steppes and beyond. Contributors: David W. Anthony, Elizabeth Wayland Barber, Dorcas R. Brown, Peter Brown, Michael D. Frachetti, Jane Hickman, Philip L. Kohl, Victor H. Mair, J. P. Mallory, Joseph G. Manning, Colin Renfre

Excavation of 700 year old cargo ship in Vietnam

From: Vietnam News  25 July 2014

Uncovering the past: The ship is believed to be the oldest shipwreck so far discovered in Viet Nam. — VNS Photos Hoai Nam
The excavation of a 700-year-old cargo ship in Quang Ngai Province, has provided a veritable treasure trove of antiquities and clues to historic trade routes betweenViet Nam and China. Cong Thanh reports.
Vietnamese archaeologists, experts and workers recently spent 26 days excavating a 700-year-old cargo ship buried in sand only four metres under the sea off Binh Chau Commune in the central province of Quang Ngai. They excavated 268 buckets of artefacts, of which 91, including porcelain dishes, jars, bowls, pots and coins, were in perfect condition.
The ship is the oldest shipwreck so far discovered in Viet Nam. The excavation reveals that the ship caught fire before sinking.
It's the first time Vietnamese archaeologists have been involved in the excavation of a ship wreck because it is in only four metres of water deep and only 100m from the beach.
"The dishes, jars, bowls, pots and coins show that the ship were from 13th century," said vice director of the National Historical Museum Nguyen Dinh Chien. "The blue flower patterns, bronzes and coins suggest the goods were likely from the Chinese Tang and North and South Sung dynasties," Chien said.

Awash with artefacts: Scientists and excavators work hard to retrieve precious antiques at the site.
Local archaeologists are still trying to confirm the ship's origin and its connection with the then busy port of Sa Ky in central Viet Nam. "The ship was 20.5m long, 5.6m wide and had 13 cargo holds. Evidence of a blaze was found in three cargo holds," Chien said.
"Two-thirds of upper part of the ship has been destroyed by water and time, while the remaining parts including rudder, wooden mast and main structure have been kept intact under a thick layer of sand," he said.
"This confirms the existence of an ancient trading port in the area, which is littered with wrecks," Chien said.
Pham Quoc Quan, a member of the National Heritage Council, said: "We have been classifying pieces of timber to find where the ship was built. Porcelain ware with brown enamel will also help identify where the vessel left from."

Tough call: Authorities still have two options: lifting the ship up or leaving it in the seabed as a potential tourist attraction. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Long
The ship provides the first clear image of a vessel from the 13th century.
Doan Sung and 50 members from his Doan Anh Duong company won bidding rights to hoist the shipwreck. They piled up steel panels to create a 300sq.m tank around the wreck. Workers pumped water and sand out of the tank, leaving a dry base for excavation of the ship and its cargo.
Sung, an antique collector, succeeded in hoisting 16,000 antiquities from an old sunken ship near Cham Island 10 years ago at a depth of 72m.
"We have experience in excavating antiquities from old sunken ships deep in the sea. We risked money in lifting the ship from the sea, but we'll receive a return of precious antiques. These antiques will help us build a museum to house the old ship and its cargo," he said, adding that his company will start construction of a 50ha museum on Phu Quoc Island.
"It would be an interesting sample for tourists and researchers because a wreck like this is a first in Viet Nam," he said.
"I prefer to take the wreck out of water because the sea around it is included in the enlarged Dung Quat port. This will only take a few days," he said, adding that the ship was unique in Viet Nam and would cost a lot of money to preserve.

Piecing it together: Scientists found many ancient ceramics at the site and will now endeavour to determine their origins. — VNS Photo Hoai Nam
Nguyen Dang Vu, director of the Quang Ngai Provincial Department of Culture, Sports and Tourism, said archaeologists and researchers had been discussing the possibility of leaving the ship in the water and using it to attract diving tourists.
"We still have two options: lifting the ship up or leaving it there. On the one hand, land preservation would cost a lot of money, while the development of Dung Quat port would damage the wreck in the near future," he said.
Vu said the department would host scientific seminars about the ship with the participation of local and foreign archaeologists and historians.
Nguyen Viet, director of the Centre for Southeast Asian Prehistory, said that bringing the wreck ashore was the best move.
"It's a good opportunity to save a wreck near the coast. There have been few untouched wrecked ships found in South-east Asia, so it's a precious treasure not only for Quang Ngai Province, but also for archaeological studies in Viet Nam and Asia," Viet said.
Viet said the ship would be dismantled before hoisted out and restored. All objects found are being stored and sealed at Quang Ngai Provincial Museum.
Eventually researchers will be able to pin down not only the origin of the ship but on which trade route it was sailing. Examinations will also help unravel the importance of ports in central Viet Nam at the time. According to some historians, central Viet Nam ports were among the busiest in Asia not only in the 13th century but also one or two thousand years BC, as artwork on the ancient bronze drums show. — VNS

The leftovers: Ceramics found in the shipwreck. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Long

Tangut Manuscripts from St Petersburg

24 July 2014
We have another wonderful guest blog, this time by Sam Van Schaik, International Dunhuang Project Research and HE Manager. Sam is also based at the British Library and sits just along the corridor from EAP. 
His blog is all about the historical context for EAP140 material.
 The Tangut kingdom is one of the great lost civilisations of Asia. The kingdom, also known as Westen Xia, came to prominence in the 11th century and flourished until the early 13th century, when it was crushed by the armies of Genghis Khan. In that brief span, the Tanguts invented a new script, translated thousands of texts into their language, and pioneered the use of print technology, including moveable type.
Stupas at the northwest corner of Kharakhoto, taken in October 2008. (c) International Dunhuang Project.
Until the beginning of the 20th century the Tanguts were only known through a few scattered references in historical texts. That changed with the excavation of the ancient ruined city of Kharakhoto by the Russian explorer Pyotr Kuzmich Kozlov (1863-1935). During two visits to the site in 1908 and 1909, Kozlov discovered thousands of ancient manuscripts in Chinese, Tibetan, and an unknown language that would later be identified as Tangut. Along with other artefacts, including beautiful paintings on silk, Kozlov’s discoveries were taken back to St Petersburg, and are now housed in the Hermitage and the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts at the Russian Academy of Sciences.
There are over eight thousand Tangut manuscripts and block printed books from Kharakhoto in the St Petersburg collection. Most of these are Buddhist texts, found when Kozlov was excavating a stupa (a Buddhist reliquary), dating from the 12th and early 13th centuries. The Tangut state was located between China and Tibet, and was influenced equally by these two great Buddhist cultures. Thus the manuscripts contain texts from China, including the literature of the Chan and Huayan schools, and from Tibet, mainly tantric Buddhist practices from India that had only recently arrived in Tibet.
It is a testament to the commitment of the Tangut emperors to Buddhism that the whole of the canon of Buddhist sutras (scriptures recording the words of the Buddha) were translated into Tangut by the 12th century. As we see from the Kharakhoto collections, many of these sutras were copied by hand and printed in expensive editions on fine paper. The Tibetan tantric texts were translated in the late 12th and early 13th centuries due to the increasing influence of Tibetan Buddhists at the Tangut court.
A copy of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra in concertina format. Tang.334/201 EAP140/1/35
A project under the Endangered Archives Programme (EAP140) has now digitized a significant portion of the Tangut manuscript collections at the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, St Petersburg. These are manuscripts of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra, "The Great Sutra of the Perfection of Wisdom", the most numerous single text in the collection. Just like in Chinese and Tibetan Buddhism, this massive text was copied extensively for the religious merit thought to accrue from copying scripture.
These copies of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra are now available on the EAP website and will also be made available on the websites of the International Dunhuang Project. The high-quality colour images of these manuscripts make it possible to appreciate the variety of writing styles and book formats used in the Tangut kingdom. Book forms include concertina manuscripts like the one pictured above, and scrolls (see below).
A scroll with a blue cloth cover. Tang.335/2.
The technology of woodblock printing was being used in China and Central Asia from the 7th century, and the production of both printed books and manuscripts continued in the following centuries. Though printing was a well-established technique in the Tangut kingdom, the great majority of these copies of the Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra were written by hand. Many of the manuscripts also have a block-printed frontispiece showing a scene of the Buddha teaching, an interesting combination of print and manuscript technologies. The fact that the same print is attached to many of the manuscripts suggests that they were produced around the same time. The Buddhist dynasties of China and Tibet sponsored major projects of copying the Perfection of Wisdom sutras, and it is likely that the Tangut emperors wanted to show that they could do the same.
A block-printed illustration, the frontispiece to a Mahāprajñāpāramitā sūtra. Tang.334/204  EAP140/1/38

Architecture of the Buddhist World

Over the course of its 2,500-year history, Buddhism has found expression in countless architectural forms, from the great monastic complexes of ancient India to the fortified dzongs of Bhutan, the rock-carved temple grottoes of China, the wooden shrines of Japan, and the colorful wats of Cambodia, Laos, and Thailand. Architecture of the Buddhist World, a projected six-volume series by the noted architect and scholar Vikram Lall, represents a new multidisciplinary approach to this fascinating subject, showing how Buddhist thought and ritual have interacted with local traditions across the Asian continent to produce masterpieces of religious architecture.
The first volume in the series, The Golden Lands, is devoted to Southeast Asia, home to many of the most spectacular Buddhist monuments. Following a general introduction to the early history of Buddhism and its most characteristic architectural forms (the stupa, the temple, and the monastery), Lall examines the Buddhist architecture of Myanmar, Vietnam, Indonesia, Cambodia, Thailand, and Laos in turn. For each country, he provides both a historical overview and case studies of noteworthy structures. Lall’s concise and accessible text is illustrated throughout with new color photography, as well as 3-D architectural models that make even the most complex structures easily comprehensible.
The monuments that Lall considers in The Golden Lands range from the modest Bupaya stupa, constructed in Bagan, Myanmar, in the third century CE, to the vast complex of Borobudur in Central Java, the world’s largest Buddhist monument. Lall’s achievement is to place them all within a single panorama of history, religion, and artistic innovation.
Vikram Lall is a partner and the principal architect of Lall & Associates, a leading architectural firm in New Delhi. Also a teacher and scholar, he has lectured on architectural history and theory at institutions worldwide. The present series represents the summation of his twenty-five years of intensive research into Buddhist architecture.

Excavation Yuan Dynasty ship completed

Archaeological excavation of a sunken ship in Chaotang river of Ningbo city, Zhejiang province are made public for the first time on July 22, 2014.
The sunken ship of Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) was unearthed in Cixi city of Ningbo in June this year. 
Now its field archaeological excavations are completed. 
The sunken ship wreckage is 19.5 meters long, five meters wide and two meters deep. 
Its original length is estimated to be between 23 and 28 meters. 
It's the sixth sunken ship discovered in Ningbo city.

[Photo: China News Service / He Jiangyong]


Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Mural from Mes Aynak

Zheng He’s Maritime Voyages (1405-1433) and China’s Relations with the Indian Ocean World

Zheng He's Maritime Voyages (1405-1433) and China's Relations with the Indian Ocean World
Edited and annotated by Ying LiuUniversity of Victoria
Zhongping ChenUniversity of Victoria
Gregory BlueUniversity of Victoria

Expected Date: 
August 2014
Publication Type: 
Pages, Illustr.: 
xxvi, 200 pp.