Friday, 15 December 2017

Why the Mongols did not invade India!

India Should Be Grateful to Alauddin Khilji for Thwarting the Mongol Invasions


Depiction of the Mongol siege of Baghdad, 1258. credit: Wikimedia
For the past month, Rajasthan has been convulsed by a controversy over the Bollywood movie, Padmavati, based on Padmavat – a prose-poem written by Malik Muhammad Jayasi in 1540 CE which uses Alauddin Khilji’s conquest of Chittor in 1303 CE and his supposed obsession with Rani Padmini of Chittor as a backdrop for its ficitional tale.
None of the politicians and activists accusing the film maker of denigrating the honour of the Rajput queen of Chittor, Padmini, and glorifying the “Muslim conqueror Khilji” has even seen the film yet.
Much of the controversy is fuelled by ill-feeling towards Khilji, based on the fact that he was an oppressive ruler to his subjects, who were mostly Hindu. So the possibility of romance – or even unrequited love – between a Muslim “villain” and a Hindu queen being depicted on screen, even as a fantasy, as has been rumoured, infuriates Hindu right-wing groups.
A portrait of Allauddin Khilji, made in the 17th century. Credit: Wikimedia
What is not well-known, however, is that Khilji, for all his faults, saved India from a fate much worse than even his own oppressive rule – that of the murderous Mongols, who tried to invade the Indian subcontinent six times during his reign as the sultan of Delhi, and failed miserably, thanks to his brilliance as a general, the quality, discipline, and bravery of his army and its commanders, and their superior military tactics.
What the Mongol invaders inflicted on Persia, the Caliphate of Baghdad, Russia, and elsewhere is well documented – genocide, the destruction of infrastructure, and the destruction of native culture, literature, and religious institutions. Their habit of leaving conquered countries as wastelands that would not spring back for at least a hundred years, and their tendency to rule even the regions they settled in, such as Russia, in an exploitative and backward way, are well-known to historians and laypersons alike.
Against this backdrop, one can safely argue that Alauddin Khilji, for all his faults, actually saved the syncretic culture of the Indian subcontinent of that time – which included Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist, and Jain subcultures – from enormous destruction, even if preserving the culture of India may not have been what motivated his resistance to the Mongols.
Indeed, Khilji is a classic study in the layered and complex nature of historical figures whom it is impossible to portray in the black-and-white terms that modern politics seems to demand. Khilji is rightly viewed negatively for his cruelty and brutality; but he should also, in fairness, be seen as the saviour of Hindustan that he unwittingly ended up being, by repelling the formidable and ruthless Mongol hordes.
The Mongols, scourge of God
The Mongols were largely illiterate, so much of their history was written by the people of the territories they conquered, such as the Islamic lands of the near east, and of China and Russia. Much of what we know about them is based on the writings of scholars such as Rashid al-Din and other Islamic scholars who lived in the time of the Mongols.
The Mongol dynasty was founded in 1206 CE, when a council of Mongol tribesmen elected the warrior Temujin as their leader and conferred upon him, at the age of 44, the title of Genghis – meaning “Mighty” – Khan. In the Indian subcontinent, he is known as Changez Khan. Radiating outwards from Mongolia, the Mongols, first under Genghis and, after his death in 1227 CE, under his sons and grandsons, embarked upon a plan of global conquest that resulted in the largest land empire in history – conquering China, Russia, Central Asia, Persia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Kashmir, and eastern Europe (parts of Hungary and Poland), and left a trail of death and destruction behind them.
The map below shows the extent of the Mongol empire in 1294 CE, which is just two years before Alauddin Khilji ascended the throne of Delhi.
The extent of the Mongol empire, circa 1294
Upon Genghis Khan’s death, the Mongol empire was partitioned into four parts. Eventually, these became the Yuan dynasty in China, famous for Genghis’s grandson Kublai Khan; the Golden Horde in Russia, which was founded by Genghis’s grandson Batu Khan; the Chaghatai Khanate of Central Asia, headquartered around Uzbekistan, founded by Genghis’s son Chaghatai Khan; and the Ilkhanate of western Asia, founded by Genghis’s grandson Hulagu Khan. The Mongols were the dominant military power in the world from the rise of Genghis Khan until at least the middle of the 14th century. With the exception of a few minor defeats involving small forces in battle, such as the Battle of Ayn Jalut, no military could defend itself against their onslaught.
The Mongols, being nomads, usually did not settle in the lands they conquered. Their goals were simple: exact tributes and treasure from the kingdoms they had conquered, and take from them the latest technology they possessed, in addition to the most beautiful women for their harem and the most able-bodied men for their military. They would demand all this from any nation before actually attacking them. If the ruler accepted their suzerainty and paid the stiff tribute demanded, the Mongols would leave his kingdom unharmed. If he refused, they would raze that kingdom to the ground and leave behind a wasteland. As Curtin describes it, “The Mongols destroyed every living thing; even the cats and dogs in the city were killed by them.”
The Mongols themselves had no unique religious identity, and the Mongol nation was a fairly secular multi-ethnic meritocracy from the time of Genghis Khan. Hence, religion was not a strong motivating factor in their attacks. As an example, Hulagu was a mixture of the traditional Mongol religion of Tengrism and Buddhism, and his wife was Nestorian Christian.
Hulagu Khan. Credit: Wikimedia
The Mongols did not just invade and conquer; they exterminated civilisations. To give just an idea, during Genghis’s invasion of the Persian Empire, these were the number of people put to death in some of the cities overcome by the Mongols in 1222 CE: Urgench, 1 million; Merv, 700,000; Nishapur, 1.7 million; Rey, 500,000 (an estimate based on the order that every male should be killed in a city of approximately a million people); and Herat, 1.6 million. That’s nearly 6 million people just from these cities, at a time when the world population is estimated at 400 million. In other words, the Mongols are said to have killed 1.5% of the world population in a single campaign.
When Hulagu Khan – known in the Indian subcontinent as ‘Halaku’ – sacked Baghdad in 1258, he is believed to have killed several hundred thousand people. His own estimate of the death toll was 200,000. He single-handedly ended what is known as the Islamic Golden Age. Ibn Iftikhar, quoting Islamic scholars, writes, “the Mongols stormed the country and killed everyone they were able to find, including men, women, children, old, young, sick, and healthy. People would try to hide inside wells, gardens, and they even fled towards the hills and mountains. However, the Mongols would continue on, finding even people on the rooftops of their homes and inside the mosques. The streets ran blood ‘like rainwater in a valley.’
He also reports, “The Mongols destroyed mosques, palaces, grand buildings, hospitals, and libraries. The Mongols raided the House of Wisdom itself. The Tigris river ran black from the ink of the books that were thrown into the river, mixed with the blood of the slain.” The destruction the Mongols wreaked on the Muslim world was so great – it came close to wiping out Islamic civilisation – that most Muslims of the time viewed it as a form of divine retribution for the sins they had committed.
The Golden Horde under Batu Khan invaded Russia in 1238-1240 CE with the same brutality as in the other cases described above. Entire populations of towns like Ryazan and Kiev were massacred. But what is even more interesting about the Russian invasion is the effect of Mongol rule on a country in which they actually settled and ruled for 250 years. As Cicek explains,
“Soviet historians argued that the Mongol invasion greatly delayed Russia’s economic development. Tribute payments and the destruction of commercial centers delayed the growth of a money economy. The town economies based on handicrafts were completely destroyed, throwing Russia back by several centuries. The economy of Europe, however, flourished in this period, preparing the necessary ground for the industrial revolution. The Mongols also prevented the agricultural development of Russia, which further worsened the commercial position of Russia, especially in comparison to the West. Russia not only lost the vital trade route of the Dvina River but also lost some of its territories in the west to Lithuania, Sweden, and the Teutonic Knights. To summarize, the net effect of the Tatar yoke on the Russian economy, according to Soviet historians, was overwhelmingly negative. The Mongols gave nothing but destruction and looting to the Russian people.”
The sacking of Suzdal by Batu Khan. Credit: Wikimedia
What they did was plunge Russia into its ‘Dark Age.’ Another destructive legacy of the Mongols in their 250-year rule of Russia was the institution of serfdom.
Khilji’s repulsion of the Mongol invasions of India
Alauddin Khilji was born in Delhi in 1266 CE, lived his entire life in the Indian subcontinent, and ruled as sultan of Delhi from 1296 CE – 1316 CE. By any definition, he would have to be called an Indian monarch, not a foreign invader. As a ruler, he would prove himself to be one of India’s greatest warrior kings and one of the world’s great military geniuses.
Historical details about the Khiljis are obtained from fundamental sources such as Ferishta, who lived during the time of the sultan of Bijapur, Ibrahim Adil Shah II, and Ziauddin Barani, who lived at the time of Mohammad Bin Tughlaqand Firuz Shah Tughlaq. These accounts are well-summarised in the works of eminent contemporary historians such as K.S. LalSatish Chandra, and Peter Jackson.
Khilji greatly expanded the empire that he inherited from his uncle, Sultan Jalaluddin Khilji, after killing him. Many of his conquests were of kingdoms ruled by Hindu kings, including Chittor, Devgiri, Warangal (from where he acquired the famous Kohinoor diamond), Gujarat, Ranthambore, and the Hoysala and Pandya kingdoms. He was able to do all this not because these other kingdoms were weak, but because he was a great soldier and general with a well-trained and disciplined army, using superior Turkic cavalry and infantry tactics, and had built a solid economic base which provided him with the resources to finance these campaigns.
During Khilji’s rule, the Mongols of the Chaghatai Khanate under Duwa Khan repeatedly tried to invade the Indian subcontinent. The attacks that occurred during the reign of Alauddin Khilji were not the first time that the Mongols had invaded India. But, as Lal puts it, “All these were minor invasions as compared with those that occurred in the time of Alauddin; and it was the good fortune of India that the most tremendous assaults were delivered to this country when a strong monarch like Alauddin was the ruler.”
Khilji, by his military brilliance, managed to defeat the Mongols not once, but five times, and avoided defeat a sixth time even when taken by surprise, as the Mongols attacked with massive forces.
The first invasion attempt was carried out in 1298 CE, and involved 100,000 horsemen. Alauddin sent an army commanded by his brother Ulugh Khan and the general Zafar Khan, and this army comprehensively defeated the Mongols, with the capture of 20,000 prisoners, who were put to death.
In 1299 CE, the Mongols invaded again, this time in Sindh, and occupied the fort of Sivastan. Alauddin despatched Zafar Khan to defeat them and recapture the fort, which he did, even without the need for siege machines.
The Battle of Kili
This humiliating defeat prompted Duwa Khan to attempt another full-scale assault on India in 1299 CE, and he sent his son, Qutlugh Khwaja, with 200,000 soldiers, determined to finish off the Delhi Sultanate once and for all. The Mongol army came fully equipped for this assault on Delhi and for a long campaign, with sufficient food provisions. Alauddin’s own advisors were panic-stricken and advised him not to confront the dreaded Mongols who had come in such force.
It should be mentioned here that Alauddin’s predecessor, Jalaluddin, had averted war with the Mongols in a previous attack by agreeing to humiliating demands from them. But Alauddin was determined to fight to the end. As Lal describes it, he told his advisor,
“How could he hold the sovereignty of Delhi if he shuddered to encounter the invaders? What would his contemporaries and those adversaries who had marched two thousand kos to fight him say when he ‘hid behind a camel’s back’? And what verdict would posterity pronounce on him? How could he dare show his countenance to anybody, or even enter the royal harem, if he was guilty of cowardice, and endeavoured to repel the Mongols with diplomacy and negotiations? … ‘Come what may, I am bent upon marching tomorrow into the plain of Kili, where I propose joining in battle with Qutlugh Khwaja.’”
Alauddin met Qutlugh Khwaja at Kili, and the day was won by the bravery and martyrdom of his general Zafar Khan. (That the Mongols retreated because of Zafar Khan’s actions is the only explanation postulated by Barani, and quoted by Lal and Chandra; however, Jackson doubts this explanation and says the real reason the Mongols withdrew was that Qutlugh Khwaja was mortally wounded in the battle, a fact confirmed by other sources.) The defeated Mongols went back to their country without stopping once on the way.
Representation of Allauddin Khilji from the early 20th century. Credit: Wikimedia
After Chittor, a surprise challenge
However, Duwa Khan was not satisfied. In 1303 CE, he again sent a huge force of 120,000 horsemen to attack Delhi, under General Taraghai. This was, unfortunately for Alauddin, immediately after his long battle with and victory over the kingdom of Chittor. That Alauddin was busy with his attack on Chittor was known to Taraghai, and was one of the key factors in his planning. Alauddin was taken completely by surprise. His army was greatly depleted and had suffered great losses in equipment in the battle for Chittor. He tried to get reinforcements from other parts of the empire, but the Mongols had blocked all the roads to Delhi.
Yet Alauddin did not lose heart, and fought a gallant defensive battle. Lal explains it thus:
“Sultan Alauddin gathered together whatever forces he had in the capital, and arrayed his forces in the plains of Siri. As it was impossible to fight the Mongols in an open engagement with so small an army, Alauddin decided to exhaust the patience of the besiegers by strengthening his defence lines. On the east of Siri lay the river Jamuna, and on the south-west was the old citadel of Delhi, although by the time of Taraghai’s invasion it had not been repaired. In the south lay the dense jungle of Old Delhi. The only vulnerable side, therefore, was the north, where the Mongols had pitched their camp.”
Alauddin dug trenches and built ramparts and created a strong defensive position that made it impossible for Taraghai to defeat him. After two months of trying hard to break Alauddin’s defences, Taraghai lost patience and returned home. This was clearly brilliant generalship under extremely adverse circumstances which would have meant certain defeat for anyone who was not as resolute and as resourceful.
This close shave made Alauddin realize the need for stronger defence of the capital, and he took various measures, such as constructing a wall, repairing forts, and the like. As a result, Delhi was never again at risk of conquest by the Mongols.
In 1305 CE, seeking to avenge their previous defeats, the Mongols invaded again, under the leadership of Taraghai, Ali Beg, and Tartaq, with a force of 50,000 horsemen. Taraghai was killed in a preliminary clash even before arriving in Delhi, but Ali Beg and Tartaq pushed on. Knowing Delhi to be strongly defended, they started plundering the countryside of Avadh. Alauddin sent a force of 30,000 to 40,000 horsemen with the general Malik Nayak to meet the Mongols and inflicted a crushing defeat on them on December 30, 1305. Twenty thousand horses belonging to the enemy were captured, and most of the soldiers were slaughtered. 8000 prisoners of war were brought to Delhi, including the two generals, who were subsequently beheaded.
The last attempt to invade the Delhi Sultanate was made by Duwa in 1306 CE, just before his death, when he sent the generals Kubak and Iqbalmand with an army of 50,000 to 60,000 horsemen. Kubak advanced in the direction of the Ravi river, and Iqbalmand advanced in the direction of Nagor. Alauddin dispatched his favorite general, Malik Kafur, to deal with the Mongols. Kafur defeated Kubak in a battle on the Ravi and captured him alive. He then intercepted the second force at Nagor and defeated that as well. Only 3000 or 4000 soldiers remained of the Mongol invasion force.
Thus, Alauddin Khilji achieved what no other ruler in the world, east or west, had achieved. He repeatedly repulsed and defeated large-scale invasions by the Mongols, who had been an unstoppable force wherever they had gone Russia, China, Persia, Iraq, Syria, Europe. He was able to repel forces of up to 200,000 Mongol horsemen. In comparison, the force that Hulagu took with him to Baghdad and used to completely destroy the Caliphate had only 150,000 horsemen.
The Mongols had not become weak and feeble since the sack of Baghdad in 1258 – this was not the reason for Alauddin’s success. As an illustration, his uncle who preceded Alauddin as Sultan of Delhi preferred to “make a settlement, giving the Mongols very favourable terms”, to use Lal’s words. Alauddin’s own advisors advised him in 1299 CE to submit rather than fight the feared Mongols; but Alauddin Khilji proved superior to his formidable Mongol foes.
The Alai Darwaza in delhi, commissioned by Alauddin Khilji. Credit: Wikimedia
Khilji’s legacy to the Indian subcontinent
From the knowledge of how other countries fared under the Mongols, it is fair to say that had the Mongols conquered India, India would have likely been set back at least two or three hundred years in its development. A large part of the knowledge and culture that had been accumulated in India over millenia might well have been destroyed. Every library, school, temple, mosque and even home would have likely been burnt to the ground. As the Russian experience shows, even if the Mongols had settled down in the Indian subcontinent (an unlikely proposition, given the hot Indian weather), the consequences for India would probably not have been savoury.
So the Mongols were not like any other invader. If Khilji had lost to the Mongols, the outcome would not have been as benign as when Ibrahim Lodi lost to Babur. In that case, one ‘foreign’ ruler who had recently made India his home was replaced by another, but the Indian subcontinent itself did not suffer greatly. If the Mongols had won against Khilji, they would probably have wiped a large percentage of India’s cultural heritage off the map of the world. If we have ancient traditions in India that survive to this day, a large part of the credit for that has to go to Alauddin Khilji, one of history’s greatest warrior-kings.
By all accounts, Alauddin Khilji was not a benevolent king to his subjects. But he also was a brave soldier and a brilliant general who saved the Indian subcontinent from certain destruction. Of course, Khilji did not resist the Mongols to save Indian culture and civilisation; he did what he did to save himself. But that is true of every ruler who defends their kingdom against a foreigner, whether that be Shivaji, Rana Pratap, or Laxmibai of Jhansi.
These days, it is becoming increasing common to paint one-dimensional portraits of people: “Hindu hero,” “Islamic tyrant,” “Islamic hero,” etc. But the problem with such stereotypes is that people are not monolithic — they are complex and layered. The man you hate as a Muslim bigot may also be the reason you are a Hindu today.
Was Alauddin Khilji a bigot?
The story of Alauddin Khilji shows us that we need to understand history in its entirety. Just as most Indians are unaware of Alauddin Khilji’s role in stopping many Mongol invasions, even the image of Khilji as someone who persecuted Hindus is based on an incomplete understanding of history.
To be sure, Khilji was an extremely cruel, suspicious and vindictive man, and meted out barbaric punishments to those who antagonised him. But his cruelty was impartial, and made no distinction between Hindus and Muslims.
Historians are generally agreed that while Alauddin Khilji was a cruel despot, he was not a bigot. He was a pragmatist.
One statement that has been widely circulated in recent times as proof of Alauddin’s bigotry comes from Ziauddin Barani, who mentions (Kulke and Rothermund) that Alauddin asked wise men to “supply some rules and regulations for grinding down the Hindus, and for depriving them of that wealth and property which fosters rebellion. The Hindu was to be so reduced as to be left unable to keep a horse to ride on, to carry arms, to wear fine clothes, or to enjoy any of the luxuries of life.”
The first thing one needs to understand about this statement is the source. As Peter Jackson explains, Barani himself was an extreme bigot, writing in his Tarikh-i-Firuz-Shah that Hindus should be looted and enslaved and the Brahmins, in particular, should be massacred en masse. Some of what Barani writes about Alauddin, therefore, reflects his own prejudice more than Alauddin’s. In fact, there are many places where he disapproves of Alauddin as having been too soft on Hindus.
The next thing to understand is that the main revenue of the state came from agriculture, and most of the farmers were Hindus. Alauddin needed to finance his expensive military campaigns, and for this, he levied heavy taxes on the farmers — and hence the Hindus. This was rightly viewed as oppression; but the motivation for the oppression was fiscal, not religious.
An additional motivation for Alauddin in impoverishing the farmers was that there was a constant threat of rebellion against him. This threat arose both from the wealthy farmers as well as from the Muslim nobility. Alauddin acted with equal brutality in suppressing both threats. A poor farmer was not a threat.
Other instances of brutality that Alauddin engaged in were during his conquests. It just happened that many of his conquests were of Hindu rajas and, as Lal explains it, “It is true that during the process of conquest, atrocities were committed, but in times of war suffering is inevitable. With the establishment of peace and order, no organised persecution of Hindus was possible.”
That religion and religious doctrine were anyway secondary to administrative policy for Alauddin are clear from an exchange that Barani notes between Alauddin and the cleric Qazi Mughis, in which Alauddin says:
To prevent rebellions in which thousands perish, I issue such orders as I conceive to be for the good of the state, and the benefit of the people. Men are heedless, disrespectful, and disobey my commands. I am then compelled to be severe and bring them to obedience. I do not know whether this is according to the sharia, or against the sharia; whatever I think for the good of the state or suitable for the emergency, that I decree.
Even the much-reviled religious tax, the jaziyah, was levied rather inconsistently, as Chandra points out: “Jaziyah as a separate tax affected only a small section in the towns. As such, it could hardly be considered a device for forcing conversion to Islam.”
In conclusion, it seems clear from various historical sources that the rule of Alauddin Khilji was not characterized by bigotry. And it would not have been practical, in any case, to indulge in large-scale discrimination against the Hindu majority — not only for Alauddin, but for any sultan, for the rulers were in the minority. As Barani says, Iltutmish, one of Alauddin’s predecessors, once explained to his clergy that Muslims were as scarce in India as “salt in a dish of food,” and hence he could not afford to be too harsh with the Hindus.
Seshadri Kumar is an R&D Chemical Engineer with a BTech from IIT Bombay and an MS and a PhD from the University of Utah, U.S. He writes regularly on political, social, economic, and cultural affairs at www. leftbrainwave.com.
The author would like to thank the following people for reading drafts of this article and offering valuable suggestions that have greatly improved it: Ajoy Ashirwad, Anirban Mitra, Prof. Harbans Mukhia, Prof. Partho Sarathi Ray, Ramdas Menon, and Sandhya Srinivasan. The author would also like to thank all those who participated in discussing an earlier and much shorter version of this article that he had posted on Facebook — those discussions have helped sharpen the focus and improve this expanded version.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Ancient Tomb Full of 'Soup Bowls' & Food Vessels Discovered in China

LiveScience by Owen Jarus  December 12, 2017


Ancient Tomb Full of 'Soup Bowls' & Food Vessels Discovered in China
Many of the food vessels were found in niches in the wall of the tomb.
Credit: Photo courtesy Chinese Cultural Relics

A 3,100-year-old tomb filled with bronze "soup bowls" and other food vessels covered in incredible designs has been discovered in Baoji City in Shaanxi province, China.
Also inside the tomb was a badly decomposed body of an unidentified person, the archaeologists said.
"The occupant of Tomb M4 [the name archaeologists gave the tomb] was most likely of elite status, and could potentially be a high ranking chief or the spouse of a chief," wrote an archaeological team led by Zhankui Wang, with the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology, in an article recently published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics. [See Photos of the Tomb and Ancient Bronze Vessels]
At least 56 other ancient tombs have been found near Tomb M4, the archaeologists reported. All these tombs were found during excavations that started in 2012, after construction workers uncovered bronze vessels while they were building houses. 
The vessels in Tomb M4 may have been spoils of war given to the person buried in the tomb researchers noted.
The food vessels include a four-handled tureen, which was often used to serve soup. The container — dotted with 192 spikes — is decorated with engravings of dragons and birds as well as 24 images showing the heads of bovines.


Two wine vessels, each of which is in the shape of a deer, were also found among the food vessels. Engravings showing a variety of complex designs were found on the wine vessels.
The skeleton of the tomb occupant is badly decomposed and archaeologists are not certain exactly who was buried there.
The archaeologists referred to the vessels as "ritual vessels," suggesting that if they were ever used to serve food, it would have been during religious or burial ceremonies.
At the time of the burial, the Zhou people were battling the Shang, a rival dynasty in China. The Zhou would eventually defeat the Shang and seize control of their territory.
A few of the vessels hold inscriptions that include the names of different Shang clans. The different clan names "on the bronze vessels suggest that they are originally from multiple clans of the Shang people," the archaeologists wrote in the journal article.
The Zhou may have seized the bronze vessels during the war and given them to the person who was buried in the tomb, the archaeologists said. "After conquering the Shang dynasty, the Zhou king distributed the plundered war spoils to the military officers with great achievements, and these spoils usually included bronze vessels," the archaeologists wrote.
A journal article about the tomb discovery was published in Chinese in 2016, in the journal Wenwu. The article was recently translated into English and published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.
Original article on Live Science.

Monday, 11 December 2017

College de France and the Shahnameh: the Book of Kings

At College de France you will find the latest research in natural and social sciences with lectures, seminars, symposia open to the general public and audio, video and online publications.

One of the topics is History and Literature and there you'll find Frantz Grenet who for many years gives very interesting lectures on many subjects regarding the history and culture of pre-islamic Central Asia.


2016/2017 is about "Le Livre des Rois de Ferdowsi et les épopées sistaniennes : strates textuelles, strates iconographiques" (Ferdowsi's “Shahnameh”: The book of kings).

I've chosen out of the many video's which are available two who are in English:


Sistani Epics in the Shāhnāma Manuscript Tradition: on the Demon Shabrang and the Hero Barzu


Saturday, 9 December 2017

More news and photo's: Map of the Silk Road from the Ming period donated to Palace Museum

From: News.Artron.net 4 december 2017

On November 30, the National Palace Museum donated a very precious historical value of cultural relics - "Silk Road landscape map." It is said that the artifacts had been lost to Japan in the 1930s. This time, Xu Rongmao, chairman of the board of Shimao Group, invested 130 million yuan to buy it from private collectors and donated it to the National Palace Museum at no charge.

"Silk Road Landscape Map"
"Silk Road Landscape Map" painted on top of the silk, width 0.59 meters, a total length of 30.12 meters, is a painting in the Ming and Qing Dynasties, should be used within the House of green mountains hand scroll. It depicts the vast area of the east from Jiayuguan west to Tianfang (now Mecca, Saudi Arabia). A total of 211 volumes of geo-coordinates were drawn, marking many important cities on the Silk Road such as Dunhuang in China and Isfahan in Iran. All city names are marked in Chinese and the name of the city west of Jiayuguan is translated from the Chinese characters of many exotic languages such as Turkic, Mongolian, Persian, Arabian and Armenian languages.
"Silk Road Landscape Map" part

President Shan said that not long ago, U.S. President Trump visiting China visited the National Palace Museum. During the visit, "Silk Road Landscape Map" left a deep impression on President Trump. "President Trump admired both the opening of the first large-scale business exchange between the East and the West on the Silk Road and the moving of East-West cultural, artistic and ideological exchanges through the Silk Road to the entire history of the world Meaning and far-reaching impact. "

I recall that a few years ago this piece of "Silk Road Landscape Map" had been introduced and exhibited by Poly Culture in the "Belt and Road Initiative."

According to professor Lin Meicun from Peking University Institute of Archeology and Museology, doctoral tutor and research fellow of Silk Road, the original picture of this "Silk Road Landscape Map" is about 40 meters long, that is, the starting and ending points should be Jiayuguan and "Lushen" (Lin That is, Istanbul). In the picture, about 10 meters long, the passage from "Tian Fang" to "Lu Fan" was later arbitrarily eliminated.

Some scholars through the clues provided by Professor Lin Meicun, after reading the "Western land character map", you can draw the following conclusions: There are indeed many missing notes on the map, the part from the side to the Lutheran was cut off. The furthest point of the map is a place called "Lushan". In the book "Foreign Ministers of Staff" written by A-lish in the Ming Dynasty, the Western missionary in Ming Dynasty recorded a "Lumi" kingdom in Asia Minor, Asia.
"Silk Road Landscape Map" part
During the Ming Dynasty, Ricci, an Italian, came to China and in 1584 (twelve thousand years of Wanli), he painted the "Vision of All Nations." In 1601 (Wanli twenty-nine years), Matteo Ricci arrived in Beijing division dedication to this map, later known as "Kun Yu universal map." The world in this illustration is an oval with some astronomical and geographic maps attached: a nine-day sky map in the upper right corner, a heavenly world map in the lower right corner, a hemisphere map of the equatorial northern hemisphere and a solar eclipse map in the upper left corner and an equator in the lower left corner South hemisphere map and gas map; another amount of days scale attached to the bottom left of the main map. Matteo Ricci's mapping method, which was later accepted by the Ming government, was extensively printed and reproduced, transforming the Western method of mapping into the dominant method of later generations.
"Silk Road Landscape Map" part
This "Silk Road Landscape Map" has not yet drawn the basic shape of the oval globe, there is no proportion of the calculation of ruler, is based on Chinese traditional hand-drawn form. Therefore, the lower limit of the "Silk Road Landscape Map" should be before the Wanli Dynasty.

On the back of the map, there is the title "Mongolia Landscape Map" titled "Shangyountang" at the famous bookstore of Liulichang at the end of the Qing Dynasty and the early Republic of China. Some scholars believe that the "Shang You Tong" title is based on past habits, this title is really not in line with the prevailing circumstances. One of the reasons why the Kansai seven-guard jurisdiction over the vast territory after the Ming Dynasty has reached the farthest reaches of Afghanistan, Kazak, Uzbekistan and other regions; During the period from Yongle to Wanli, frequent trade in the Western Regions was a historical one. The arrival of the Portuguese Benedict XVI explained the prosperity and smoothness of the Silk Road. Therefore, this map can be clearly named "Silk Road Landscape Map" than "Mongolia landscape map" is more accurate.

Some people think that "Silk Road Landscape Map" is a work by Qiu Ying Ming Dynasty painter: and Qiu Ying painting "Fen Fen map" painted Linfen watchtower exactly the same, it seems that the same powder used.
Chou Ying paintings "Fen map"

Mr. Zhu Shaoliang, a famous ancient calligraphy and painting collector and ancient scholar of calligraphy and painting appraisal, holds that the painter of Qiu Ying, from Zhou Chen and the court of Southern Song Dynasty, uses a square pen to express himself that his square pen is a side striker rather than a slant front, Use it occasionally. With the pen gentle corners, continuous and non-stop, Zhou Chen, Wang Qiao pause at the sharp corners, Qiuying's continuous and fluid ink. Chou Ying "Fen map" painted Linfen watchtower, Zhong Yan Xie Xiantao three dripping pavilion-style buildings, tail to the two Song before the icon, "ticket gate" style gates.

The "Silk Road Map" of Jiayuguan Shing Mun, watchtower is a single Yanke Xieshan two drops of water pavilion-style buildings, Qiongwei outgoing typical Ming and Qing architectural features. "Coupons door" style gates obvious. Another example is the horse Harena Tower, Zhong Yan Xieshan cross spire three dripping pavilion-style architecture, Qiongwei Inward Ming and Qing architectural features.

Therefore, it is obvious that the painting style of the "Silk Road Landscape Map" and the composition style of the building are all different from those of Qiu Ying.

Zhu Shaoliang through the "Silk Road Landscape Map" study of ink and found that with the mid Ming Dynasty "Wu sent landscapes" is very close to the fine fresh and beautiful green landscape and the ability of world painting. Stacked layers rather than depth-depth relationship between the layout, the top of the platform, dense moss dot, angular clear alum first distinctive painting. All this is very much in line with the "Wu landscape" features, closer to Wen Zhengming's student Xie Shichen's painting style. The Tang Yin, Qiuying both from the Southern Song dynasty academy painting start, and far chase the Northern Song Dynasty masters, pay attention to the theme, structure, pay attention to real scenery.

Xie Shichen in the landscape, the ability to draw the boundaries of the painting is very strong, such as "Kuanglu waterfall map", "Xishan 霁 snow map", alum head, ideas, composition and "Silk Road landscape map" consistent. Boundary drawing features, in addition to the tail, other architectural features are similar.

Judging from this, "Silk Road Landscape Map" creation time Ming Jiajing three years later, by "Wu sent landscapes" Xie Shichen style drawing method drawn, when the works of Jiajing period.

Ji Tao Introduction:

Master of Science, English scholar, registered auctioneer. At present, he is currently a member of Legal Consultation and Theoretical Research Committee of China Auction Industry Association, a member of China Auction Standardization Technical Committee, leader of standardized drafting group of auction terminology, researcher of auction research center of Central University of Finance and Economics, managing director of Tianwen International Auction Co., Adjunct Professor. Has participated in the preparation of "Auctioneer Talk Set" 1, 2 sets, "China Collection 20 years", "China Collection Yearbook", "Chinese auction twenty years", the national auctioneer qualification examination materials "Auction General Theory", "Auction The Basics of Economics "," The Basics of Auctions "and" The Course of Auction Practice ". He is the author of" The Exploration of Auction Theory and Practice "," The Selection of Auction Plan Books ", and his book" Theories and Techniques of Auctioneers " Beijing auction history "," Auctioneer presided over the tutorial "and other books. Hosted hundreds of works of art, land, real estate and other auctions.




Tuesday, 5 December 2017

Textile Archaeology on the Silk Road: Comparison of Textiles Found in Northwest China and Israel


View on YouTube This lecture by Zhao Feng of the China National Silk Museum, held on May 11, 2017 at the W.F. Albright Institute of Archaeological Research in Jerusalem gives a brief introduction to the textile archaeology in the northwest of China, especially the Xinjiang area around the Taklamakan Desert. 
The sites where the textiles were found include the Small River site from the 20th century BC, to the Yingpan cemetery from the 4-5th century AD. 
After this introduction, some comparisons between the textiles found in Israel and China are compared, including wool tapestry and compound tabby fabrics from the Roman period, cotton and silk ikat from early Islamic period, and lampas from the Mongol period. Through these comparisons Dr. Zhao examines the relationship between the two sides of the Silk Road.

Monday, 4 December 2017

Map of the Silk Road from the Ming period donated to Palace Museum

South China Morning Post 30 November 2017
When Hong Kong tycoon Hui Wing-mau instructed his company to buy a Ming dynasty Silk Road map for 133 million yuan, he knew the value of the item was beyond just the price tag.
His company, Shimao Group, recently bought the Landscape Map of the Silk Road from a private collector and donated it to the Palace Museum in Beijing, adding one more relic to the world-renowned museum that is home to 1.8 million treasures.
The low profile tycoon, once ranked by Forbes as China’s second richest person, bought the map because it carries significant historical value of China’s understanding of the Silk Road in the Ming dynasty. He felt he needed to buy it, especially after China’s President Xi Jinping has launched the go-global trade strategy, the “Belt and Road Initiative”.
The map’s value ended up probably being beyond what even Hui had expected. When US President Donald Trump visited Beijing in November, President Xi took him on a visit to the museum’s “relic museum” and the map was one of the items the two leaders saw.


“The value of the map cannot be measured by money,” Hui said at a ceremony on Thursday as the museum officially marked the transfer. “Today, (the map) is finally home.”
The map, 30.13m long and 0.59m wide, was produced during the 16th century during the Ming dynasty. It includes 10 countries and regions, including China, Iran, Afghanistan, Central Asia and North Africa – from the Jiayuguang city of Gansu province to Mecca.
In the 1930s, the map landed in the hands of the Yurinkan Museum in Kyodo, Japan. In 2002, the map was obtained by a private collector on the mainland, until Hui’s company bought it recently.

The museum’s director, Shan Jixiang, said at the ceremony that the map contains significant historical value because it shows China’s understanding of the Silk Road during the Ming dynasty. Now that China is pressing ahead with its global trade strategy, the Belt and Road Initiative, Shan said, the map has a particularly important “political meaning”.
After graduating from high school during the Cultural Revolution, Hui was sent to the countryside to work as a barefoot doctor.

He made his way to Hong Kong in the late 1970s and worked in a textile factory. He returned to Fujian in the mid-eighties and started to invest in textile factories, telling friends he had made money by dabbling in the Hong Kong stock market.
In 2006, Forbes magazine ranked Hui as the second richest person in China with a net worth of US$2.1 billion at the time. According to Forbes, his net worth has now grown to US$7.2 billion, but his ranking slipped to the 22nd place this year.
Hui is no stranger to the Palace Museum. Last year, his company donated 80 million yuan to repair the museum’s Hall of Mental Cultivation, which was built in 1537.
“Culture is a nation’s soul. Without prosperity in culture, there will be no rejuvenation for the Chinese nation,” Hui said, referring to Xi’s vision for the country.
He added he may suggest that director Shan showcase the map in Hong Kong in the future.
Among the guests at the ceremony on Thursday were Tung Chee-hwa, vice-chairman of the nation’s top political advisory body, the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference, and director Zhang Xiaoming of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office.