Monday, 10 November 2008

Hidden treasures of the Silk Road

From November 22 till December 15 2007 (Last year) in Budapest, in the exhibition hall of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences was an exhibition of the Oriental Collection of the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences on the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the Dunhuang Library Cave.
As with the exhibition about Aurel Stein a beautiful website was made with a lot of ( well known) information but also with a lot of not so frequently shown photo's.
A must: Hidden Treasures of the Silk Road.

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Finding Hidden Tomb Of Genghis Khan Using Non-Invasive Technologies

According to legend, Genghis Khan lies buried somewhere beneath the dusty steppe of Northeastern Mongolia, entombed in a spot so secretive that anyone who made the mistake of encountering his funeral procession was executed on the spot.

Once he was below ground, his men brought in horses to trample evidence of his grave, and just to be absolutely sure he would never be found, they diverted a river to flow over their leader's final resting place.
What Khan and his followers couldn't have envisioned was that nearly 800 years after his death, scientists at UC San Diego's Center for Interdisciplinary Science in Art, Architecture and Archaeology (CISA3) would be able to locate his tomb using advanced visualization technologies whose origins can be traced back to the time of the Mongolian emperor himself.
"As outrageous as it might sound, we're looking for the tomb of Genghis Khan," says Dr. Albert Yu-Min Lin, an affiliated researcher for CISA3. "Genghis Khan was one of the most exceptional men in all of history, but his life is too often dismissed as being that of a bloodthirsty warrior. Few people in the West know about his legacy — that he united warring tribes of Mongolia and merged them into one, that he introduced the East to the West making explorations like those of Marco Polo possible, that he tried to create a central world currency, that he introduced a written language to the Mongol people and created bridges that we still use today within the realm of international relations.
"But as great a man he was, there are few clues and no factual evidence about Genghis Khan's burial, which is why we need to start using technology to solve this mystery."
Lin and several colleagues — including Professor Maurizio Seracini, the director of CISA3 and the man behind the search for Leonardo da Vinci's lost "Battle of Anghiari" painting — are hoping to use advanced visualization and analytical technologies available at the California Institute for Telecommunications and Information Technology (Calit2) to pinpoint Khan's tomb and conduct a non-invasive archaeological analysis of the area where he is believed to be buried. Lin plans to work with Seracini to establish a position at UCSD that will allow him to spearhead the three-year Valley of the Khans project, which will require $700,000 in funding for eight researchers (including all expedition costs).
Khan's grave is presumably in a region bordered by Mongolia's Onon River and the Khan khentii mountains near his birthplace in Khentii Aimag, and some experts believe his sons and other family members were later buried beside him. The researchers, however, have little additional information to go on. Directly following Khan's death in 1227, the area around his tomb was deemed forbidden by the emperor's guards, and later in the 20th century, by strict Russian occupation, which prohibited Mongolians from even talking about Genghis Khan because they felt it might lead to nationalist uprising. Only since the 1990s have researchers been allowed in the area, and several other research teams have tried unsuccessfully to locate the tomb.
Lin hopes of success are based on his access to unparalleled technology at Calit2 and CISA3 to pinpoint the area where Khan might have been laid to rest, find the tomb itself and then develop a virtual recreation of it using various methods of spectral and digital imaging.
Explains Lin : "If you have a large burial, that's going to have an impact on the landscape. To find Khan's tomb, we'll be using remote sensing techniques and satellite imagery to take digital pictures of the ground in the surrounding region, which we'll be able to display on Calit2's 287-million pixel HIPerSpace display wall. But we also want to make this an interactive research project and get the public involved. One of our ideas is to utilize something like the International Space Station's 'EarthCam' program at UCSD, which recruits middle school students to control a satellite camera and take pictures of the earth. We'd have them do the same thing, only they'd be taking pictures of the area where Genghis' tomb might be located."
Lin says another approach would be to combine social networking with visualization techniques to replicate something like the online "Find Steve Fossett" project, which enlisted members of the general public to flag anomalous satellite images in the hopes that they could locate the missing adventurer.
"Once we've narrowed down this region in Mongolia to a certain area," Lin continues, "we'll use techniques such as ground penetrating radar, electromagnetic induction and magnetometry to produce non-destructive, non-invasive surveys. We'll then work with people in UCSD's electrical engineering department to develop visual algorithms that will allow us to create a high-resolution, 3-D representation of the site."
Notably, these computer-based technologies are modern evolutions of moveable type and the printing press — innovations that historian Jack Weatherford argues were spread by way of the Mongols as they conquered parts of Europe (Chinese printing technologies predated Gutenberg's printing press by several hundred years). Lin speculates that remnants of those international conquests might even turn up in Khan's tomb, but, he adds, "The process of doing an archaeological dig is up to the Mongolian government."
Lin says he's hoping to collaborate with the Mongolian government and national universities, through the help of Amaraa and Bayarsihan Baljinnayam — siblings from what he endearingly calls his "Mongolian family." They will assist with language interpretation and expedition coordination, and most importantly, local media and political support — connections that will prove very useful as Lin navigates through the often complex arena of international relations.
Noting that his project team also includes San Diego State University Professor of Chemistry and Biochemistry William G. Tong, UCSD Field Systems Engineer Nathan Ricklin, UCSD Computer Vision Engineer Shay Har-Noy and Independent Engineering Geologist Charles Ince, Lin says he sees parallels between the collaborative work he's doing with CISA3 and Genghis' own push to adapt to new technologies.
"He took the best resources of entire world — whether weaponry or medicine -- and adopted those technologies into his own methodology. We're trying to implement that same adaptation to many disciplines into our own work. We're taking the great work that's already been done in archaeology and further developing it by using technologies from other disciplines -- computer vision, social networking, electrical engineering — while at the same time never forgetting fundamentals of historical search.
Despite the technologies and expertise available to him, Lin says he is well aware of the great challenges the project poses. "One consistent fact is that there is no fact," he admits. "It's a story of secrets upon secrets and myths upon myths.
"If I could meet Genghis Khan today, I would ask how he would have wanted to be remembered in history," Lin muses. "The fact that he died in his bed surrounded by people who loved him and never had a single General turn his back on him, the fact that the loyalty of his people is so sound it can be heard across the world — these are the marks of one of the most impressive military heroes of all time. This is an example of a leader who was ruthless, strict, disciplined, and in a lot of ways, extremely honorable. If he was able to rewrite his own history, I wonder how he'd want it heard."

Source; ScienceDaily (Oct. 20, 2008) —

Saturday, 8 November 2008

Aurel Stein in the spotlight !!!

The internet is a delightful medium. Positioned behind your screen in your comfortable armchair in a split of a second you can travel back in time to the fascinating and adventurous time at the beginning of the 20th century.
Due to an exhibition in Hong Kong the library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences has made and published from the photographs, maps and letters of the Aurel Stein's bequest a superb website through which anyone who was not there in Hong Kong can visit this exhibition at any moment of the day ( or night).

To go to this exhibition, click on: Fascinated by the Orient: Aurel Stein 1862-1943.

New IDP News Issue No. 31

For anyone with a serious interest in the Silk Road and related topics everytime a seious reading MUST!!
A brief summary of the contents of the October 2008 issue:

* IDP-CREA Cultural Routes of Eurasia
* IDP-CREA Partners and Activities
* Western Eyes: An Exhibition of Historical Photographs of China taken by European Photographers, 1860–1930
* The Conservation of an Eighteenth Century Chinese Tao
* IDP Worldwide News
* Recent Publications
* Kashgar Project
* Erik Zürcher 1928–2008

Just click IDP to go to the latest issue of their news bulletin.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Guardians to the King

Also small exhibitions are fun f.i. this one in Colchester !!

Chinese terracotta figures that are more than 2000 years-old are going to be displayed in Colchester Castle Museum.

The Jiangsu Terracotta Figures in ColchesterColchester museums have won a major exhibition for this coming summer. The Jiangsu Terracotta Figures from China are going to be displayed in Colchester Castle Museum

Figures from Chinese Han Dynasty period
The 43 miniature statues from Xuzhou Museum in Jiangsu Province, are going to be displayed as part of a year-long festival which celebrates 20 years of friendship between Essex and Jiangsu.

The figures are from the funerary objects of a king who ruled China from 206BC to 24AD and are from the same tradition as the slightly older terracotta warriors from Xian which have recently been on display at the British Museum.

The exhibition will be on display in Colchester between July, 19 and November, 2, 2008.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

New light on invasion Vietnam by Kublai Khan

The following press release was issued this June 2008 by Flinders University, Adelaide, Australia:

Maritime archaeologists from Flinders University hope to shed new light on a fierce 13th century battle fought by the Vietnamese against the invading fleet of China’s emperor Kublai Khan.

A recent visit to Vietnam by Associate Professor Mark Staniforth and Flinders PhD student Jun Kimura viewed areas that still contain the remnants of the pointed stakes that were fixed into the riverbed and along the banks by the Dai Viet defenders.

Vietnamese general Tran Hung Dao defended the mouth and lower reaches of the Bach Dang River, which at the time connected the coast with the capital of Hanoi, by filling expanses of the estuary with the stakes, with the aim of holing or trapping Chinese vessels as the tide fell.

Associate Professor Staniforth said that he and Jun Kimura are keen to be involved in fieldwork that will map the extent and shape of the stake fields, in a bid to provide insights into the Dai Viet strategy and the likely course of the battle. Their work may also point to the likely location of the wrecks of Chinese ships.

With a view to setting up the proposed project for 2009, Associate Professor Staniforth discussed possible collaborations in Vietnam with Dr James Delgado, the CEO and President of the US-based Institute for Nautical Archaeology (INA). Jun Kimura has made initial contact with Vietnamese government’s Institute of Archaeology seeking their collaboration in the project.

Contemporary accounts of the battle in 1288 relate that large numbers of a massive fleet of Chinese junks were destroyed. Even allowing for exaggeration by the victors, the battle was decisive, and Associate Professor Staniforth said that once the dimensions of the stake fields have been fixed, there is a good possibility that remote sensing techniques may be used to find wrecked Chinese vessels.

While in Vietnam, Associate Professor Staniforth and Jun Kimura also assisted in an INA project, initiated by INA research associate Randall Sasaki, to record and assess a pair of historic anchors. Locals retrieved the seagoing anchor and mooring anchor, both made of wood and reinforced with iron and rope, from the Red River near Hanoi.

Associate Professor Staniforth said that the state of preservation and comparisons with other examples and historical drawings suggests that the anchors date from the 18th or 19th centuries rather than the medieval period, but that carbon dating would settle the matter.

Friday, 19 September 2008

Kublai Khan's Lost Fleet and In Little Need of Divine Intervention

In 2001 a book by Thomas D. Conlan was published which deals with the invasion of Japan by the forces of Kublai Khan. This book, In Little Need of Divine Intervention presents a fundamental revision of the thirteenth-century Mongol Invasions of Japan by revealing that the warriors of medieval Japan were capable of fighting the Mongols to a standstill without the aid of any "divine winds" or kamikaze. Conlan's interpretation of the invasions is supplemented with translations of the picture scrolls commissioned by Takezaki Suenaga, a warrior who fought against the Mongols. In addition, translations of nearly seventy administrative documents are provided, thereby enabling students of Japanese history reconstruct the invasions using contemporary sources. A rare copy of Takezaki Suenaga's Scrolls, reproduced in full, reveals hitherto unknown missing scenes. Furthermore, the scrolls' images can be now read in tandem with its narrative passages, translated in English for the first time. Please note that the entire book was intentionally printed from back to front, so that the reproduced scrolls unfold in Japanese order, from right to left. Thus the book's spine is on the right. This monograph will prove to be of great interest for students and scholars of medieval Japanese history, warrior culture, and the nature of Japan in an East Asian context. Seven hundred years ago the world was dominated by one superpower, the Mongol Empire. Only one conquest still eluded their leader, Khublai Khan - the mystical islands of Japan. To seal his place in history, he constructed the biggest invasion force the world has ever seen, a fleet of more than 4,400 ships. But at this pivotal moment in world-history the fleet vanished without a trace. What force destroyed the Mongol armada? Was it the legendary Japanese samurai? Human error? Or a natural disaster of catastrophic proportions? Now a Japanese marine archaeologist believes he has found the Mongol fleet. With an array of the latest marine forensic technology, he is revealing chilling new insights into the events of that fateful day. Can science finally solve the mystery of Khublai Khan's Lost Fleet?«

If you want to find out more about this subject, watch the documentary Kublai Khan's Lost Fleet !!

Thursday, 18 September 2008

Chinese Handscrolls

Chinese Handscrolls are among the most beautiful items of art, both for their finesse and detail and for their size and abundance of information about life and customs in general at the time that they were made.
At the other hand they are quite unknown to the general public.
This has to do with the fact that they are in a way quite rare and seldom available to the general public for viewing.

In 2006 in Musee Guimet in Paris there was a brilliant exhibition, called The Very Rich Hours of the Court of China / Masterpieces of Qing Imperial Painting .
At this exhibition some of the masterpieces of Chinese Handscrolls were assembled for viewing by the general public.

On the web, there are a few sites dedicated to the subject of Chinese Handscrolls (see further on this weblog).
A very good introduction to the phenomenom of the Chinese Handscrolls however, one can find at the site of the Metropolotan Museum of Art in New York .
The main story from this site by Dawn Delbanco from the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University you will find reproduced below:

Story by Dawn Delbanco of the Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University
A significant difference between Eastern and Western painting lies in the format. Unlike Western paintings, which are hung on walls and continuously visible to the eye, most Chinese paintings are not meant to be on constant view but are brought out to be seen only from time to time. This occasional viewing has everything to do with format.
A predominant format of Chinese painting is the handscroll, a continuous roll of paper or silk of varying length on which an image has been painted, and which, when not being viewed, remains rolled up. Ceremony and anticipation underlie the experience of looking at a handscroll. When in storage, the painting itself is several layers removed from immediate view, and the value of a scroll is reflected in part by its packaging. Scrolls are generally kept in individual wooden boxes that bear an identifying label. Removing the lid, the viewer may find the scroll wrapped in a piece of silk, and, unwrapping the silk, encounters the handscroll bound with a silken cord that is held in place with a jade or ivory toggle. After undoing the cord, one begins the careful process of unrolling the scroll from right to left, pausing to admire and study it, shoulder-width section by section, rerolling a section before proceeding to the next one.

The experience of seeing a scroll for the first time is like a revelation. As one unrolls the scroll, one has no idea what is coming next: each section presents a new surprise. Looking at a handscroll that one has seen before is like visiting an old friend whom one has not seen for a while. One remembers the general appearance, the general outlines, of the image, but not the details. In unrolling the scroll, one greets a remembered image with pleasure, but it is a pleasure that is enhanced at each viewing by the discovery of details that one has either forgotten or never noticed before.

Looking at a handscroll is an intimate experience. Its size and format preclude a large audience, which usually is limited to one or two. Unlike the viewer of Western painting, who maintains a certain distance from the image, the viewer of a handscroll has direct physical contact with the object, rolling and unrolling the scroll at his/her own desired pace, lingering over some passages, moving quickly through others.

The format of a handscroll allows for the depiction of a continuous narrative or journey: the viewing of a handscroll is a progression through time and space—both the narrative time and space of the image, but also the literal time and distance it takes to experience the entire painting. As the scroll unfurls, so the narrative or journey progresses. In this way, looking at a handscroll is like reading a book: just as one turns from page to page, not knowing what to expect, one proceeds from section to section; in both painting and book, there is a beginning and an end.

Indeed, this resemblance is not incidental. The handscroll format—as well as other Chinese painting formats—displays an intimacy between word and image. Many handscrolls contain inscriptions preceding or following the image: poems composed by the painter or others that enhance the meaning of the image, or a few written lines that convey the circumstances of its creation. Many handscrolls also contain colophons, or commentary written onto additional sheets of paper or silk that follows the image itself. These may be comments written by friends of the artist or the collector; they may have been written by viewers from later generations. The colophons may comment on the quality of the painting, express the rhapsody (rarely the disenchantment) of the viewer, give a biographical sketch of the artist, place the painting within an art-historical context, or engage with the texts of earlier colophons. And as a final way of making their presence known, the painter, the collectors, the one-time viewers often "sign" the image or colophons with personal seals bearing their names, these red marks of varying size conveying pride of authorship or ownership.

Thus the handscroll is both painted image and documentary history; past and present are in continuous dialogue. Looking at a scroll with colophons and inscriptions, a viewer sees not only a pictorial representation but witnesses the history of the painting as it is passed down from generation to generation.

Dawn Delbanco
Department of Art History and Archaeology, Columbia University

Citation for this page

Delbanco, Dawn. "Chinese Handscrolls". In Timeline of Art History. New York: The Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2000–. (April 2008)

Suggested Further Reading(s) Find these publications in a library

Cahill, James. "Approaches to Chinese Painting." In Three Thousand Years of Chinese Painting, by Richard M. Barnhart et al., pp. 5–12. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1997.
Gulik, R. H. van. Chinese Pictorial Art as Viewed by the Connoisseur. Rome: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente, 1958.
Hearn, Maxwell K. How to Read Chinese Paintings. New York: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2008.

More Information on

Friday, 12 September 2008

The Silk Road Winter 2008 Issue is out

For anyone interested in subjects, related to the Silk Road, the digital magazines of the Silk Road Foundation are a MUST READ.
The New Winter Issue of 2008 has just been released:


From the Editor's Desktop: Beyond the Sensational: The Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums' "Origins of the Silk Road"

A review of the excellent exhibition of archaeological treasures from Xinjiang on display in Mannheim, Germany until June 1, 2008. Of particular interest are the numerous textiles and more generally the artifacts of daily life.

The 'Silk Roads' Concept Reconsidered: About Transfers: Transportation and Transcontinental Interactions in Prehistory,
by Hermann Parzinger

Recent archaeological finds in Eurasia are documenting the existence of significant transcontinental exchange well prior to the traditional "beginnings of the Silk Roads." An important component of this exhange is to be connected with the Bronze Age Andronovo Culture in the first half of the 2nd millennium BCE. For the Iron Age in the first millennium BCE, some of the evidence is in the striking discoveries from Scythian burials of southern Siberia.

The Dream and the Glory: Integral Salvage of the Nanhai No. 1 Shipwreck and Its Significance,
by Xu Yongjie

The recent recovery of the Nanhai No. 1 (South China Sea No. 1) shipwreck off the coast of Guangdong Province is a landmark in Chinese marine archaeology. The "integral salvage" of this wreck, dating from the late Song Dynasty and containing a cargo of porcelain, means that the detailed archaeological work can be carried out in controlled conditions in the new Marine Silk Road Museum.

The Byzantine Element in the Turkic Gold Cup with the Tiger Handle Excavated at Boma, Xinjiang,
by Lin Ying

The striking find of early Turk Empire gold objects at Boma in the Ili Valley region of western Xinjiang in 1997 included a jewel-encrusted cup with an attached handle cast in the form of a tiger. The likely origin of this handle was the Byzantine Empire, since there was a tradition in late Roman times of the making of such feline handles for precious metalwork, and they then could have been taken to the Turks as part of the diplomatic exchange of the 6th and 7th centuries. The Turks were important contributors to exchange along the silk roads.

Xiongnu Elite Tomb Complexes in the Mongolian Altai: Results of the Mongol-American Hovd Archaeology Project, 2007,
by Bryan K. Miller, Jamsranjav Bayarsaikhan, Tseveendorj Egimaa, and Christine Lee

A report on the project at Tahiltin-hotgor cemetery co-sponsored by the Silkroad Foundation and the National Museum of Mongolian History. A large ramped tomb was excavated and, perhaps of greater interest, several satellite burials and ritual lines connected with tomb complexes. The material is important for extending our understanding of the Xiongnu in an area away from the political center of their polity. By paying close attention to the satellite features of elite burials, we can learn a great deal about ritual and society.

Excavation of a Xiongnu Satellite Burial,
by Jessieca Jones and Veronica Joseph

A description of the excavation of the Satellite burial THL-25-2 at Tahiltin-hotgor cemetery, which contained the well-preserved remains of a man buried with a number of interesting artifacts.

The Tahilt Region: A Preliminary Archaeological Survey of the Tahilt Surroundings to Contextualize the Tahilt Cemeteries,
by James T. Williams

The survey of about a 40 square km area containing the Tahiltin-hotgor cemetery and many other sites dating from the Palaeolithic to the Turk periods. The article discusses survey methodology and provides an overview of the results.

Food as Culture: The Kazakh Experience,
by Alma Kunanbaeva

Food, its preparation, and the social practices surrounding its consumption provide important insights into central cultural concepts of the Kazakhs. The article discusses the food traditions and provides as well practical guidance in the preparation of some Kazakh recipes

Sunday, 7 September 2008

Marco Polo by Laurence Bergreen

One of my latest acquisitons. Although quite a number of books about this subject have been published in the last 20 years, this book is very pleasant, readable and accurate.

During the Middle Ages, most Europeans were poor peasants who never ventured more than a few miles beyond their villages. During this provincial era, Venetian merchant Marco Polo traveled almost all the known world. Like a water bug skimming across a pond, Polo journeyed to the ancient Holy Land, the Levantine, Arabia, Asia Minor, central Asia, Cathay (China), India, Southeast Asia, Africa and to other exotic lands. The captain of a Venetian ship, Polo eventually was captured by the Genoese after a brutal naval battle. He spent many long days and nights in jail describing nearly two decades of remarkable travel to fellow inmate, writer and avid note-taker Rustichello da Pisa. Polo told of serving as a trusted emissary for the fabled Kublai Khan, emperor of the Mongols. Polo's remarkable story became a hugely influential book, //The Travels of Marco Polo//. Like someone spinning a yarn of his adventures as an intergalactic warrior in the far reaches of outer space, Polo told a tale that was almost mythical - yet in most particulars absolutely true and accurate. getAbstract finds that Laurence Bergreen's fascinating biography of Polo ably describes him and his fabulous adventures in comprehensive detail and great color. You owe it to yourself to explore this delightful book.

Friday, 25 April 2008

Zhouzhuang, Venice of the East

Why travel half the world when the world is on your doorstep.
In his blog "Excerpts from the highly accessorized world of designer Rafe Totengco" this well known American designer of bags, shoes and accessories, Rafe Totengco visits Zhouzhuang, one of the most beautiful places of China which gives a glimps of how China might have looked like 500 years ago.

"Can I tell you...about the water village of Zhouzhuang. Dating back 900 years old, this Venice of the East is surprisingly still in tact, albeit a tourist trap nowadays. It's about an hour away or 25 miles outside central Shanghai. People still live in the village and make their living either as gondoliers or shop keepers selling typical tourist paraphernalia. This is China's first water town and some of the homes date back to Ming and Qing dynasties......."

Monday, 14 April 2008

Complete Map of Peking, Qianlong Period

The Digital Archive of Toyo Bunko Rare Books regularly publishes digital copies of rare old books about Asia.
In March 2008 a Complete Map of Peking from the Qianlong Period was newly published:

"Map of Peking drawn around the fifteenth year of Emperor Qianlong's reign (1750) in Qing Dynasty. Found in 1935, in Forbidden Palace. Made by Haiwang, Shenyuan and an Italian Jesuit missionary Giuseppe Castiglione. The oldest and detailed extant map of Peking. The original map (14 meter long and 13 meter wide) was drawn in the scale of 650 : 1, consisting of 51 volumes of folded-books; each volume was devided into 17 lines from north to south and 3 parts from west to east. The present maps are the reprinted version of the original one, scale down to 2600 : 1; compiling 3 parts from west to east into one book, i.e. one book to each line from north to south, consisting of 17 books in all. Each book shows the names of main spots contained in it on its cover. This map depicts ordinary dwellings besides monumental architectures like palaces, government offices, gate towers, temples, that are well coincident with old architectures preserved in Peking."

For the complete collection, go to Digital Archive of Tokyo Bunko Rare Books.

Sunday, 13 April 2008

Mummies of the Taklamakan

© ARTE F / © C.Debaines-Franckfort
Mission archéologique franco-chinoise du Xinjiang/Gédéon

The Exhibition " Origins of the Silk Road" is at the Reiss-Engelhorn Museum in Mannheim/Germany till the first of June 2008.
At the entrance of the exhibition a very impressive DVD is shown
" Mummies of the Taklamakan".
This DVD was made in 2003 and was on television in Europe through ARTE.
On the website of ARTE more information of this DVD is available and this DVD is also for sale.

"Octobre 2001, dans le Taklamakan, un désert entouré de montagnes et bordé d’oasis sur la route de la soie. Les vents ont balayé les dunes qui recouvraient la nécropole de Djoumboulak Koum, cité du milieu du premier millénaire avant J.-C. découverte cinq ans plus tôt par une mission archéologique franco-chinoise. Et les tombes mises au jour livrent un incroyable trésor : cinq momies âgées de plus de deux mille ans, parfaitement conservées.

Cette trouvaille récompense dix ans de travail et de fouilles menées par Corinne Debaine-Francfort et Idriss Abdouressoul, les archéologues à la tête de la mission, dans la vallée de la Keriya. Les momies sont transportées avec mille précautions à Urunqi, à l’Institut d’archéologie de la région du Xinjiang. Le travail de fourmi d’une dizaine de spécialistes permet de dresser un portrait des habitants de la cité : agriculteurs, éleveurs, tanneurs et tisserands, mais aussi cavaliers et chasseurs, ils vivaient dans une cité prospère et cohabitaient, peutêtre pas toujours pacifiquement, avec des tribus nomades et d’autres ethnies.
Dans cette région de brassage, au carrefour des empires perse et chinois, la question des origines est un sujet sensible. Pour en savoir plus, les archéologues devront résoudre d’autres énigmes et repartir dans le désert… Un documentaire foisonnant, à la fois instructif et dépaysant : voyage à dos de chameau, flânerie au marché de Khotan, inspection de l’intérieur d’une momie… En dehors de ce que l’on apprend sur les peuples du Taklamakan à l’âge du fer et de leur civilisation très développée, on suit pas à pas le travail de longue haleine des archéologues, de 1991 à 2001".

A teaser can be found at:
This DVD can be ordered at the following

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Mongol The Movie out June 6, 2008

Award-winning Russian filmmaker Sergei Bodrov (PRISONER OF THE MOUNTAINS) illuminates the life and legend of Genghis Khan in his stunning historical epic, MONGOL. Based on leading scholarly accounts and written by Bodrov and Arif Aliyev, MONGOL delves into the dramatic and harrowing early years of the ruler who was born as Temudgin in 1162. As it follows Temudgin from his perilous childhood to the battle that sealed his destiny, the film paints a multidimensional portrait of the future conqueror, revealing him not as the evil brute of hoary stereotype, but as an inspiring, fearless and visionary leader. MONGOL shows us the making of an extraordinary man, and the foundation on which so much of his greatness rested: his relationship with his wife, Borte, his lifelong love and most trusted advisor. Nominated in 2008 for the yearly Oscars in the category "Best foreign language movies. This is the first Academy Award nomination for Kazakhstan. FILM SYNOPSIS In twelfth-century Mongolia, nine-year-old Temudgin, who will grow up to become the warrior known as Genghis Khan, must flee his home shortly after choosing the spirited Borte as his bride when his father is murdered and a rival seizes power. With the help of his blood brother, tribal prince Jamukha, the adult Temudgin battles his rivals and works to unite the region's warring clans under his authority.
Official Site

Monday, 7 April 2008

Genghis Khan and Mongols' Treasure

Via Palestro, 33 - Treviso - Italy
20-10-2007 / 11-5-2008

Genghis Khan and Mongols' Treasure is the title of the new art exhibition which will take place on October 2007; this show belongs to a cycle of four two-year art exhibitions in Treviso which are entitled: The Route Silk and Chinese Civilization. The seat will be Ca dei Carraresi in Treviso, Veneto – Italy.

The show at Ca dei Carraresi in Treviso is divided into five sections:
-Gold of steppes
-Genghis Khan and Mongolian Empire's conquests
-Marco Polo's journey and triumph of Silk Route
-Mysteries of dynasties beyond Great Wall of China
-The most beautiful Chinese porcelain as ever

Treasures from the National Palace Museum, Taiwan

February 26 till May 13, 2008
Kunsthistorisches Museum, Vienna, Austria

The collections of the National Palace Museum in Taipei, renowned as the world’s largest and most exquisite collection of Chinese art, derive from a tradition of imperial collecting that spanned a millennium. Begun and first catalogued during the Song dynasty (960-1279), the collection survived numerous changes of dynasties, foreign rulers and wars as the preservation of the country’s cultural heritage was regarded as one of the foremost duties of a Chinese emperor in order to fulfill his “heavenly mandate”.

The Qing dynasty (1644-1911) marked the high-point of this thousand-year-old history of collecting; its most dedicated collector was the Emperor Qianlong (reigned 1736-1795), celebrated by some as the greatest collector of all time. This sumptuous treasury eventually became part of the National Palace Museum Taipei which was founded in 1925 and now houses over 650.000 objects, making it one of the largest museums in the world.

Around 120 of these spectacular artworks – about a third of which have never before been exhibited abroad – will be on show at the KHM in Vienna from February 2008. Archaic ritual jades and bronze vessels, highlights from the museum’s world-famous collection of ceramics and porcelain, precious lacquer- and enamelwork, gold objects, ivory- and bamboo carvings as well artworks by some of the most famous Chinese masters of calligraphy and painting will be on show together with selected objects from the museum’s collection of precious books and documents. Together they will offer a fascinating introduction into the art of one of the world’s oldest civilisations.

Hidden Afghanistan

Cup with patterned with geometric motifs
Afghanistan, Tepe Fullol
Bronze age, end of the 3rd millennium, c. 2100 - 2000 BC
Ø 9, 9 cm
Afghan National Museum– MK 04.29.1
© Thierry Ollivier / musée Guimet

De Nieuwe Kerk. Amsterdam, The Netherlands
22-12-2007 / 20-4-2008

Following Afghanistan, the story of a thousand years, which went on show at the Guimet Museum in March 2002, the exhibition Hidden Afghanistan( rediscovered treasures, Collections from the national museum of Kabul) will put on public display findings from four major archaeological sites: Fulol, Aï-Khanoum, Tillia-Tepe and Begram. Behind the unique and exciting story of these rediscovered treasures, the exhibition pays tribute to the history of Afghanistan, which lay at the centre of kingdoms and empires extending all the way from Central Asia to northern India.

Welcome to the Silk Road Journal

Volume 5 Number 1 Summer 2007
This issue of The Silk Road features several articles on food, whose history offers interesting insights into cultural exchange across Eurasia through the centuries. The article on Georgian cuisine is a good reminder of the importance of the Caucasus in Silk Road exchange; that on Yuan-era recipes and medical knowledge emphasizes the significant transmission of Arabic and Persian knowledge to China under the Mongols. Other articles include a re-examination of Baron von Richthofen's formulation of the "Silk Road" concept, a lavishly illustrated report on the striking archaeological finds at the Xiongnu site in the Tsaraam Valley, and an overview of the historic trade routes in Eastern Anatolia.

Silk Road to Clipper Ship: Trade, Changing Markets, and East Asian Ceramics

Kresge Art Museum at Michigan State University, East Lansing, MI
May 3 – August 1, 2008

This exhibition, organized by the University of Michigan Museum of Art and drawn from their renowned collection, covers over 1000 years of Chinese porcelains to illustrate the important role of foreign trade and changing domestic markets in stimulating Chinese potters- and their counterparts in Japan and Korea- to continually reinvent their repertoire of shapes and decorative techniques. The first part traces the exchange along the Silk Road between the Chinese Han (206 BCE–220 CE) dynasty and ancient Persia and the Mediterranean world between the second and tenth centuries. The second part features colored porcelains made for domestic use and foreign exchange during the Qing dynasty (1644–1911); and the final section focuses on the competition between kilns for imperial patronage and the Chinese influence on later Japanese and Korean ceramic traditions.

Sunday, 6 April 2008

The Terracotta Army from Xi'an

Treasures of the first Emperors of China
2 February to 31 August 2008

From 2 February to 31 August 2008, the Drents Museum in Assen will present the spectacular exhibition entitled ‘The Terracotta Army from Xi’an’. The renowned soldiers from the tomb of the first Emperor of China will be on show for the very first time in the Netherlands, and exclusive to the Drents Museum, supplemented by more than 200 splendid objects from the Qin and West-Han dynasties. ‘The Terracotta Army from Xi’an’ is the most complex and expensive project in the history of the Drents Museum.

In the third century BC, the first emperor of China, Qin Shi Huang Di, ordered a mausoleum to be built in the vicinity of the present-day city of Xi’an. He had his future tomb guarded by life-size infantry, horsemen and their horses, archers and charioteers: the so-called ‘Terracotta Army’. In his underground palace, the Emperor could live on in the afterlife, protected by his army and surrounded by marvellous user objects.
In 1974, this army was found by chance by farmers drilling a water well. It soon turned out to be one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of the 20th century, and it evolved to become a world-renowned attraction. In the meantime, the archaeological site has been assigned UNESCO-heritage status, and it attracts many millions of visitors from all over the world annually. Most of the figures have not yet even been excavated. At present (2007), around 1000 figures have been dug up and restored, but there are certainly 6000 still buried under a thick layer of earth. The imperial grave itself has not yet been excavated.
The tomb of Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di (Qin dynasty) formed the inspiration for the construction of the mausoleums of the later Chinese emperors of the West Han dynasty. In addition to many beautiful terracotta figures, which are more refined and smaller than those from the Qin dynasty, marvellous burial gifts made of gold, jade, bronze and pottery have been found at these sites.
In 2008, it will be possible to view these exceptional burial findings from close-by in the Drents Museum. Certainly 14 original, life-size warriors and more than 200 other extraordinary and precious burial finds from the Qin and West Han dynasties will be on show in Assen for a period of seven months.

New IDP News Issue No. 30

Last January the latest issue (No. 30)from the International Dun Huang Project (IDP) was issued featuring:
  • An amazing example of the importance, power and potential inherent in digital collaboration
  • Stein and Chinese Officials at Dun Huang
  • A study in the Manufacture of Old Asian Inks
  • IDP Conservation News
  • Publications
  • Journals
  • Monographs
  • Exhibitions
  • UDP Worldwide News
  • IDP UK

IDP is a ground-breaking international collaboration to make information and images of all manuscripts, paintings, textiles and artefacts from Dunhuang and archaeological sites of the Eastern Silk Road freely available on the Internet and to encourage their use through educational and research programmes.

The following institutions are involved in IDP's work, as founder members or collaborating institutions.
The British Library, London
The British Museum, London
The Victoria and Albert Museum, London
The Chester Beatty Library, Dublin
The National Library of China, Beijing
The Dunhuang Academy, Dunhuang
Academia Sinica, Taipei
The Institute of Oriental Studies, St. Petersburg
The National Museum of India, New Delhi
Ryukoku University, Kyoto
State Library, Berlin
Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities, Berlin
Musée Guimet, Paris
The National Museum of Ethnography, Stockholm
The Sven Hedin Foundation, Stockholm
The Freer Gallery of Art, Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC
University of California at Los Angeles
Princeton University, (Gest Library and Art Museum), Princeton
The Morgan Library, New York

Just read

A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People
By Zhou Daguan, New translation with an introduction and notes, by Peter Harris

Only one person has given us a first-hand account of the civilization of Angkor. This is the Chinese envoy, Zhou Daguan, who visited Angkor in 1296–97 and wrote A Record of Cambodia: The Land and Its People after his return to China. To this day Zhou’s description of the royal palace, sacred buildings, women, traders, slaves, hill people, animals, landscapes, and everyday life remains a unique portrait of thirteenth-century Angkor at a time when its splendors were still intact.
Very little is known about Zhou Daguan. He was born on or near the southeastern coast of China, and was probably a young man when he traveled to Cambodia by boat. After returning home he faded into obscurity, though he seems to have lived on for several decades. Much of the text of Zhou’s book seems to have been lost over the centuries, but what remains still gives us a lively sense of Zhou the man as well as of Angkor.
In this edition, Peter Harris translates Zhou Daguan’s work directly from Chinese to English to be published for the first time. Earlier English versions depended on a French translation done over a century ago, and lost much of the feeling of the original as a result. This entirely new rendering, which draws on a range of available versions of the Zhou text, brings Zhou’s many observations vividly and accurately back to life. An introduction and extensive notes help explain the text and put it in the context of the times.
Paperback Silkworm Books Chiang Mai
2007 184 pages ISBN 978-974-9511-24-4

Origins of the Silk Road . Sensational new finds from Xinjiang, China

Sensational archaeological finds which were recently discovered around the Taklamakan desert, the world's second largest sandy desert, reveal to us an impressive testimony of the life before the Silk Road - the oldest trade route in the history of mankind.

Deep under the hot desert's sand the burial objects made of metal, wood and textiles that have been rested for nearly 4000 years and arouse enthusiasm by their outstandingly good state of preservation.

In cooperation with Martin-Gropius-Bau Berlin and the Eurasia Department of the German Archaeological Instiute, the Reiss-Engelhorn-Museums (rem) are proud to present more than 190 archaeological finds from this area, which have not been seen outside Asia befor. The exhibition "Origins of the Silk Road" allows the visitors to dive into the fascinating cultural variety of the early Silk Road and to follow the traces of the deceased, whose origin is still a mystery.

Reiss-Engelhorn Museen / Mannheim / Germany
9 February - 1 June 2008