International Dunhuang Project

IDP News Issue No. 32

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Issue No. 32, Winter 2008–9

Archaeology in Xinjiang

One of the key focuses of IDP’s work over 2008-9 as part of the EU-funded IDP-CREA project, has been to research, document and make more accessible the stories of European explorers in Western China and to build stronger links with Chinese partners working on archaeology and research in this area. This issue reports on these activities, namely the IDP Field Trip with the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology to the southern Taklamakan sites, and a visit by the Turfan research team in Berlin to give papers at a conference, hold talks with the Turfan Academy and visit local sites. This issue also gives news about the results of new research on the Dunhuang Star Chart.

IDP UK with members of the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, including Director Yidilisi Abuduresule and Deputy Director, Li Wenying, as well as Maimaiti Hasimu from the Khotan Cultural Relics Bureau, at Rawak Stupa November 2008. Photographer: John Falconer.

This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained herein.


IDP-CREA is a collaboration between six IDP partners in Europe (from the UK, Hungary, France and Germany) and three associate partners from China with the support of the Culture Programme of the European Union. It will significantly expand IDP’s resources to include a French interface, more images and data, educational web pages and Google Earth layers illustrating the remarkable tales of the European explorers, archaeologists and scholars who travelled to Chinese Central Asia in the early years of the twentieth century. These will highlight a Eurasian culture that has existed for centuries — and which continues to this day. Further details are available on the IDP-CREA Website.

A Century On: Documenting Archaeological Sites in Xinjiang

Stein’s Silk Road Legacy Revisited

Over a century ago the Hungarian scholar Marc Aurel Stein set out on what was to be his first of four expeditions to Chinese Central Asia. He was in search of ancient civilisations, almost forgotten to history yet with ruins which could potentially provide archaeological evidence of the rich cultural mix engendered by the opening of the international trade routes across Eurasia – the Silk Road. Stein’s expeditions and finds exceeded his expectations: he uncovered hundreds of archaeological sites, discovering over 50,000 artefacts. He also mapped his journey and the sites and took over 5,000 photographs, recording the sites, people he encountered, everyday life, officials and the changing landscape.

In November 2008 members of a joint project between IDP and the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology in China (XJIA), retraced Stein’s footsteps to retake his site photographs a hundred years on. What has happened to the desert sites after a decade of development and population growth?

A Century Later

IDP and XJIA team members photographing at Miran Fort, Nov. 2008. Photographer: Vic Swift, IDP.

Stein was lauded in his lifetime and immediately after his death, but scholarly attention and public interest moved away from Central Asia and western China as it increasingly became more inaccessible. It was not until the 1980s when western China became more open to tourism and scholarly visits, that interest started to revive. Throughout the 1990s the ‘Silk Road’ has become a recognized brand, and Silk Road tours have proliferated. More importantly for scholarship, it became possible to build international collaborations with colleagues from China and Russia to enable study of this area and the finds now in collections in Europe and these countries. The development of digitisation technology and the increasing bandwidth of the internet has opened a new route through which to make scholarly material easily and freely available to all.

IDP was founded in 1994 with these aims. It has since taken full advantage of the technology and now makes over 225,000 high-quality images of Silk Road manuscripts and artefacts freely available online through multilingual websites hosted by the holding institutions.

IDP is also concerned to set the artefacts in context and has been working to make Stein’s finds and expedition results more accessible, primarily through a programme of digitisation, but also through publications, lectures, educational and research programmes. In 2008 it started an EU-funded project called ‘Cultural Routes of Eurasia’, with the aims of strengthening links with Chinese scholars and institutions and bringing the legacy of Stein and other contemporary European explorers to a wider European public. One of the major parts of this project has been a research programme with XJIA to review Stein’s expedition photographs, plans and notes, and make them fully available on IDP and on Google Earth. The project included a field trip to Xinjiang to revisit sites unearthed by Stein a century ago, to take new photographs from the same viewpoints as Stein and to see how much the situation had changed. Some of the results are shown here.

IDP Field Trip to Xinjiang

A hundred years on life for the traveller is easier in many obvious ways. Stein travelled by pony, with his supplies and finds packed on a camel train. The roads, where they existed, were tracks and often covered by sand. There was no telephone network or even telegraph in this region. The post was sent by a ‘dak runner’ – a postman – across the mountains to India and thence by ship to Europe. Reading Stein’s letters and his correspondents’ replies, is like being in a time warp.

In 2008 a programme of road improvement has resulted in newly metalleded dual-lane roads all around the Taklamakan and, at three points, across it (the newest, from Khotan to Aksu, shown above). Three systems of stopping the sand dunes burying the roads in their relentless movement are being tested and seem to be working (see below right). There is a railway along the northern Taklamakan and numerous small airports on the north and south. Wireless towers are found at regular intervals – we had mobile coverage even among the dunes. We did not need to test the postal system.

Another major improvement from Stein’s time is the existence today of the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology and the Xinjiang Cultural Relics Bureau who have overall control of the security and investigation of the archaeological sites and the finds, as well as taking part in an ongoing programme of new excavations. Some of these are international efforts, such as the Sino-Japanese excavations at Niya and the Sino-French explorations at Keriya, and have resulted in many new finds. The desert still has secrets to yield.

One of the methods of sand control on the cross-desert road from Khotan and en route to Endere.

Stein writes after his first expedition that he hopes the region would one day have its own museum. For many years now there have been significant museums in Urumqi, Turfan and Khotan and all have recently moved to new and larger buildings showing impressive displays. Along the southern Silk Road, the focus of Stein’s attention and the field trip, there are several new museums to showcase recent archaeological finds. A massive building in the rebuilt centre of Qiemo, for example, houses a museum on its ground floor which includes details of recent excavations, such as those of the cemetery at Zaghunluq. A small museum has also been built over one of the tomb pits at the archaeological site itself a few kilometres outside the town, allowing visitors to see the mummies in situ.

This was encouraging, most especially the fact that all the archaeological finds are not being sent to the regional or national capital but some, at least, being kept at the places they were found to stimulate local understanding and tourism. This was most noticeable at the site of Tuopukdun Temple outside Domko. This miniature Buddhist temple was only uncovered accidentally from its long burial in the desert sands by farmers in 2000. They contacted the local archaeologists and a team carried out a careful excavation in 2002. Another temple was then discovered to its south and also carefully excavated. In 2007 a small museum was built on the site itself to house the remains of the temples and their finds (see p. 10). Situated just south of Domoko, it is easily accessible and has captions in Chinese, Uighur and English. Stein would have been heartened to see these examples of the care taken to preserve and display archaeological sites and their artefacts today. He would also have been fascinated by the discoveries which add to our understanding of life and culture in the ancient kingdom of Khotan.

The field trip took us on a long drive south from Urumqi through the Tianshan – Heavenly Mountains — to Korla, where we stopped to visit the temple site and Ming-oi caves at Karashahr. We then continued south across the desert road following the Tarim River before it disappears finally into the desert sands, and on to Ruoqiang – Stein’s Charklik. From here we spent a day at the ruins of Miran, comprising a large area of Buddhist monasteries and stupas dating from the third-fourth centuries and a military fort built and occupied by Tibetan soldiers in the eighth-ninth centuries.

At large sites with many structures such as Miran we found it helpful when one team member went on ahead to scout the locations and the members of the XJIA and the local guides provided invaluable assistance in the identification of locations at many sites. But even with original plans of the sites, subsequent sand drifting and erosion often made accurate correlation between early photographs and existing structures difficult.

A selection of Stein’s photographs (left) and IDP’s ‘retakes’: top to bottom:
Mazar Tagh fort (Photo 392/28(277) and 1187/2(283)).
Endere, Mound E.VII near E.III(Photo 392/27(104) and (tbc)).
Entrance to Ming’oi Cave A near Korla (Photo 392/27(358) and 1187/2(48)).
Miran, northeast passage of M.II. (Photo 392/27(118) and 1187/2(131)).
Photographers: Vic Swift and John Falconer.

We had two photographic teams, each consisting of a photographer, a scout, a note-taker and someone to record location. We also had a video operator. The XJIA team included its Director, Yidilisi Abuduresule, the Deputy-Director, Li Wenying, and two young scholars, Hu Xingjun (from XJIA) and Yu Jianjun (from Xinjiang Cultural Relics Bureau). Yu and Hu joined the photographic teams to help in identification. They will visit IDP at the British Library in summer 2009 for a brief internship.

From Ruoqiang we travelled westwards, along the southern edge of the Taklamakan, to the museums at Qiemo (Cherchen) and then to Endere, a stupa, fort and other ruins in the desert. Stein travelled across much of the Taklamakan visiting Karadong and Dandan-Uiliq, but we did not have time on this visit to make the long trek required for these sites. The roads only go so far. Even with four wheel drive vehicles and skilful drivers, we inevitably got stuck several times en route to desert sites and had to walk the final few miles. Sand buggies and camels are essential for longer forays into the Taklamakan.

The greatest problem for our photographic teams in the desert areas was the shifting sands which made identification of the location of Stein’s photographs difficult. Additionally, in desert conditions assessment of distances can be very problematic. For future work, an electronic rangefinder for measuring distances between structures and landscape features would be of major assistance in relating the present-day environment to historical plans.

Another major problem posed with the replication of the Stein photographs was caused by the time of day. Having identified the position from which the original image was photographed we were often required to shoot directly into the sun or into deep shadow due to the sun being at its highest point in the sky. Had more time been available it would have been better to wait until later in the day to attain better photographic results.

From Endere we moved on to sites around Khotan, still a thriving jade town. One day was spent visiting Mazar Tagh, three hours’ drive along the new road north into the desert along the course of the Khotan River. This Tibetan fort, contemporaneous with the one at Miran, stands on the remains of what was possible a range of hills, but now consists only of a small bluff projecting over the river, thus commanding a strategic position to control the route south into Khotan. We also visited Yotkan, Melikawat, Aksipil and Rawak stupa, another impressive Buddhist ruin among the shifting dunes, and one at which Stein left many statues for a future museum. He carefully re-covered them with sand only to discover on a subsequent expedition that they had been uncovered – possibly by treasure seekers – and largely destroyed. However, like most places we visited, the structure of the stupa had changed little since Stein’s day. There has been some erosion, but very little. In some cases, there have also been repairs and rebuilds, but this is fairly rare.

Imre Galambos of IDP bargaining for supplies for the journey. Photographer: John Falconer.

The site at Rawak, as in other places in the area, is under the protection of the Cultural Relics Bureau at Khotan, and it is possible to acquire a permit to visit with a guide. The road leading to the site has a gate and a gatekeeper and it is clear that every effort is made to protect the site.

During our visits in Khotan we were joined by Maimaiti Hasimu of the Khotan Cultural Relics Bureau, who proved invaluable for his local knowledge of the sites. We had many opportunities to discuss Stein and his work during the trip with the team members and locals, and were surprised at the generally favourable response they gave to our questions. Although often vilified in the press as an imperialist thief, there is also a respect among scholars and archaeologists of the value of his work and the documentation he left on the sites and their artefacts. His expedition reports are now available in Chinese and, at all the sites we visited, his site plans and numbering systems were familiar to the local archaeologists.

A century on and it seems as if Stein’s hope that the kingdoms of the Taklamakan deserved international attention and serious scholarship is finally being realised. And, just as importantly, his own role in making this possible is also accepted.

Note: IDP is now collating the photographs and they will be put into the British Library collections and also entered on IDP. Google Earth files prepared by IDP will enable you to see the old photographs alongside the new with Stein’s site plans and maps superimposed on the satellite images. A full set of photographs is being presented to XJIA for their use. We hope that this is the first of several collaborative field trips. We would like to acknowledge the support of the Culture Programme of the EU and the Sino-British Fellowship Trust which made this trip possible, and the help of XJIA and the Xinjiang and Khotan Cultural Relics Bureaus.

A longer version of this article is published in The Journal of the Royal Society for Asian Affairs (2009).

Berlin Researchers in Turfan

The ruins of the ancient city of Beiting. Photographer: John Falconer.

The three members of the Turfan Study Group (Turfanforschung) Yukiyo Kasai, Abdurishid Yakup and Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst travelled on 17 October 2008 to Turfan to take part in the ‘Third International Conference on Turpan Studies: The Origins and Migrations of Eurasian Nomadic Peoples’ from the 19-22 October, 2008.

Peter Zieme (Director of the Turfanforschung up to April 2007), and Christiane Reck and Simone Raschmann of the Union Catalogue (KOHD), also attended the conference, so that both Berlin research groups working on the Turfan Collection were for the first time all together in Turfan.

Under the leadership of Li Xiao (Director of the Turfan Museum), the Turfan Academy and Turfan Museum organised the conference, which had more than 150 participants from various fields, including. prehistory, archaeology, art history and philology. It was an opportunity for exchange with colleagues from China and the whole world., even though it was impossible to attend all the lectures in the parallel sessions.

The Berlin group gave the following papers:

We presented some 20 copies of our booklet ‘Turfan Studies’ about our work in Berlin and gave a short interview for a local television channel.

The mound of the western Buddhist temple outside the city walls. Photographer: John Falconer.

On 20 October Li Xiao, Professor Umemura and Durkin-Meisterernst signed an agreement with the Museum to catalogue and edit the non-Chinese texts found since 1980 and kept in the Museum. Professor I. Yusup of the Museum in Urumqi and Ablim Keyyum of the ‘Bureau of Turpan Cultural Relics’ were also present at the signing. This agreement gives the Berlin group an important role in the work on newly found material and allows us, together with the Japanese group, to help in training future Chinese specialists.

After the conference we took part in a six-day journey to various sites in north-eastern Xinjiang, the most interesting part of which was the visit to the Buddhist site west of the ancient capital site of Beiting (Bišbaliq), the northern counterpart to Gaochang. Since then city has been hardly explored at all it will be a fascinating object of future studies.

There were opportunities to meet with representatives of the two universities in Urumqi, Xinjiang University and the Xinjiang Normal University, and Minzu University in Beijing. In Minzu University, Kasai and Durkin-Meisterernst presented the work of the Turfanforschung in Berlin and Yakup gave a lecture on Turkic languages. We also visited the IDP studio and the Dunhuang Reading Room in the National Library of China in Beijing.

New Discoveries and Research on Khotan

IDP at the Tuopuklun Temple Museum, Nov. 2008. Photographer: Imre Galambos

In 1901, Stein reburied the sculptures surrounding Rawak Stupa in sand: 'to trust that they would remain undistrubed under their protecting cover until that time, still distant it seems, when Khotan shall have its own local museum.'

Khotan does indeed now have its own museum, a two storey building in the middle of town, and Stein would also have been gratified to see the many other museums along the southern Silk Road today displaying local finds. One of the most recent is this one just south of Domoko, built near the site of Tuopuklun Temples and showcasing the remains of the tiny Buddhist temples and their finds.

The Kingdom of Khotan to AD 1000: A Meeting of Cultures

The 2008 issue of The Journal of Inner Asian Art and and Archaeology (published in spring 2009, see Publications) is a special issue focusing on research on Khotan with Ursula Sims-Williams as guest editor. It will publish selected papers from the 2004 conference on Khotan, organised by Sims-Williams at the British Library, along with some additional papers commissioned for this issue. A list of contents of the Khotan section is given below. The issue includes a paper by the Deputy Director of the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology and two colleagues on newly dithe site of Dandan-Uiliq, one of which is shown below.

Dandan-Uiliq: part of a Buddha [west wall side 1], 43 x 29cm. From the article by Zhang Yuzhong, Qu Tao and Liu Guorui

Further Reading

For an overview of Chinese archaeology in Xinjiang see Ma Dazheng, An Overview of 20th Century Xinjiang Explorations.
For further information on the Dandan-Uliq finds see Liu Guore, Qu Tao and Zhang Yuzhong, 新疆丹丹乌里克遗址新发现的佛寺壁画 (Newly discovered Buddhist temple wall paintings from Dandan-Uiliq), Xiyu Yanjiu 西域研究 2005.4 (52-60).

Celebrating the 2009 International Year of Astronomy

The Dunhuang Star Chart, Or.8210/S.3326. © British Library

New Research on the Star Chart

As a unique document with potentially interesting information for the history of astronomy, it is surprising that it has taken a century for a detailed analysis of the scientific content of the Star Chart from Dunhuang. This, despite the fact, that its importance was recognized by Joseph Needham in the 1950s. Writing about it in Volume II of his monumental Science and Civilisation in China, he called it an ‘extremely interesting map’ and dated it to c. 940 (1959: 264). Since then it has been cited in several works but the only serious analysis has been on its date, and that based almost entirely on its palaeography and references in the text to historical characters, rather than its scientific content. Perhaps the manuscript’s rough appearance led scholars into thinking that it could not contain any accurate scientific data. But recent research has shown that they have been misled, and a detailed analysis has proven its importance.

Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud of the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique at the schools workshop (see below) in London, February 2009.

After several years of research by Professor Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud of the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique and Professor Françoise Praderie of the Observatoire de Paris, with historical research by IDP, not only have the 1339 stars been shown to have been drawn with a precison of 1.5° to 4° but the manuscript has also been redated, based mainly on the evidence of the taboo characters in the text, to 649-84 – three centuries earlier than Needham’s proposal. Furthermore, it is hypothesized that it was the work of Li Chunfeng 李淳风 (602-70), the Imperial Astronomer and also a gifted mathematician.

Yes, despite this, a full understanding of this manuscript continues to elude us. Why was it made, by whom and for what purpose? We see nothing comparable. The manuscript is a puzzle. It is on very fine paper made of long, well-mixed fibres from the paper mulberry but the handwriting is scrappy. This is apparent when comparing it to contemporary manuscripts on similar expensive paper, which have been produced by professional scribes in a regular and fine hand. Was the Dunhuang Star Chart made as a working copy from a master, and the very fine paper used as tracing paper? And where was the master copy – perhaps in the Imperial Bureau of Astronomy? After all, who else could produce such an accurate atlas of the night sky in China? But then how did the chart end up in a remote outpost of empire?

We will probably never know the answers to these questions, but, thanks to the work of Professors Bonnet-Bidaud and Praderie we can at least appreciate the mathematical and scientific skills of China’s astronomers fourteen hundred years ago.

Françoise Praderie
Françoise Praderie, co-researcher, died after a long illness on 28 January 2009. Having worked with her on this paper I appreciated her enthusiasm for the Star Chart, the always reasonable but insistent pressure she exerted on us, her fellow authors and her determination and resilience through her illness. The pleasure at seeing the Dunhuang Star Chart finally receiving the attention it deserves is therefore tinged with sadness at the fact that Françoise is not here to share in the pleasure.

Understanding the Dunhuang Star Chart

Chinese Astronomy Workshop

On Tuesday 10th February, IDP London held a highly successful educational workshop for schools on Chinese Astronomy to coincide with the 2009 International Year of Astronomy and as part of the Ford Foundation funded project with the Dunhuang Academy (see also IDP UK). Four members of the Dunhuang Academy visited London to take part in the workshop and other activities.

Top: A 'Starfinder'. Bottom: Students at the Chinese Astronomy Workshop. Photographs: Vic Swift.

The workshop offered a broad introduction to the topic of star-gazing, using the Dunhuang Star Atlas as a means of illustrating the difference between the Western and Chinese astronomical traditions. Jean-Marc Bonnet-Bidaud, from the Commissariat à l’Energie Atomique in France (above) presented a clear introduction to the sky, and explained the importance of historical star charts and maps as useful documents to our current understanding of the stars.

The group, which consisted of around 20 Key Stage 3 students from Ernest Bevin College in Tooting, South London, then participated in a number of practical activities, which helped them both to recognise and to plot Chinese constellations as they appear on a star chart.

The event was well received by both the teachers and students, some of whom will have the option to study astronomy at GCSE during the next academic year.

Read More

The full article on the Star Chart is published in the March 2009 issue of The Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage. Complete results of the scientific analysis will also be available on the IDP web pages, and an educational site is being prepared with Google Sky overlays which will be available in summer 2009.

Thanks are owing to the Royal Astronomical Society and The Pidem Fund for grants enabling this work.

See the Star Chart

The Star Chart is on display in the British Library Treasures Gallery from March 19, 2009 for several months in a display on Star Charts from around the world from the British Library’s collections.

Learn More

If you are a school or teacher interested to learn more, IDP can offer a short workshop on the Star Chart and astronomy in China aimed at 11-16 year olds please contact Abby Baker or Alastair Morrison at IDP London.

To learn more about the 2009 IYA and find events in your country, go to The International Year of Astronomy Website and click on the link to your national website.

Recent Publications on Xinjiang Archaeology and Travel

The Ancient Culture in Xinjiang Along the Silk Road
Compiled by: Qi Xiaoshan and Wang Bo

Urumqi 2008
PB, 304 pp. colour illus. RMB300
ISBN 978-7-228-08667-2

An extremely useful reference volume, heavily illustrated, with a short entry on most of the archaeological sites in Xinjiang and sites from Dunhuang westwards with text in Chinese, English and Japanese. The illustrations show the sites and finds and are all captioned. There are short essays at the end on the archaeology of Stone Age sites (Wang Bo), of copper and bronze artefacts from the first millennium BC (ling Yong and Mei Jianjun), deer stones and Turkic stone statues (Wang Bo), textiles (Li Wenying), coins (Jiang Qixiang), donor portraits (Huo Xuxhu), Khotanese history (Jia Yingyi) and the Silk Road and Khotan (Rong Xinjiang). There is also a list of the sites in Xinjiang under State Protection.

丝绸之路。 新疆佛教
The Buddhist Art in Xinjiang Along the Silk Road
Compiled by: Huo Xuchu and Qi Xiaoshan

Urumqi 2008
PB, 176 pp. colour illus. RMB200
ISBN 7-5631-2025-4

In the same format as the volume above, with tri-lungual text, generous illustrations, and an essay on Buddhist reliquaries.

A General Record of the Kumtura Caves
森木塞姆石窟内容总录 王卫东
A General Record of the Senmusaimu Caves
Edited by Wang Weidong

Wenwu chubanshe, Beijing, 2008
PB, 1,126 pp. colour & b/w illus.
ISBN: 9787501023844
ISBN 9787501023936

Two separate volumes in same series giving a systematic listing and description of these cave complexes near Kucha. Outline plans of each cave are given, together with sculpture, carvings, murals and other contents.

新疆的青铜时代和早期 铁器时代文化
Bronze Age and Early Iron Age Cultures in Xinjiang
Han Jianye

Wenwu chubanshe, Beijing, 2007.
PB, 128 pp. colour plates. b/w text.
ISBN: 9787501021062

Three page abstract in English.

Newly Obtained Turfan Documents
Edited by Rong Xinjiang

Zhonghua shuju, Beijing, 2008.
HB, 2 vols. 389, 48, 5 pp. Colour plates.
ISBN: 9787101058123

Large two-volume work detailing finds of documents in recent years from various sites in the Turfan depression on the Silk Road in western China. The documents or fragments thereof are illustrated in full page colour plates with transcription into modern Chinese.

The History of Khotan

Xinjiang Lishi Yanjiu Congshu:
Xinjiang renmin chubanshe,
Urumqi, 2006.
PB 241 pp. b/w plates and illus
ISBN: 9787228101931

A history of the town of Hetian (Khotan) located on the Southern Silk Road in China’s Xinjiang province. Discusses the Silk Road sites in the area with analysis and discussion.

Keriya, mémoires d’un fleuve Archéologie et Civilisation des Oasis du Taklamakan
Corinne Debaine-Francfort and Abduressul Idriss

Éditions Findakly, Suilly-la-Tour, 2001
PB, 245 pp. Colour and b/w plates.
ISBN 2-86805-094-8

Catalogue of an exhibition held by the Fondation Electricite de France. The report of expeditions by a joint French-Chinese team of archaeologists along the course of the dried-up Keriya river in the Taklamakan desert in southern Xinjiang, partly following in the footsteps of Stein and Hedin. Illustrates and describes their finds in the Karadong area and the discovery of the ancient fortified town of Djoumboulak Koum. Numerous pictures of the sites and objects in situ as well as the exhibits – mural fragments, textiles, pottery etc. With accompanying essays.

China’s Central Asia
Jeremy Tredinnick

Hong Kong 2009
480 pp. 240 colour photos.
14 maps and satellite images
PB £17.95
ISBN: 978-962-217-790-1
Odyssey Publications Website

The latest Odyssey guide, heavily illustrated, with up-to-date information on Xinjiang ancient and modern.

The Trail of War
On the Track of ‘Big Horse’ in Central Asia
The Silk Road Ten Thousand Miles Through Central Asia
Sven Hedin with new forewards by John Hare

I.B. Taurus, London 2009
PB, £11.99
ISBN 978184511-702-3
ISBN 978184511-898-3
ISBN: 978-962-217-790-1
I.B.Tauris Publishers Website

First and second volumes of Hedin’s trilogy (the final volume will be published later this year), with new forewards by John Hare.


SilkRoad Newsletter

Volume 6.1 Summer 2008
Edited by Daniel Waugh
Read SilkRoad Newsletter Online

This issue includes an article by the editor on museums in Xinjiang and Gansu,as well as other articles including:
Julia Elikhina, ‘Some Buddhist Finds from Khotan: Materials in the Collections of the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg’
George Saliba, ‘China and Islamic Civilization: Exchange of Techniques and Scientific Ideas.’

Bulletin of the Asia Institute

No. 18, 2008
Edited by Carol Bromberg
ISSN 0890-4460
Bulletin of the Asia Institute Website
$70 personal orders + shipping
$85 institutions + shipping

Contents include:
Pratapaditya Pal, ‘Prologomena to a Study of a Portable Buddhist Shrine.’
Nicholas Sims-Williams, ‘The Bactrian Inscription of Rabatak: A New Reading.’
Richard Salomon, ‘An Arapacana Abecedary from Kara Tepe (Termez, Uzbekistan).’

Journal of Inner Asian Art and Archaeology

3 (2008): Special Section on Khotan
Brepols Publishers
ISSN 1783-9025
Brepols Publishing Website
€55 print, €81 print and online
For a list of contents see New Discoveries and Research on Khotan

Xiyu Yanjiu

(Research on the Western Regions)
ISSN 1002-4743
Read online

Xinjiang Wenwu

(Xinjiang Cultural Relics)
CASS Institute of Archaeology Website

Contents include:


Cultural Exchange along the Northern Silk Road

Museum für Asiatische Kunst
Berlin April 1 to September 1, 2009

This exhibition displays a selection of objects from the Turfan Collection, named after the first of four Royal Prussian expeditions to gold, as well as clay and wood sculptures from the third to thirteenth centuries, mainly from Buddhist sites. They serve to elucidate the close relationships between various workshops along the Silk Road and to reconstruct, on the basis of iconographic and stylistic elements, their mutual influences.

Dunhuang Caves

Chinese Cultural Centre, Berlin
Spring 2009

The Chinese Cultural Centre in Berlin is displaying several full-size replicas of the Dunhuang Caves produced by the Dunhuang Academy.

On the Trail of Texts on the Silk Road: Russian Expedition Discoveries of Manuscripts in Central Asia

Kyoto National Museum
July 14 to September 6, 2009

Curated by: Akao Eikei (Head, Department of Exhibitions and Education), this is a continuation of the exhibition shown in St Petersburg from December to April (details in IDP News 31), showcasing many of the manuscripts discovered on the Russian explorations in Central Asia.


Collaboration with IKC

Top: Professors Kim Hung-Gyu and Cho Sungtaek of IKC with Abby Baker of IDP in London.

Bottom: Professor Kinji Ono, Leader of the Digital Silk Road Project, NII, with Graham Shaw, Susan Whitfield and Kazushi Iwao.

The Institute of Korean Culture (IKC) at Korea University in Seoul has very generously agreed a grant to support IDP’s work on the Chinese Dunhuang manuscripts in the UK over the next three years.

Director Hung-Gyu Kim and Professor Sungtaek Cho (Executive Director) visited the British Library in December 2008 to meet Dame Lynne Brindley, the Chief Executive, and discuss the collaboration and their support. They also visited IDP to learn more about its work.

The agreement between the IKC and the British Library was signed in March 2009. IKC will act as host for a Korean IDP website and wull send an intern to work with IDP.

The grant will cover IDP’s core activities over the next three years helping it to ahcieve its target of digitising all the Dunhuang Chinese manuscripts within five years.

IDP is also discussung collaboration with the National Museum of Korea, which has impressive Central Asian galleries displaying some of the items in its collection from the Otani expeditions to Central Asia.


We were very sorry to say goodbye to Kazushi Iwao, JSPS Postdoctoral Fellow for Research Abroad, who has spent the past two years with IDP. He has been working on the Tibetan manuscripts in the collections.

Stein’s Expedition Reports Online

In 2008 IDP signed an agreement with the National Institute of Informatics (NII) in Japan in which we agreed to collaborate to make Stein’s expedition reports more accessible.

The reports have already been digitised by NII and available as both images and as OCR searchable texts on the NII Digital Silk Roads website. However, the OCR text has not been checked or marked-up.

As part of this collaboration, IDP will check and correct the text and add preliminary mark-up to enable the relevant sections of the reports to be linked through the archaeological site pages of IDP. Work has started on Ancient Khotan.

IDP in the Press

Recent press coverage includes an article in the technology section of The Guardian, in the South China Morning Post, and, to coincide with the new work on the star chart, in The Art Newsapaper. Other articles on the Star Chart will appear shortly.

Education in Dunhuang

Students at the workshop in Dunhuang

During October 2008, three IDP staff travelled to the Dunhuang Academy (DHA) as part of a collaborative three-year educational project funded by the Ford Foundation. The trip centred around a one-day workshop about the Dunhuang cave complex for local school children.

Over several months in advance of the October visit, colleagues at the DHA established links with a local secondary school. On 7th October, a class of around thirty 15 to 16-year old students from the school attended the event which comprised a morning session of presentations from both DHA and IDP staff, and an afternoon tour of the cave complex followed by performances inspired by the caves from the students themselves. Professor Luo Huaqing, Director of the DHA Exhibition Centre, spoke on the history and context of the Dunhuang caves. Alastair Morrison and Abby Baker of IDP introduced the IDP website and spoke about the importance of digitisation in accessing Silk Road collections worldwide. Mr Liu Gang, Head of Digitisation at the DHA, gave a general introduction to various techniques and motivations for digitisation and showed students some examples of digitisation work focusing on various wall paintings from caves at the Mogao complex.

Student performances included demonstrations of traditional Dunhuang dancing, singing and martial arts as well as accomplished sketches in English and Chinese based on the local area and its culture, past and present.

The Dunhuang Academy will run a workshop on astronomy in April as part of the same initiative.