The First Leg of the Desert Route Expedition (China) July 20 to August 23, 1990


The desert route expedition in China marks a re-opening of scholarly campaigns after a lapse of more than half a century. The earlier explorations, conducted on an individual basis by prominent scholars, such as Sir Aurel Stein, Pelliot, Grunwedel and Le Coque, recovered many buried treasures of history and archaeology, long forgotten by man. They were widely published and publicized and exhibited in the museums of the countries wherefrom the explorers hailed. As a result of these researches China and her real contribution to world civilization became known. The knowledge of the East, as developed by the Chinese people, lay open to world scholarship. It is their work that led to the discovery of the Silk Road 一 a line of communication along land routes between East and West. In real terms it amounted to the discovery of the East by the West. Consequently, new programs of studies on the East were started in several universities of the West.

This flow of ideas was disrupted during the World War II and by the events that followed. This interval gave opportunities to intensify studies on the materials already acquired. However, such studies found many gaps that remained to be filled by further research and exploration. In the meanwhile, national scholars have come forward to recover new materials from their own countries and this has enormously enriched the different aspects of human civilization. Such objects lie widely scattered in national collections. Their studies have been limited to national level and for lack of communication they are less known to the outside world. The issue of linking up the studies on a world-wide scale remained unsolved. It was felt that a comprehensive study was possible only by going along the entire channel of Silk Roads by a team of scholars hailing from different countries and belonging to different disciplines for obtaining first­hand information on the countries concerned and making it known to a wider world of scholarship. This necessity for broadening human knowledge was shared by UNESCO and hence the concept of the Integral Study of Silk Roads. Such a widening of knowledge was necessary not only for the individual scholars of the West or the East but also by bringing them together on a common platform of mutual discussion and collaboration and for the promotion of a general understanding of different fields of study. This led to the concept of a dialogue between the scholars of the East and West. Such a dialogue is bound to create different approaches to the understanding of human civilization. In order to discover these new ways of learning and of informing them to the average intelligentsia of the world, it was necessary to have an expedition of a new kind by a team of international scholars of multi -disciplinary nature working in close collaboration with national scholars and emanating the news and views through the general media for the consumption of a wider public. This first desert route expedition in China was a fact finding mission with the help of the local Chinese scholars, to broaden human knowledge not only on the history and civilization of China but also on the ways how exchanges of ideas, thoughts, philosophies, techniques and technologies, science and religion have taken place through the ages between the East and West, as symbolized in the Integral Study of the Silk Roads; and how, through the process of history, they have continued to our own time and how they will continue in the future for the good of humanity.

The expedition was unique of its kind in so far as it was international in character; it was multi-disciplinary in approach; and its aim was to open dialogue and establish permanent contacts between scholars and institutions of the East and West. Its objective was not limited to an exploration of the region concerned, i.e., from Xi'an in Shaanxi Province to Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, thus linking the central part with the western region of China, but to reassess the newly discovered material in the light of present-day world scholarship and examine the possibility of further collaboration and cooperation on an international level to probe into what still remains buried and unknown. For future studies, preservation of such material is as important as its discovery and here the need was to bring all technical help so far available. At the same time, it was necessary to place such studies in the proper background of local environments and human social evolution. After all, civilization is a product of man in society in response to the conditions of the land where such societies grow. The expedition therefore was also concerned with the nature of the society and the utilization by that society of the land and its resources in the light of its ability and understanding. It is to the discovery of the continuity in the human process of living, of linking the historic traditions of the past with the present and how they are going to take shape in the future that the anthropologists and economists of the international team set their questions. On the whole, the expedition achieved its main objective and can be said to be a great success in so far as everyone of the scholars participating in the international team found something new to add to his fund of knowledge and to use to build a bridge of understanding for future contact and re­search.
The achievements of the expedition may be understood broadly under two categories:

A.The actual journey. the perception of the landscape and the physical environments of the regions concerned; visits to the sites, monuments and museums; observation of the socio-economic conditions and historic traditions by meeting with the people in villages, homes, bazars, and cultural functions; participation in religious functions, rituals, and ceremonies and exchanging views with the comn1on man in agricultural farms, recreation centers and other public places.
B.Two international seminars held in Dunhuang and Urumqi and twelve academic sessions held during the journey on different places of halt. While the notice of the two seminars was given beforehand and

therefore were well organized and attended by additional scholars who presented their prepared papers on themes that were previously announced, the nature of the academic sessions was entirely different. They were held as and when required to assess the experiences of the journey, to plan for the next leg, and to hear from one or another specialist on the nature of problems, to update information on one or another theme of the expedition, and finally to raise questions and stimulate discussion for the better realization of the purpose of the expedition.
Some details of the above items are provided in this brief account.

A The Itinerary
1.Our journey began by first visiting the Shaanxi Provincial Museum at Xi'an.
2.Our next experience was in the Xi'an Phoenix Embroidery Factory.
3.We then paid a visit to the site of the terra-cotta warriors and horses, located one hour away from Xi'an.
4.Our next stop was at the First Qin Emperor's (Shihuangdi) tomb, which remains unexcavated. The terra-cotta warriors and horses were a part of this tomb complex.
5.Then we went to the Lintong County Museum.
6.Next we visited Huaqing Hot Springs at Tangquangong and observed the new excavations firsthand.
7.This was followed by a visit to the Banpo Neolithic village site and its excavated ruins.
8.Visit to the Big Goose Pagoda, associated with the name of the Chinese pilgrim Xuan Zang. There was no time to visit the temple, where the remains of Xuan Zang are said to have been buried. It stands some kilometers from Xi'an.
9.Visit to Qian County to see the joint tomb of Gao Zong (628 -83 AD), the third emperor of the Tang Dynasty, and his empress Wu Zetian, which lies at the foot of Liangshan (Mt. Liang). Actually, here we have tombs of eighteen (18) Tang emperors, all unexcavated. Three satellite tombs were excavated: one of the princess Yongtai ( 684 - 701 AD), the granddaughter of Gao Zong. The materials recovered from this tomb and other sites are preserved in a museum.
10.Visit to the main city mosque at Xi'an and an examination of the different architectural features and inscriptions preserved in the mosque. On a wall are preserved wooden panels, thirty in all 一 each pan­ e1 engraved with one para of the Holy Quran in Arabic, with the lower portion reserved for the Chinese version. The work is in progress.
11.Visit to the unexcavated Han emperor's _tomb and the twenty satellite tombs of his generals and officials at Xi'angping. Nearby is a museum exhibiting stone statues, one of them depicting a horse trampling a human in the same style as the Babylonian statue of a lion trampling an enemy.
12.Visit to the Famen Buddhist Temple from the Tang period in the town of Famen in the north of Fufeng County. Originally it was built by the emperors of the Eastern Han Dynasty. Examination of the rich gold, silver, silk fabric and Sassanian glassware of the Tang period in the security crypt.
13.Visit to a museum at Shaochen (Zhoutian) Village containing excavated material of a Zhou settlement site. In this museum objects from the Baoji Museum had been temporarily transferred because of a local landslide.
14.Visit to Qinghui County for information about the discovery of thirty Neolithic sites in this county and also a tour of a tomb of a local general of the Han period.
15.Visit to the Maijishan Buddhist grottoes (correctly stupa shrine) about 45 km away from Tianshui, which is famous for its clay sculptures and paintings.
16.Visit to the Gansu Provincial Museum in Lanzhou, where a celebration of the 21st century of the Silk Road was inaugurated. This museum is famous for its collections of materials from the Dadiwan Neolithic culture.
17.Visit to mosques and markets in Lanzhou. Two mosques were on the other side of the Yellow River. Presentation of an opera on the Silk Road in Lanzhou theater.
18.Journey through the Hexi Corridor and experience of the narrow passage north of the Qilian Mountains and south of the Mongolian desert.
19.Visit to the Confucian Temple in the city of Wuwei belonging to Ming period, which consists of three parts—the main temple, the palace, and the Confucian School. It now houses the city museum. In the museum was preserved the oldest cannon so far discovered.
20.Visit to the mud brick fortification wall of the Ming period-a part of the Great Wall about 108 km away from Wuwei.
21.Visit to the Giant Buddha Temple at Zhangye, founded in the time of the Western Xian Dynasty (1098 AD), originally called the Kasyapa Tathagata Temple.
22.Visit to a new farm village; exchange of ideas with local residents in Gansu Province.
23.Visit to the Jiayuguan Museum and nearby mosque; chat with the Imam and other Muslim residents.
24.Visit to the Great Wall Museum at Jiayuguan and visit to the Jiayuguan Pass, which is actually a mud brick castle. The pass marks the western end of the Hexi Corridor and brings to a close the Great Wall. We also saw the new arrangement of the history of the Great Wall.
25.View of the extensive ruins of the old city of Anxi by the side of which is an extensive lake.
26.Visit to the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang and a visit to the West Thousand Buddha Caves in Dunhuang.
27.Visit to Moon Lake in Dunhuang and a camel ride on the sand.
28.Visit to the local Dunhuang Museum
29.Visit to Xinxin Xia 一 the border between Gansu and Xinjiang and passage through the narrow gorge.
30.Visit to the Wabao ancient tombs 75 km away from Hami (locally called "Kumul," meaning''rich treasures" ) .
31.Visit to the private house of Pokht-an , the Vice-Commissioner of Hami; study of Muslim social life.
32.Visit to the royal burial ground of the old Muslim rulers of Ha mi and a visit to an Idgah mosque and the tomb of Hazrat Qais, the Sahaba who had come here from Arabia to preach Islam. Visit of an old Jami mosque in the city.
33.Visit to the Hami Museum, which, besides containing Muslim inscriptions , documents, and porcelain, held some folk paintings of the present time as well as exhumed bodies from the two cemeteries of Wobao and Yambla which dated from 1200-1000 BC and were of a nomadic people, probably of Indo-Aryan stock. The bodies were intact with dress, flesh, nails and hair.
34.Visit to the bazaar (free market ) and mixing with the local peopie.
35.Visit to the city of Shanshan, locally called Piqan, and sampling
of the local Uighur food, fruits, and rich agricultural produce of the area resulting from the abundance of water from the Tianshan Mountains.
36.Visit to the city of Gaochang-provincial capital of the Tang period, and study of the Buddhist temple and other remains within the fortified city.
37.Visit to the Astana tombs and study of the paintings inside the tombs.
38.Visit to the Turpan open bazaar.
39.Visit to the existing mosques in Turpan and meeting with Uighur Muslims 、
40.Visit to the Emin Minaret and attached mosque .
41.Visit to the Flaming Mountains and Bizkrik Caves and examination of the surviving paintings there.
42.Visit to the city of Jiaohe, which is divided into two parts:
(i)The Buddhist monastic establishments in the northern half;
(ii)The residential area in the southern part.
43.Visit to the Turpan Museum, which contained some new types of painted pots and two small Buddha statues in typical Gandhara dress. The upper floor of the museum exhibited newly excavated mummies, with all the hair, flesh, and bones well preserved.
44.Experience of a social gathering in a grape valley and enjoying typical Uighur food by sitting on carpet and eating in the Uighur style.
45.Visit to a local village and private homes for chats and open talks with family members 一 an insight into a typical Uighur home.
46.Bypass of the old city of Yanqi, which is now sinking from the great pressure of water coming from the Tianshan Mountains and a visit to Lake Bosten.
47.Visit to Qigexing Caves and examination of paintings, followed by a visit to Buddhist monastic establishments near a water spring. not far from the old city of Yanqi.
48.Visit of the Iron Gate Pass and Kongque River valley (Peacock River valley), the Kongque River actually originates from Lake Bosten and, after winding through the hilly terrain here, proceeds to join with Lake Lop Nor.
49.Visit to the Koda Museum and examination of the excavated grave material from Luntai, ranging from 1000 to 500 BC, which indicates double or multiple burials and may belong to the Wusun tribe.
50.Experience of the Mongolian way of life in Koria, headquarters of the Mongolian prefecture; Mongolian dance and music performance.
51.Bypassing Luntai to stay in Kucha and visit the bureau of cultural affairs and examine copies of cave paintings.
52.Visit to the Buddhist site of Subashi and examination of the western complex.
53.Visit to the Jami Mosque at Kucha, recently restored with money received from the government.
54.Visit to the Kizil caves about 75 km away from Kucha and examination of the paintings; visit to the Kizilgaha caves.
55.Visit to the Dolan Botanical Garden at Aksu j visit to department stores and mixing with the people in the new part of Aksu.
56.Observation of a Uighur wedding ceremony at Aksu.
57.Visit to a state farm near Aksu.
58.Visit to the Taklamakan Desert, not far from Aksu; camel ride and barbeque dinner
59.Visit to the Idgah Mosque at Kashgar and chat with the Imam; participation in Friday prayers in the mosque by Muslim members of the team.
60.Visit to a factory engaged in Kasi work and making musical instruments.
61.Visit to a kindergarten in Kashgar. observation of children's performance; tour of streets and houses in the old part of the city
62.Visit to the tomb of Satuk Bughra Khan at Artus, the first Buddhist Karakhanid ruler who embraced Islam; experience of Khirgiz life.
63.Visit to the tomb of Mahmud Kashgari in Wugur Village, about 45 km away from Kashgar .
64.Visit to the tomb complex of Abba Khoja on a typical local horse carriage called a harawa.
65.Visit to the Kashgar Bazar and mixing with the local people
66.Visit to the Buddhist remains at Mora about 40 km away from Kashgar.
67.Visit to a local village home of a self 111ade Uighur agriculturist.
68.Visit to the tomb of Yusuf Has Haji, a great poet from the 11th century AD.
69.Visit to the Urumqi Museum.
70.Visit to a Kazak nomad village and experience of life in an urta (tent).

B(i) The following twelve academic sessions were held during the course of the journey to discuss various issues of historical and cultural importance. They are given below:
1.The first meeting of the scholars took place on 20th July 1990 afternoon, in which the scholars introduced themselves and spoke on the specialized fields of their particular studies. The local Chinese scholars spoke on the recent work in Shaanxi Province.
2.The second academic session was held also on 20th July 1990 after dinner at 8: 30 p. m., in which Prof. Xu Pingfang invited 10 local scholars to attend the meeting and Mr. Liu Qingzhu gave a briefing on the history and archaeology of Xi'an.
3.The third academic session was held on 22nd July 1990 at 7:30 p. m. to discuss the procedure of taking photographs and study of the ob­ jects in the museum. The members nominated Mr. Jaques Giess of Musee Guimet for the selection of the objects to be photographed.
4.The fourth academic session was held on 23rd July 1990 after dinner, in which Mr. Giess stressed the importance of the material of worship preserved in the Famen Museum. Then Professor Li Jianchao of Northwest University gave a briefing on Baoji and its geographical and geological importance.
5.The fifth academic session was held on 26th July 1990 at 5: 00 p. m., in which a discussion was held on the material related to the Dadiwan culture, particularly the painted pottery tradition. The local Chinese scholars showed keen interest for international cooperation in the study of the material.
6.The sixth academic session was held on 27th July 1990 after dinner, in which the dialogue centered round the importance of the Hexi Corridor and the difficulties faced by foreign scholars in its study, while the Chinese scholars maintained their position of restricting the study and research of the sites within the laws and regulations of the country. It was the first time that foreign scholars had been allowed to cross the Hexi Corridor by road.
7.The seventh academic session was held on 1st August 1990 after dinner, in which Professor Wu Rengxiang, director of the Great Wall Institute of China in Lanzhou, gave a history of the Silk Road in Gansu Province. Mr. Zhang Pengchuan, director of the Gansu Provincial Mu­ seum, supplemented the talk. A discussion on cooperation with respect to research on Dunhuang was also held.
8.The eighth academic session was held on 5th August 1990, in which Professor Gundar Frank and Dr. Shamir Amin presented their viewpoints on world economic order.
9.The ninth academic session was held on 6th August 1990, in which the presentations of Dr. Frank and Dr. Shamir Amin came up for discussion.
10.The tenth academic session was held on 11th August 1990, in which Professor Su Bai of Beijing University gave a talk on the cave paintings of Kizil and Kizilgaha.
11.The eleventh academic session was held on 15th August 1990, in which Professor Wang Mingzhe of the Institute of Archaeology in Urumchi gave a talk on new archaeological discoveries in Xinjiang.
12.The twelfth academic session was held on 17th August 1990 in which Prof. (Mrs.) Togan of Turkey and Dr. Kim of the Republic of Korea presented their views on the Islamization of Xinjiang and on the history of the Muslim rulers of Hami.

B(ii) Seminar at Dunhuang
1.Professor Zhang Quin Song of the Institute of Geography of the Chinese Academy of Sciences ga'ye an "Introduction to the Geographical Context of the Dunhuang Grottoes. "
2.Professor Duan Wenjie, chairman of the Dunhuang Research Institute, spoke on "The Art of the Mogao Grottoes."
3.Professor Shi Wexiang, director of the Information Section, Dunhuang Research Institute, spoke on the history of Dunhuang.
4.Dr. H. Sorensen, lecturer and research fellow at Copenhagen University, spoke on "Perspectives on Buddhism in Dunhuang During the Tang and Five Dynasties Periods. "
5.Professor J. Giess of Musee Guimet spoke on the "Prediction of Destiny, a Case of Historical Determinism in Buddhism..,
6.Miss Christie Paula of the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, spoke on "The Origin and Development of the Flying Devis of Dunhuang.''

In the concluding remarks, Professor A. H. Dani, chairman of the seminar, showed some slides of the Buddhist rock engravings from the Gilgit region which had bearing on the art of Dunhuang. All the papers were specialized and they tried to throw light on some aspects of the history and art of Dunhuang. Although the Dunhuang Research institute has been doing good work for the preservation and promotion of research on Dunhuang, the scholars still felt the need for a world-Wide campaign for its preservatio n and close international coopera tion for in te nsive research.

B(iii) International Seminar at Urumqi, 19th-21st August 1990.
In all , 42 papers were presented at the seminar . These papers can be divided into the following seven categories:
(1)Geography, (2) Network of routes, (3) Cultural Exchange with West and South Asia , (4) Impact on the East, (5) Archaeology and history of Xinjiang, (6) Art and architecture, and (7) Scripts and Languages.

Three papers were of a special nature . Professor R . B. Stamps of the United States spoke on "Continuity Amidst Change: Preserving Cultural Identity. " He presented a chart to note the variables of an ethnic cultural group. Dr . Shamir Amin of Egypt tried to link the Silk Roads with an economically defined world system . Dr. A. G. Frank traced this link for five thousand years and emphasized the "centrality of Central Asia." Prof. Lin Zhichun and others presented papers on the history and changing routes of the Silk Roads. From the papers it became obvious that the network of routes was infinitely more complex than usually thought. Due attention was also given to the extension of the Silk Roads to the northeast, east and southeast. Great importance was laid on cultural exchange between East and West , and particularly on the role of Xinjiang in this exchange and the latter's relation with neighboring countries. Prof. Su Bai, T. O. Hollmann, N. Diyarbakirli, and T. Higuchi gave details of trade that flowed along these routes . From archaeological evidence, they gave examples of imports and exports, transfers of technology, and movements of artists and scholars. There were two papers on the environment. geography, and geological formation of the southern regions of China . The question of desertification was fully examined. The question of Buddhism, Buddhist art, and the Nestorian and Manichaean religions were discussed by some scholars. Dr. Naser

Takmil Humayun spoke on the cultural relations between Iran and China along the Silk Road.
On the whole, the seminar threw sufficient light on the Chinese portion of the Silk Roads, its history, art, and archaeology. Emphasis was also laid on cultural and trade exchanges. Members were also of the opinion that a program for undertaking a journey on the Southern Silk Road should be organized so as to complete the study. Professor Ahmad H. Dani and Prof. Xu Pingfang made a surmnary.
In conclusion, the visitation of sites and museums along the route along with the academic sessions and two seminars resulted in the fruitful achievements of the main objectives of the expedition.

Address: China National Silk Museum, 73-1, Yuhuangshan Road, Xihu District, Hangzhou


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