Papers on Archaeology and Heritage

9:00 am – 10:45 am
Room B

  • Chaired by Joy Lidu Yi
  • Kiraz Perinçek Karavit, “Confrontation of the Oral Culture with the Visual: Elements of Central Asian Legend in Late 6th Century Tomb Decorations in China”
  • Joy Lidu Yi, “Cross-Cultural Buddhist Monastery Ruins on the Silk Road and Beyond—Lay-out and Function of Buddhist Monasteries Reconsidered”
  • Tina Berdajs, “Sleeping Vessels: Chinese Ceramics in Slovene Museums”
  • Remy Jarry, “Dunhuang’s Rise in Contemporary China: The Story of a Rebirth”

Kiraz Perinçek Karavit, “Confrontation of the Oral Culture with the Visual: Elements of Central Asian Legend in Late 6th-Century Tomb Decorations in China”

Chinese archeologists have unearthed several different tombs of deceased Central Asian expatriates dating to early middle ages. Miho Museum (Shigaraki, Japan) also hosts among its collections, panels from a funerary couch, said to have come from a tomb in northern China. Shijun Tomb (d. 579) discovered in 2003 in Xi’an, Yuhong Tomb (d. 592) excavated in Taiyuan in 1999 provide us with stone funerary couches and house-shaped sarcophagi. As for the Shumei Tomb, where the rectangular shape coffin platform is missing now, it is also from northern China and similar period. In all three cases, we have panels decorated with painted reliefs. Mostly epic themes and stories, the subjects are very rich. Along these scenes are represented some supernatural creatures. Some of these creatures had been explained by scholars basing on Sogdian/Zoroastrian and Chinese/Buddhist sources and references. In this presentation, I will attempt to make an interpretive suggestion for the association of horses with fishes. Why do these horses have fish tails? What could be their relation to water? The reason behind this motif is most probably a Central Asian legend about the origin of horses. I will touch upon the relations existing among them by exposing the shared motifs in relief carvings, historical documents, mural paintings, archaeological artefacts as well as tales and legends, still continuing to be told today in Central Asia and Anatolia. This case exposes an interesting model about the confrontation of the Central Asian oral culture with the Chinese visual and written one.

Joy Lidu Yi, “Cross-Cultural Buddhist Monastery Ruins on the Silk Road and Beyond—Lay-out and Function of Buddhist Monasteries Reconsidered”

The dissemination of Buddhism is not just limited to the teachings of the Buddha. The architectural configuration of Buddhist monasteries and images are also important components of Buddhist propagation. This research project will investigate the manner by which Buddhism was disseminated from the Gandhara area of Northwest India to the Western Regions and Central Plain China, based on new archaeological finds, literary sources, previous scholarship and earlier excavations of the monastery remains. Recent archaeological excavations of Buddhist monastery ruins in Xinjiang (Tuyuk cave monasteries) and Central Plain China (monasteries discovered above the rock-cut caves in Yungang) revealed important findings. These new materials have high research value and greatly enriched our appreciation of the content of Buddhist monasteries in the regions. Combined with archaeological materials excavated and found by previous scholars in Buddhist monasteries in Gandhara and Xinjiang during the 19th and 20th centuries, all of these now allow one to examine anew such monastery remains and in a new light explore the devotional practices and rituals at Buddhist monasteries in Xinjiang and their relations with those in Gandhara. From the current extant materials, it is clear that Buddhist monastery remains and art in Gandhara and the Western Regions have had great influence on early Buddhist monasteries in the Hexi Corridor and those in Central Plain China. However, the transformation of the architectural layout from Gandhara to Central Plain China still requires more scholarly research, especially in regard to their contribution to the globalization of Buddhism—here lies the major focus of this project.

Tina Berdajs, “Sleeping Vessels: Chinese Ceramics in Slovene Museums”

Ceramic vessels of Chinese origin enjoyed great interest from people living in the area of present-day Slovenia since at least the 17th century. At first, similarly to other parts of Europe, Chinese ceramics were especially popular among people of higher social strata, were they primarily served a decorative purpose in homes of noble families, but with time became more accessible to a wider circle of people. During the 19th and 20th centuries, many of these objects found their way into collections of several Slovene museums.
Today, the largest collection of Chinese ceramics held in a Slovene public institution is the collection at the National Museum of Slovenia with over 200 individual pieces of East Asian origin. With other, smaller collections around the country, they together form a strong basis for research of collectors, collections, and collecting practices of Chinese, and more widely, East Asian ceramics in Slovenia.
This paper presents the on-going research and the first in-depth look into the field of Chinese ceramics in Slovene museums. Known collections are presented and analysed through short case studies of selected objects. These case studies simultaneously illustrate the unique natures and characteristics of individual collections, contemporaneous collectors and their collecting practices, as well as present several commonalities which connect them through historical narratives.

Remy Jarry, “Dunhuang’s Rise in Contemporary China: The Story of a Rebirth”

Dunhuang’s history dates back to the Eastern Han Dynasty (25 AD–220 AD) when it was first created as a garrison in order to defend the Empire against invaders. In addition to its military function, Dunhuang had been evolving over the following centuries to become a prominent hub for trade and religious activities in Central Asia. Thus, Dunhuang had played an essential role as a multifaceted satellite of the Chinese Empire from the Tang Dynasty (618–907 AD), thanks to its strategic location at the intersection of the North and South Silk Roads and its artistic excellence in Buddhist art (murals in particular). Yet, Dunhuang had fell into oblivion from the Ming dynasty (1368–1644 AD) until its rediscovery during the first half of the 20th century. Interestingly, this modern rediscovery has progressively come along with the integration of the historical site as a quintessential part of the Chinese civilisation. From a forgotten place at the periphery of the Chinese world, Dunhuang has been transformed into a major and well-known destination, where mass tourism coexists with advanced scholarly research at the international scale. In parallel, this rebirth has been instrumental in the defence of China’s geopolitical interests, especially the promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative conceived by Xi Jinping. Thus, China’s integrated cultural heritage strategy tends to resume Dunhuang’s original role as a garrison, but in a symbolic way to support its quest for soft power. Our research paper intends to decipher a set of factors at the origin of Dunhuang’s rebirth from a multidisciplinary perspective.

Event Timeslots (1)

Room B