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Archive for the ‘China’ Category

Travel along a path taken by a historical figure is always exciting and many books have been written about those trips. For example Walking the Bible is a journey from Egypt to Jerusalem along the path followed by Moses. Chasing Che is a motorcycle trip along the route that Che Guevera took.

Last year some researchers attempted a bronze age trade route from Sur in Oman to Mandvi in Gujarat in a bronze age boat.

Recently there was a new book, Ten Thousand Miles Without a Cloud by Shuyun Sun which follows the path taken by Huen Tsang, the Chinese pilgrim who toured India during in the 7th century.

Now four Buddhist selected from Chinese mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao are planning to retrace the steps of Huen Tsang.

The group will carry valuable gifts for Nalanda, including a Liuzu altar sutra embroidered on silk, a Sakyamuni statue and a copy of an ancient Chinese book, “records of the western regions of the tang dynasty” by Xuanzang`s disciple Bian Ji.

“The embroidered Liuzu altar sutra is the most valuable gift as it is the only sutra originated in China,” said shi Zhongyao, secretary-general of the trip organizing committee. “Others were all translated from Sanskrit,” he added.

In the late autumn of 628, monk Xuan Zang started his journey to South Asia. He walked 25,000 kms and spent 19 years [Retracing Zang`s journey to India]

Unlike Huen Tsang, these folks don’t plan to walk all that 25,000 on foot since they don’t have time for it. Still it would be an interesting journey and I hope someone makes a documentary on it, similar to the Walking the Bible series on PBS.

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Usually archaeologists find artifcats like terracota idols, amphorae or the first labelled portaiture of Emperor Asoka. They also find old temples, forts, boats, and sometimes even skeletons. But it is only once in a blue moon that they find an entire state and this is what happened in China.

The existence of this 3000 year old state, Peng, was never recorded in any historical documents, but only in some inscriptions in bronzeware excavated from two Western Zhou Dynasty tombs

Li Boqian, director of the archaeological research center of the prestigious Beijing University, said at an archaeological forum recently in Beijing that the discovery of the Western Zhou graves in Hengshui is the most important archaeological discovery since the excavation of the graves of the Marquis of Jin, another state of the Western Zhou Dynasty, in Quwo County of Shanxi Province.

The newly found ancient state will help archaeologists and historians better understand the history of the Western Zhou Dynasty and its jurisdiction, Li said.

More than 80 tombs have been excavated at the site in Hengshui, with the tombs of Pengbo and his wife the largest ones. The couple were buried side by side with lots of funeral objects such as bronze ware, carriages and jade, said Song Jianzhong, deputy director of the Institute of Archaeology of Shanxi Province.

One of the most important findings in the graves is the remains of a pall covering the coffins. The remains of the pall, already blended with earth after several thousand years, are still a vivid red color. Phoenix patterns can be seen on the pall, said Song.[3,000-year-old ancient state found in Shanxi]

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Romans in China

Did the Romans ever reach China ? This is a new theory which has approval by the communist party as well.

The earliest recorded official contact between China and Rome did not occur until 166AD, when, according to a Chinese account, a Roman envoy arrived in China, possibly sent by Emperor Marcus Aurelius. Remarkably, that was the only contact between the two great powers of which a record survives. The Romans referred to the people of the remote east as the Seres—the silk people. But that term could have referred to the Central Asian tribes whose trade with the Chinese no doubt included silk—which the Romans long thought grew on trees. The secret of silk production reached the West only in the sixth century, from the Byzantines.

It may well irritate some of the proud custodians of China’s cultural heritage that it was foreigners who first promoted the theory of the Roman settlement. Homer Dubs, a professor of Chinese at Oxford University, raised it in a lecture delivered to the China Society in London in 1955. According to Dubs, the journey to Gansu began in 53BC when Crassus, who together with Julius Caesar and Pompey formed Rome’s First Triumvirate, decided to make up for his lack of military glory by going to war with the dreaded Parthians.

Dubs says the Chinese kept the ex-legionaries as frontier guards, installing them in a specially created town called Liqian in what is now Gansu

Crassus’s legions were no match for the Parthian archers, nimble horsemen who could loose their arrows off even as they turned. Of the 42,000 Romans who set out, 20,000 were killed and 10,000 were captured in the battle of Carrhae, in modern Turkey; it was one of the most spectacular losses of Roman military history. According to Pliny the Elder, the Roman prisoners were used by the Parthians as guards on their eastern frontier in what is today Turkmenistan. From there, Dubs conjectured, some escaped and joined the Huns as mercenaries. In 36BC, Chinese troops on a punitive venture defeated the Hun ruler Zhizhi in today’s Uzbekistan. Among their captives they found 145 Romans. Dubs says the Chinese kept the ex-legionaries as frontier guards, installing them in a specially created town called Liqian in what is now Gansu. [The Romans in China]

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