Archeology and History of the Silk Road



Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Saving Mes Aynak, Revisited

Mes Aynak, one of Afghanistan’s most important cultural treasures, may be destroyed by the end of 2015. by Brent Huffman   January 15, 2015

My documentary, Saving Mes Aynak, which deals with the imminent threat facing the ancient city of Mes Aynak in Afghanistan, will have its premiere at the prestigious Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels (FIPA) in France at the end of January.
The event rarely accepts films made by American directors, and the film features criticism of French involvement at the archaeology site.
The premiere at FIPA demonstrates the global importance of the issue.
 Saving Mes Aynak had its world premiere in November at the International Documentary Festival Amsterdam (IDFA), the largest documentary film festival in the world, where it was screened six times to enthusiastic sold-out crowds.
Many of those at the festival had never heard of Mes Aynak and were desperate to help save the site by signing the official petition or getting involved in other ways to spread awareness.
During IDFA, I also participated in an expert panel at the University of Amsterdam, where many Afghan college students and experts attended.
At this event, Stephen Carter of Global Witness, an environmental advocacy non-governmental organization (NGO), revealed that there is significant ongoing looting at Mes Aynak.
I was surprised and shocked to hear this, even though I had noticed that security at the archaeological site had been ineffective and solely focused on preventing Taliban attacks — they were looking for bombs and guns, not 2,000-year-old Buddhist artifacts.
There was also no oversight of the military’s operations.
A contact of mine at another Kabul-based NGO told me that some local and foreign archaeologists have even been responsible for a bit of the looting as well.
Global Witness and I, as well as other NGOs, are looking into this distressing issue to see what can be done.
In addition to this looting, the ancient city of Mes Aynak will likely be completely destroyed later this year.
A Chinese state-owned copper mining company, the China Metallurgical Group Corporation (MCC), is planning on razing the 5,000-year-old archaeological site, which encompasses hundreds of Buddha statues and dozens of fragile temples, to mine for an estimated $100 billion of copper.
Support for the Chinese copper mine has intensified since Ashraf Ghani took over as president of Afghanistan in September 2014 and vowed to push a pro-mining agenda.
There is supposedly $3 trillion-worth of natural resources in the country.
Despite massive corruption and appalling environmental and human rights issues, many view the extraction industry as a magical cure for Afghanistan’s woes.
 President Ghani traveled to Beijing in October 2014 to discuss the Mes Aynak mining project with the Chinese government.
Two representatives from the Afghan Taliban also flew to China in November to discuss security and cooperation with government-owned industries like MCC.
 Since the filming of Saving Mes Aynak commenced, Qadir Temori, the lead archaeologist and main character in the documentary, was promoted to director of the Archaeology Department, which operates under the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture.
He also welcomed his third child, Moslem, into the world.
Temori has vowed to continue excavations at Mes Aynak for as long as possible.
However, he is increasingly frustrated by the lack of government funding for archaeology, the continued delays in payments for Afghan archaeologists and workers — Afghan archaeologists went on strike in mid-2014 over yet another three month delay in salary payment — and general gross mismanagement of the project by the Afghan government.
 Temori lost most of the foreign archaeologists working at the site back in 2013, when security threats prompted foreign embassies to withdraw their citizens.
Many of them were foreign experts who provided essential support and training for Afghans to carry out this massive rescue excavation project.
Temori is now forced to work with a skeleton crew of mainly Afghan and Tajik archaeologists and very limited funding.
In an attempt to help in a bigger way than just spreading awareness and signing a petition, the Saving Mes Aynak team in Chicago will be launching a poster sale of legendary Japanese artist Rima Fujita’s breathtaking painting, Save Mes Aynak, created specifically for the documentary.
All proceeds from the sale will go directly to the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture to benefit the excavation of Mes Aynak and other threatened archaeology sites around Afghanistan.

Making the Film
When I began doing research in 2011 for what would eventually become the documentary Saving Mes Aynak, many people advised me to stop.
Experts at the World Bank and the US Embassy in Kabul told me that plans to pave over Mes Aynak to make room for a copper mine would be a good thing for Afghanistan.
They told me this topic was a very bad idea for a documentary and pressured me not to make the film. They went on to aggressively dissuade others from working on the project.
 So I went on to make Saving Mes Aynak alone.
I was a crew of one who worked with a wonderful Afghan fixer/translator who helped me travel quickly and safely to where I needed to be.
Though the Afghan archaeologists were very gracious with their time, I had very limited access to Mes Aynak.
I had to get permission from the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture and the Kabul police every time I wanted to visit the site.
They would only allow me to be there for a few hours a day and tried to limit what I could film.
I was never allowed to spend the night due to constant threats from the Taliban.
I would travel to Mes Aynak in a rented Kabul taxi over desert and mountainous terrain at great risk of being kidnapped or crossing landmines hidden in the road.
But I was determined to tell this story at any cost.
There soon came a glimmer of hope.
After completing the majority of filming and making a rough cut, I eventually found tremendous international interest and support for the project.
To raise awareness about the imminent destruction of Mes Aynak, I wrote about the site in major articles for CNN, The New York Times, PBS Newshour, Asia Society, Tricycle Magazine and other media organizations.
I made a Facebook page for the film that quickly amassed tens of thousands of followers. I lectured on Mes Aynak around the world.
I launched a Kickstarter campaign independently and raised money to continue editing and filming, as well as to give back to the Afghan archaeologists.
I was able to donate $3,500 to the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture to finally buy Afghan archaeologists several computers and digital cameras.
After the campaign, international support continued to build all over the world from Sri Lanka to Australia to China.
A petition backed by this campaign was able to garner over 75,000 signatures.
Due to this international support, enough presure was put on the Afghan government to temporarily delay mining for one year — a huge victory.
 I was eventually awarded grants from the MacArthur Foundation, Global Heritage Fund, The Buffet Center and Northwestern University to finally finish the film.
In 2013, the documentary production house, Kartemquin Films, makers of Hoop Dreams and The Interrupters, got involved to assist with outreach and the global distribution.
Julia Reichert, director of Seeing Red and A Lion in the House, and Zak Piper, producer of The Interrupters and Life Itself, joined the project and have worked tirelessly to ensure that Saving Mes Aynak reaches an international audience.
 It is my hope that this mounting international support will help save the priceless cultural heritage at Mes Aynak and set the precedent that culture is more valuable than industry.
I hope Saving Mes Aynak can also be a tool used to educate local audiences about the terrible risks involved with the mining industry.
First-rate oversight and regulation must be in place to protect cultural heritage, local people and the environment. Otherwise, Afghanistan — one of the richest cultural destinations in the world — will be home to nothing but massive toxic craters.

About the Film
 Saving Mes Aynak is ultimately a story of hope.
It is a film that is optimistic for a better future for Afghanistan; a country plagued by over 30 years of perpetual war yet containing one of the richest cultural histories in the world.

The documentary is dedicated to Afghan archaeologists like Temori who face constant threats from the Taliban, private industry and their own government to preserve this ancient archaeological site. Saving Mes Aynak is not only a reflection of these courageous efforts to protect and preserve invaluable cultural heritage, but also represents a voice for the voiceless — a vehicle where Afghans can speak out on camera against the injustices happening all around them.
Now these passionate, courageous voices will finally be heard.
 I created Saving Mes Aynak to be a catalyst for change.
My hope is the documentary can actually save Mes Aynak by rallying international support to stop the destruction of this cultural treasure.
Mes Aynak, which is 5,000 years old and covers more than 500,000 square meters, is truly one of the unseen wonders of the world.
Comparable to Pompeii and Machu Picchu, these sprawling ruins feature hundreds of life-size or larger Buddha statues, dozens of temples, hidden caverns and thousands of priceless artifacts like birch-bark manuscripts, gold and copper coins, jewelry and intricate hand painted murals.
Mes Aynak is grand, awe-inspiring and has a magical ability to draw people in — to get people from all over the world to fall in love with its mysterious beauty.
 Archaeologists estimate that only 10% of Mes Aynak has been discovered — only the tip of an enormous iceberg.

Who knows what still remains hidden, buried under a mountain of sand and earth?
At the heart of the Silk Road, Mes Aynak was a melting pot of Asian and Middle Eastern cultures where travelers and pilgrims from many different religions could trade their wares, exchange cultural perspectives and even worship together at the same location.
Ironically, Mes Aynak was also one of the earliest know copper mining centers in the world.
Here, the precious material was mined and smelted using ancient techniques used in coin production and in the creation of ancient Buddhist artifacts.
 If Mes Aynak were to be tragically destroyed, Saving Mes Aynak would be the only visual record that this wondrous city ever existed.
As a civilized society, we cannot let that happen.
When the towering Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001, the world gasped in horror.
People shouted, “Why did this happen?” and “Why didn’t we stop it?”
Mes Aynak will also be obliterated unless we take immediate action.
We have the power to stop this senseless destruction.
On the official website, we have listed ways for people to help.
It is my duty both as a filmmaker and as a global citizen to ensure this film reaches a global audience and will spark a movement to pressure the Afghan government to stop mining and save this incredible site for future generations.
 Fair Observer is a nonprofit organization dedicated to informing and educating global citizens about the critical issues of our time.
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 The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Archaeologists unearth lost fortress of Genghis Khan in western Mongolia

Ruins of a fortress established by Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan are unearthed in southwestern Mongolia in August. (Provided by the Japanese-Mongolian joint research team)

Japanese and Mongolian archaeologists said Feb. 26 that they have discovered the remains of a 13th-century military outpost established for Mongol conqueror Genghis Khan (c. 1162-1227) in southwestern Mongolia.
The joint research team said the discovery could be useful in learning about the Mongol Empire’s strategy on western expansion and trade routes.
“We hope the discovery will be useful in ascertaining the history of the Mongolian Plateau between the 13th and 14th centuries,” said team leader Koichi Matsuda, professor emeritus of Mongol Empire history at Osaka International University.
The researchers surveyed ruins about 880 kilometers west of Ulan Bator in 2001 and found that geographical features around them were similar to the landscape depicted in a travel book written by a medieval Chinese Taoism leader.
The researchers also unearthed pieces of Chinese ceramics dating to the 13th century. An aerial photograph taken in 2001 shows the remains of a fortress surrounded by a soil wall, measuring 200 meters by 200 meters.
Last summer, the archaeologists used carbon dating to determine the age of unearthed wood chips and animal bones found at the site. The analysis showed the wood pieces were from the 12th to 13th century, while the bones were estimated to date to the 14th century.
Based on the findings, the archaeologists concluded the items were from a castle that was used as a military base when Genghis Khan was leading the bloody invasion of countries in central Asia.
The fortress is said to have been commissioned by a close aide to Genghis Khan in 1212. Although researchers from various countries have pointed to multiple areas as the former site of the castle, the actual location of the facility had not been confirmed.

Database of Chinese classic ancient books


The Database of Chinese classic ancient books 中國基本古籍庫 is the largest database of pre-20th century texts covering all fields of knowledge. It has in recent years become a standard reference for anyone working on pre-twentieth-century China, due to its vast scope and the good quality of the editions it includes.
This 中國基本古籍庫 Zhongguo jiben guji ku database currently includes 10,000 titles in 12,500 editions from the pre-Qin period through to the Republican period. All texts are provided in full text and image format, allowing for a direct comparison both between digitized text and original text image, and in some cases between different editions of the text.
The texts are divided into four sections: Philosophy and Science, History and Geography, Art and Literature, and General Works; each of these is split up into 20 major categories, which in turn are divided into 100 minor categories. The database is fully searchable and available to all staff and students from the university as well as from home with ULCN login. 
Here’s how to access this database (1 user only)
  • Go to, ‘Welcome to the Erudition Central server’
  • Choose 中国基本古籍库, the second from the list of ‘Products’ on the right hand side
  • Click the large blue button saying ‘Log in’. Don’t fill in user ID or password - we are recognized on IP
  • On the screen that follows, click the (rather vague) button down left from the green jade bi disc 璧 saying, calligraphically, “進入“, to access the database
  • Click the button quanwen jiansuo 全文檢索 to do a fulltext search
  • Please click ‘tuichu’ 退出 after using,so the next person can access this database!
  • The East Asian Library of Princeton has made a PDF of the complete list (366 pages!) of all titles plus editions available in this database. [PDF, new window]
  • The database also includes a sizable collection of texts published in the republican period (1911-1949) with a particular focus on publications on Chinese “western studies” (xixue 西學)
  • Read more on this database, description from the University of Tokyo

Saturday, 28 February 2015

Early Christian Remains of Inner Mongolia

Early Christian Remains of Inner Mongolia

Discovery, Reconstruction and Appropriation. Second Edition, Revised, Updated and Expanded

by Tjalling H.F. Halbertsma, University of Groningen

SBN13: 9789004288836
E-ISBN: 9789047443230
Publication Date: February 2015
Copyright Year: 2015
Format: Paperback
The early Christian presence in Inner Mongolia forms the subject of this book. These Nestorian remains must primarily be attributed to the Öngüt, a Turkic people closely allied to the Mongols. Writing in Syriac, Uighur and Chinese scripts and languages, the Nestorian Öngüt drew upon a variety of religions and cultures to decorate their gravestones with crosses rising from lotus flowers, dragons and Taoist imagery. This heritage also portrays designs found in the Islamic world. Taking a closer look at the discovery of this material and its significance for the study of the early Church of the East under the Mongols, the author reconstructs the Nestorian culture of the Öngüt.

The Origins of the Dunhuang Studies


Fri Apr-10-2015, 7:30pm


Knight Building, Room 102
521 Memorial Way
(Between Littlefield Center and Frost Amphitheatre)

Program / Series

Silk Road Buddhism 


The Silk Road Foundation

The Origins of the Dunhuang Manuscripts

Stephen F. Teiser

Princeton University

From the time the manuscripts from Dunhuang were first discovered in 1900, curious minds have wondered why the texts were deposited in the library cave (Mogao Cave 17) in the early 11th century. Two major reasons have been proposed. The “sacred waste” theory proposes that the texts, wrappers, and paintings in the cave had outlived their usefulness in religious and social life but were too sacred or rare to be simply burned or disposed of. Hence, batches of manuscripts from several temple libraries were collected and sealed up. Another theory is that the manuscripts were intentionally placed into the cave in order to “avoid disaster,” such as the rumored invasion of the Karakhanids.
These theories have guided research and generated important scholarship. But they have also encouraged us to ignore other important aspects of Buddhist manuscript culture. In particular, in assuming that the entire body of manuscripts from Dunhuang constitutes a library or single corpus, such theories obscure the multiple origins of the manuscripts and the diverse range of religious and social institutions in which the texts were produced. Instead of focusing on the end of the manuscripts, this lecture explores how the genesis of the manuscripts provides invaluable information about Buddhist religious practice and the institutions of literacy in medieval China.
Free and Open to the Public

Speaker's Bio

Stephen F. Teiser is the D. T. Suzuki Professor in Buddhist Studies and Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Princeton University. He specializes in the study of Buddhism and Chinese religions. His current research focuses on Chinese Buddhist practice and medieval liturgical manuscripts.

Inventing Silk Road Studies


Thu Apr-2-2015, 7:30pm


Knight Building, Room 102
521 Memorial Way
(Between Littlefield Center and Frost Amphitheatre)

Program / Series

Co-sponsored Lectures 


The Silk Road Foundation

Inventing Silk Road Studies

Tamara Chin

Brown University

Since the 1980s, the term Silk Road has had a popular and academic appeal, suggestive of an era of premodern globalization in which China played a central role.  Silk Road books, journals, exhibitions, conferences, and institutes are increasingly commonplace across Asia, North America, and Europe.  The talk introduces the modern idea of the Silk Road as a term first coined by a German geographer in 1877.  It sketches the early translation and circulation of the term in colonial geography, before its re-appropration in diplomatic discourses after the 1955 Bandung Conference and Nixon’s 1972 visit to China.  The talk then addresses the idea of Silk Road studies as an academic field.  Despite a general familiarity with what now falls under Silk Road studies (e.g., Central Asian art; Dunhuang manuscripts; contemporary Chinese geopolitics), insufficient attention has been paid to its potential parameters or usefulness.  I ask: as what kind of heuristic device has the Silk Road served, and in which disciplines? Is a more defined or institutionalized field of Silk Road studies desirable? If so, which model should it follow, and which other fields should it position itself with or against (e.g. Area Studies, postcolonial studies, comparative literature)? 
Free and Open to the Public

Speaker's Bio

Tamara T. Chin is an Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at Brown University.  She specializes in early Chinese literature, and recently published Savage Exchange: Han Imperialism, Chinese Literary Style, and the Economic Imagination (Harvard 2014).  She is currently working on two book projects relating to the Silk Road: one on changes in literary and economic practices during the rise of the Silk Road (ca. 1-700 CE), and a comparative study of the modern idea of a more globalized premodernity (the "invention" of the Silk Road).

The Origins of the Lost Fleet of the Mongol Empire

The Origins of the Lost Fleet of the Mongol Empire

  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Texas A & M University Press (28 Feb. 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1623491940

In The Origins of the Lost Fleet of the Mongol Empire, Randall Sasaki provides a starting point for understanding the technology of the failed Mongol invasion of Japan in 1281 CE, as well as the history of shipbuilding in East Asia. He has created a timber category database, analyzed methods of joinery, and studied contemporary approaches to shipbuilding in order to ascertain the origins and types of vessels that composed the Mongol fleet.

Although no conclusive statements can be made regarding the origins of the vessels, it appears that historical documents and archaeological evidence correspond well to each other, and that many of the remains analyzed were from smaller vessels built in China's Yangtze River Valley. Large, V-shaped cargo ships and the Korean vessels probably represent a small portion of the timbers raised at the Takashima shipwreck site.

RANDALL J. SASAKI is a PhD candidate in nautical archaeology at Texas A&M University. His previously published work has focused on the Battle of Bach Dang near Hai Phong, in northern Vietnam.

What Readers Are Saying:

"Randall Sasaki provides an insightful, detailed forensic study of the lost fleet of Khubilai Khan. The legend of the 'Divine Wind' is peeled back with careful detail as archaeology shows why such a well-equipped and experienced armada failed some seven centuries ago."—James P. Delgado, author, Khubilai Khan's Lost Fleet: In Search of a Legendary Armada

“This book reveals the interesting history and details of ship building and the strategy of the second Mongol invasion of Japan in 1281 through new maritime archaeological findings.”—Di Wang, Professor of History, Texas A&M University

Increased activity during the Yuan Dynasty

Kublai Khan was a notorious … polluter

Kublai Khan and his imperial Mongol brethren were legendary warriors, masters of the Silk Road, and, according to a new study, terrible polluters due to silver mining. Geologists discovered this legacy by visiting Erhai Lake (pictured above) in the southwestern Chinese province of Yunnan. The team extracted 2.5-meter-long sediment cores that accounted for the last 4500 years of the lakebed’s history. They scanned the silt for heavy metal pollutants, namely copper, lead, silver, cadmium, and zinc. They noted a bump in copper contaminants around 1500 B.C.E., which corresponds with the start of China’s Bronze Age and the broader adoption of metal mining. But mining pollution remained low and relatively stable for the next two-and-a-half millennia—until the Mongols conquered China in the late 1200s C.E. The imperialists loved using silver—for coins, jewelry, art, and taxes—but the wood-fire smelting process released ash clouds filled with metal impurities like lead oxide. These plumes settle onto the earth or bodies of water. Lead, for instance, spiked in Erhai Lake, reaching a peak of 119 micrograms per gram of sediment by 1300 C.E. Heavy metal pollution during the Mongol (Yuan) dynasty was three to four times higher than modern industrialized mining, the authors reported online this month in Environmental Science & Technology. Although preindustrial pollution has been detected in lake sediments (and ice cores) around the globe, only a handful of studies have seen levels that exceed modern day—and this observation is the first from China. Lead in sediments can impact aquatic organisms for centuries, so the environmental consequences for Erhai Lake likely persist to this day.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Translating twelfth century China from the Song Dynasty

With James M. Hargett’s lucid translation of the text and meticulous annotations of the Treatises of the Supervisor and Guardian of the Cinnamon Sea(Guihai yuheng zhi, hereafter Treatises) by Fan Chengda (1126–1193), a renowned official and scholar of the Song, this work has doubtlessly become more accessible to a much broader readership. Together with his translations of Fan’s other three works, Diary of Grasping the Carriage Reins (Lanpei lu), Diary of Mounting a Simurgh (Canluan lu), and Diary of a Boat Trip to Wu (Wuchuan lu)

Professor Hargett, a leading scholar in the fledgling field of Chinese travel literature, has accomplished his aim to provide English readers with translations of all four major prose works of Fan.
Read full article

Master's student discovers rare book signed by Hu Shih in Harvard-Yenching Library


Yifei Shi, a second-year student in the Regional Studies – East Asia (RSEA) A.M. program at Harvard and a recipient of the HYI-RSEA Fellowship, recently discovered a book in the Harvard-Yenching Library signed by Hu Shih that has now been reclassified as part of the Library’s rare book collection.
The book, entitled Two Newly Edited Texts of the Chan Master Shen-hui from the Pelliot collection of Tun-huang Manuscripts at the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, is one of Hu Shih’s best known scholarly works. As Shi notes, "This book on early Chan (Zen) Buddhism in the Tang dynasty was written around 1926 after comparing Dunhuang manuscripts in Paris, Tokyo, and Beijing. During the writing of the book, Hu Shih also went to New York to consult with D.T. Suzuki, perhaps the most well-known Buddhist scholar in the US at the time. The research process was truly global, and the influence of his work is so far-reaching that the findings and arguments Hu Shih presented still engage scholars in debates today."
Shi discovered the book after requesting it from the library depository for a class taught by Professor James Robson on early Chan (Zen) Buddhism. As she describes, “Since most of the copies were checked out, this was the only one available at the time I checked…When I saw the copy, I was surprised at this thin booklet with a worn-out cover. I opened it, [and] Hu Shih's hand-written words were on the front page: ‘A gift to Harvard Chinese-Japanese Library with respect. Hu Shih March 4, 1959.’ There is a library stamp which reads, ‘The Chinese-Japanese Library of the Harvard-Yenching Institute at Harvard University. Gift of the Author, APR 15 1959’.”
This copy is part of the “Studies Presented to Yuen Ren Chao on his Sixty-fifth Birthday,” edited and reprinted by the Institute of History and Philology, Academia Sinica. Upon her discovery, Shi notes “I told Professor Lu Yang at Peking University about it. In his opinion, this copy has two historical significances. On the one hand, it is a work signed by the author; on the other, this was also a ‘birthday gift’ to another established scholar.”
After first coming across the book, Shi posted a photo of it on Weibo, where it was reposted by Prof. Lu and then seen by Jidong Yang (Head of the East Asia Library at Stanford University), among others. After seeing the post, Dr. Yang reached out to the Harvard-Yenching Library, which will now keep the book in its rare book room.

Wednesday, 25 February 2015

1,000 year-old mummified monk reveals more of his secrets

 (Drents Museum)
A 1,000-year old mummified monk hidden inside a statue of Buddha has revealed more of his secrets.
The Chinese statue, part of a joint exhibition between museums in Holland, Germany, Switzerland, and Hungary, is attracting plenty of attention after scientists performed a CT scan and endoscopy on the mummy inside.
After a seven-month exhibition at the Drents Museum in Assen, Holland, that ended in August 2014, experts decided to conduct a closer analysis of the hidden mummy.
“After the exhibition, we had some more questions about the inner part of this mummy,” Vincent van Vilsteren, curator of archaeology at the Drents Museum, told”
The statue’s owner, a private individual in Holland, is considering making a life-sized reconstruction of the mummy, according to van Vilsteren. “For that reason, we decided to do a 3D scan,” he said.
The owner bought the Buddha statue in 1996, unaware of its grisly contents. The mummy was discovered the following year while experts were restoring the statue.
In addition to the CT scan, which was performed at Meander Medical Center in Amersfoort, Holland, last year, scientists also performed an endoscopy, carefully inserting a small camera into the mummy.
“What we thought was lung tissue, was not lung tissue, but what seems to be the remains of little pieces of paper with Chinese writing on them inside the body,” van Vilsteren told “There are still some investigations going on, DNA research is going on,” he added.
The CT scan was the mummy’s second -- an earlier scan was performed at Mannheim University Hospital in Germany in Spring 2013.
The mummy is believed to be a Buddhist master of the Chinese Meditation School. The monk, named Liuquan, died around 1100 A.D.
Van Vilsteren told that, while the mummy is around 1,000 years old, a 14th-century textile roll found beneath the body provides some key archaeological clues. “We think that the body was worshipped in a temple as a mummy and, only in the 14th century, was made into a statue,” he said.
The expert noted that the recent discovery of a 200-year-old monk’s corpse in Mongolia has fueled interest in the 1,000-year old mummified monk. The amazingly intact remains of the monk in lotus position were found in Mongolia’s Songinokhairkhan province, attracting huge media attention.
The Buddha statue will be on display at the Hungarian Natural History Museum in Budapest until early May, when it heads to Luxembourg.
Follow James Rogers on Twitter @jamesjrogers

108 Buddha-Variationen im Frankfurter Museum Angewandte Kunst

Buddha meditiert: Aus Nordwest-Pakistan stammt diese Figur, die als Leihgabe aus einer privaten Sammlung im Frankfurter Museum Angewandte Kunst gezeigt wird.  Foto: Museum/Rainer Drexel

Zum Nachdenken über Tod und Religion will die neue Ausstellung im Museum Angewandte Kunst anregen: Am Frankfurter Museumsufer werden 108 Buddha-Statuen gezeigt.
Am Anfang ist das Loch. Das wandgroße gepixelte Foto zeigt die leere Höhle, in der die weltgrößte Buddha-Statue im zentralafghanischen Bamiyan aus Stein gemeißelt stand, bis die Taliban sie 2001 sprengten. Der Anfang der Ausstellung „Buddha. 108 Begegnungen“ in Frankfurt erinnert daran, wie Religion Kriege legitimiert – und wie sie die Friedfertigkeit verbreitet hat.
Gerade jetzt passe eine Ausstellung zu einer Spiritualität der Friedfertigkeit in die Zeit, sagt der Direktor des „Museums Angewandte Kunst“, Matthias Wagner K. Das Museum präsentiert von heute (26.) an bis 7. Juni 108 Buddha-Figuren aus West- und Ostasien. Die Exponate seien „Meisterwerke sakraler Ausdrucksform aus zwei Jahrtausenden“, sagt Wagner K.
Die Ausstellung zeigt asiatische Buddha-Darstellungen in umfassender Weise, wie Kurator Stephan von der Schulenburg erläutert. Mit Schutzgötter- und Dämonen-Skulpturen sei das gesamte Pantheon der Buddha-Figuren versammelt. Die Schau solle zum Nachdenken über die Angst vor dem Tod und den Umgang mit Religion anregen. Die Exponate sind ihrer Herkunft nach entsprechend der alten Handels- und Pilgerwege durch Asien angeordnet, von Pakistan über Indien, Nepal, Birma, Thailand, Kambodscha, Indonesien, China, Korea bis Japan.
Bis 7. Juni im Museum Angewandte Kunst am Frankfurter Museumsufer, dienstags bis sonntags 10 bis 18 Uhr, mittwochs auch bis 20 Uhr.
Die Zahl der 108 Skulpturen ist analog zu der im Buddhismus heiligen Zahl 108 gewählt. In 108 Bänden seien die Lehren des Gautama Buddha versammelt. Buddhistische Rosenkränze hätten 108 Perlen, um ein Mantra zu wiederholen, erklärt von der Schulenburg. Ein Fünftel der Exponate stammt aus dem eigenen Depot, das eine Sammlung des 1925 gegründeten und 1944 zerstörten Frankfurter China-Instituts beherbergt. Die übrigen Stücke stammen von privaten Leihgebern aus verschiedenen Ländern.
Siddharta Gautama, genannt Buddha (Sanskrit: „der Erwachte“), sei in den ersten Jahrhunderten nach seinem Tod um 350 vor Christus nicht abgebildet worden, erläutert die Leiterin des Tibethauses Deutschland, Elke Hessel. Aus Sorge, dem Religionsstifter nicht gerecht zu werden, sei er mit Fußabdrücken oder einem Rad symbolisiert worden. Erst in den Jahrhunderten nach Christus hätten Künstler Buddha-Skulpturen gefertigt. Zunächst waren es lebensnahe Abbilder, später immer ikonenhaftere Figuren, die Buddha als Prinzip versinnbildlichten.
Die ältesten Exponate der Schau stammen aus den ersten zwei Jahrhunderten nach Christus, aus der Gandhara-Kultur im afghanisch-pakistanischen Grenzgebiet. Aus bläulichem Schieferstein ist ein Kopf gearbeitet, der mit üppigen Haarlocken, Stirnband und gepflegtem dünnen Schnurrbart das Porträt eines Adligen sein könnte. Dagegen haben die Gesichtszüge der wohlgenährten Figur im Lotussitz, deren Zeigefinger sich berühren, aus dem indischen Gupta-Reich des 5. bis 6. Jahrhunderts nach Christus ihre individuelle Form zugunsten einer typisierten eingebüßt.
Weltreligion Buddhismus
Die Buddha-Abbildungen und -Skulpturen hätten dem Volk eine Bildsprache gegeben, erklärt von der Schulenburg. Sie seien eine asiatische Bibel der Armen. Je nach dem Land der Herkunft variieren die Gesichtszüge Buddhas. Eine Holzfigur aus dem China des 15. bis 16. Jahrhunderts hatte es in sich: Aus dem Buddha im Meditationssitz operierten Wissenschaftler „Eingeweide“ aus Seide heraus und Papierrollen mit Sutra-Lehrtexten auf Sanskrit.
Am Schluss der Schau ist Buddha in der Pop-Art angekommen: Der tibetische, im New Yorker Exil lebende Künstler Gonkar Gyatso hat eine klassische, sitzende Figur aus dem 14. Jahrhundert in Tibet mit einem 3D-Drucker aus Kunstharz nachgebildet. Bunte Aufkleber verzieren den Körper, bis sie Arme und Beine unter der Collage gänzlich bedecken.

Der Große Buddha von Kamakura/JapanBronzeguss, Mitte 13. Jahrhundert.  Foto: Stephan v. d. Schulenburg

Das Parinirvāna des Buddha(Fragment) Gandhāra, Nordwest-Pakistan, Zweites Jahrhundert, Grauer Schiefer, Privatsammlung  Foto: Rainer Drexel

Schreitender Buddha, Thailand, Sukhothai-Periode, 13./14. Jahrhundert.  Foto: Anja Jahn

Der fastende Prinz Siddharta Gandhāra, Nordwest-Pakistan, Zweites bis Drittes Jahrhundert, Grauer Schiefer,Privatsammlung.  Foto: Rainer Drexel

Haupt eines Adoranten China, Ming-Dynastie (1368-1644), wohl 15. Jahrhundert, Schenkung , Cords 1943.  Foto: Rainer Drexel

Schreitender Buddha, Thailand, Sukhothai-Periode, 13./14. Jahrhundert.  Foto: Anja Jahn

Buddha Shākyamuni China, Ming-Dynastie (1368–1644), 16. Jahrhundert, Holz, rote Lackgrundierung, Goldfassung verloren, Weltkulturen Museum Frankfurt, vormals China-Institut Frankfurt, Inv. Nr. NS 51774  Foto: Museum Angewandte Kunst