Urgent conservation work is needed to save a series of caves in northwest China containing ancient murals by Buddhist monks, which are threatened with destruction from the forces of nature.
The network of 236 sandstone caves extend over an area of two to three kilometres in the vast, sparsely-populated autonomous Xinjiang region of China, along the ancient Silk Road. The caves were inhabited by Buddhist monks and used as temples between the third and the eighth centuries, and are lined with murals providing a rich picture of early Buddhist culture.
The caves, known locally as Kezer, are prone to deterioration, particularly from moisture, because of their geological composition, which includes many soluble salts. Read more.
Beijing — Archaeologists in China’s Shanxi province have discovered a 1,400-year-old temple where a collection of the Buddha statues was once stored.
The shrine, enclosed by walls carved with Buddha niches, is part of the Tongzi temple complex secluded on a mountain near the city of Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi, Xinhua reported Sunday.
According to the researchers with the Institute of Archaeology of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, the structure was built in 556 A.D. during the Northern Qi Dynasty (550-557), a booming period for Buddhism. Read more.
NARA—The vibrant colors of an eighth-century Buddhist statue have been recreated, thanks to computer graphics technology by a joint research team from the Tokyo University of the Arts and Tokyo University of Science.
The project of reproducing the original colors of a national treasure, the standing statue of the armor-plated guardian deity Shukongojin, was conducted by the team led by Satoshi Yabuuchi, professor of studies in preservation and restoration of sculptures at TUA’s Graduate School of Fine Arts.
As a result of two years of research, the team used computer graphics technology to re-create the colors of the rich-colored patterns of the statue from the Tenpyo Period (729-749), based on pigments that remained on its surface.
MINGORA, Pakistan — Archaeologists and cultural activists say Buddhist rock carvings in the Swat district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province are fading fast and urgently need a well-thought-out preservation strategy by the province’s Archaeology Department to protect them from vandalism.
The carvings date from the Gandhara Civilization, considered a cradle of Buddhism, which lasted from early in the first millennium BC to the 11th century AD in what is now northern Pakistan and eastern Afghanistan. Most depict Buddha or other prominent figures in ancient Buddhism. The rest are considered masterpieces of art and history that could attract tourists and scholars from around the world.
However, they are in danger from weathering, neglect, and vandals who have defaced them, thrown stones and garbage at them, and in some cases, urinated on them. Many of those responsible for the desecrations are locals who say they have been told by their mullahs it is virtuous to vandalize them. Read more.
Renegotiation of contract with Chinese company mean more time for dig at former Buddhist settlement
The forts and temples of the ancient Buddhist town at Mes Aynak in Afghanistan throng with the biggest crowds they have seen in more than 14 centuries. Nearby, rows of sheet metal housing built for Chinese miners are almost empty.
Hundreds of archaeologists are working at the site to excavate gilded statues of the Buddha, elaborate stupas that rise from ornately carved floors and delicate frescoes protected by centuries of mud and forgetfulness. The rich vein of copper that once funded Mes Aynak’s creation is now likely to bring about its destruction: a Chinese state-owned mining company paid $3bn (£1.9bn) for the extraction rights, and the site will eventually become the world’s biggest copper mine. Read more.
ISLAMABAD: The only Buddhist monastery in the Taxila valley was a thriving centre of learning at the end of the third century AD.
The monastery attracted so many students and monks from around greater India that its administration built an annex to house the seekers of enlightenment coming to meditate there, archaeologists at Quaid-e-Azam University (QAU) have discovered.
Another notable finding was that the main compound of the monastery, located in present-day Badal Pur, is at least 300 years older than archaeologists previously estimated. The main compound, which consists of 55 “monk cells”, was excavated between 2005 and 2012. Read more.
(CNN) — Please bear with me as I ask you to briefly use your imagination. Close your eyes. Imagine Machu Picchu at dawn cloaked in fog. Now imagine the fog slowly lifting to reveal an enormous ancient city perched on the edge of a mountain.
Picture a sense of mystery being immersed in thousands of years of history as you walk between antiquated hewn stone structures. There is tranquility in the wind-blown stillness of the primeval site. You feel a renewed sense of kinship with the past and with your ancestors and feel a deep reverence for their lives and accomplishments.
Now imagine the menacing sound of bulldozers closing in and men at work. Their heavy machinery rattles the ground. You hear workers rigging dynamite to these massive stone structures. There is a brief lull and then the deafening blow of multiple explosions as Machu Picchu is razed to the ground.
Be at ease, Machu Piccu is a UNESCO protected site. But a very similar 2,600-year-old Buddhist site in Logar province, Afghanistan isn’t so lucky. Read more.
The Institute for the Study of the Ancient World at New York University (ISAW) presents a major exhibition that explores the Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan (shahng-tahng-shahn), the crowning cultural achievement of the sixth-century Northern Qi dynasty (550–77 CE). Carved into the mountains of northern China, the temples were once home to a magnificent array of sculptures—monumental Buddhas, divine attendant figures, and crouching monsters framed by floral motifs. These statues are among the finest embodiments of Chinese Buddhist sculpture and are seminal to our understanding of the history of Chinese Buddhist style and iconography.
The artistic excellence of individual sculptures from Xiangtangshan has long been recognized, but their original context in the caves was lost when the objects were removed in the early twentieth century. Recent research and technologies have made it possible to digitally envision some of the caves as they appeared before they were despoiled. Read more.