Achievements of the Archaeological Research On the Silk Road at Northwest University

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Guo Lihong, President, Northwest University [Photo/]

Guo Lihong, President, Northwest University [Photo/]


Guo Lihong, President, Northwest University

Title: Remarks about the Achievements of the Archaeological Research On the Silk Road at Northwest University

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Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Good morning! On behalf of the faculty and students of Northwest University, I wish to extend warm welcome and heartfelt thanks to all of you.

As a comprehensive university with the cultural accumulation of 114 years, Northwest University is a modern institution of higher education with the longest history in northwestern China. It was in the ancient capital of Xi’an, the starting point of the Silk Road that Northwest University has originated and developed. For more than one century, being based on the humanistic and natural resources in the northwest region of China, facing the world and upholding the mission of developing northwestern China and Shaanxi Province, Northwest University has become an important force to serve the national and regional construction and to promote the development of human civilization.

With a profound tradition and rich cultural deposit, the archaeology of the Silk Road in Northwest University can be divided into three stages.

The first stage was from 1937 to 1949 or from the period of Northwest Associated University to the founding of the People’s Republic of China, in which the archaeology of the Silk Road started and the foundation was laid. During the period that the Chinese nation was in the deep crisis, Northwest Associated University rose in great vigor in Chenggu, Shaanxi, and brought the talents together and achieved a good number of research accomplishments with rich local characters tracking the international academic frontier. It was in this period that the University formed its educational philosophy of “promoting the national spirit, integrating the ideas from around the world and shouldering the responsibility of developing northwestern China”. In 1938, scholars of Northwest University, for the first time, excavated the tomb of Zhang Qian, the founder of the Pioneering Trip of the Silk Road. From 1943 to 1944, Professor Huang Wenbi investigated the Xinjiang section of the Silk Road, and created a new way to study the Silk Road by combining archaeology with history, geography, religion and other areas of study Therefore, he was called “the founder of archaeology in northwest China”. Basing his research on field investigation, Professor Wang Ziyun pioneered the Chinese art archaeology in the Silk Road, which has exerted a great influence on the academic circles.

The second stage was from 1949 to 2000, in which the archaeology of the Silk Road developed rapidly and highlighted its characteristics. After the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Northwest University ushered in a new stage of development, and further clarified its important task of taking root on the local region and developing the country and the region. In 1950s, the specialty of archaeology was formally established in Northwest University, and lots of academic masters had been brought together including Ma Changshou, Chen Zhi, Liu Shi’e and others. They paid great attention not only to teaching the systematic archaeological theories, but to practicing the field archaeology. Furthermore, teachers and students of Northwest University have also made painstaking efforts to other archeological works including the cultural relics census of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in 1950s, the excavation of Qin Terra Cotta Warriors and Horses and the Tombs of Astana and Karakhoja in 1970s, the discovery of the Large Tomb of Qin Gong and the Earth Palace of the Famen Temple, the first investigation along the Silk Road (Chinese section) in 1980s, and the archaeologies of Three Gorges and the ancient tombs of Urumqi-Chaiwopu and Baicheng-Kezier Reservoir of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region in 1990s. In this stage, the archaeology of Northwest University emphasized accumulation, mined potential, and entered a rapid development track. It had not only formed its features in the archaeology of the Silk Road, but also trained a large number of talents in archaeology and the protection of cultural heritages, which have won important academic status in China.

The third stage was from 2000 to now, and we have been trying to strengthen the discipline of archaeology and lead the academic forefront. We have further clarified the idea of basing on the regional resources, synthesizing the discipline’s features and servicing the national strategies, and we also pioneered in building a subject system of cultural heritage composed of the cultural heritage research, the technology of cultural heritage protection and the cultural heritage management. Our priorities have been established,that is, we will base on Chang’an, face the western regions, and focus on the research of cultural heritage protection and the archaeology of Zhou, Qin, Han and Tang dynasties as well as the Silk Road. Taking advantages of multidisciplinary, we have established “Cultural Heritage Research and Protection Technology Laboratory”, which is the first interdisciplinary laboratory between the liberal arts and science approved by the Ministry of Education. Our “research and application of virtual heritage restoration and digital protection technology” has won the second prize of National Scientific and Technological Progress Award. Moreover, we have undertaken a series of special projects of protection of national great sites and significant bidding projects of national social science fund including “archaeology and preservation of cultural relics on large ancient nomadic settlement sites in East Tianshan Region” and “multidisciplinary comprehensive archaeological research in Xinjiang barkol Shirenzigou sites”. In the discipline evaluation in 2012, the archaeological degree of Northwest University ranked the third place among universities of China. In recent years, our main work and achievements are as follows:

One is to conduct the archaeological research based on the important areas along the Silk Road in northwestern China. The archaeological excavations of the East Black Ditch we conducted and the Lixian BaoZishan Hill site and Lintan Mogou site excavations in Gansu Province in which we participated have won the national top ten archaeological discoveries. In order to find and confirm the archaeological cultural remains of the ancient Yuezhi, the team led by Professor Wang Jianxin has carried out the archaeological investigations, excavations and studies from Gansu to Xinjiang for 16 years since 2000. The academic team of the Buddhist archaeology led by Professor Ran Wanli, has conducted the archaeological investigations, explorations, discoveries and research in Buddhist temple ruins including Baiyanggou and Miaoergou in Hami, Subashi in Kuche, Qigexin in Yanqi for many years, which has had a great impact in China and abroad. The academic team of the cultural heritage protection led by Associate Professor Liu Cheng has carried out the protection work for 10 years on the cliff paintings of Kangjia Shimenzi in Hutubi Xinjiang, systematically investigated the cause of deterioration of stone relics including rock paintings and stone figures in northern Xinjiang, and created some effective protection methods and measures.

The other is to open up a new realm of the international archaeology on the Silk Road and extend the research to central Asia. From 2009 to 2013, led by Northwest University, in collaboration with domestic and foreign experts, the Chinese archaeologists have gone deep into Uzbekistan and Tajikistan and investigated their historical remains for three times, which was the first time that the team of Chinese archaeologists had carried out the archaeological projects in Central Asia. After President Xi Jinping proposed the Silk Road Initiative, Northwest University has been the first to establish the Institute of Silk Road Studies and the School of Central Asia. We have also strengthened the archaeology of the Silk Road. In December 2013, Northwest University signed the Cooperative Agreement on Archaeological Investigation, Excavation and Research of the Ancient Nomadic Cultural in the Western Area of the West Tianshan Mountain with the Archaeology Institute of Uzbekistan Academy of Sciences. In August 2015, Northwest University signed the Cooperative Research Agreement with the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnology of Tajikistan Academy of Sciences. Archaeologists of Northwest University, in cooperation with experts from Central Asian countries, have gone deep inside the western area of the West Tianshan Mountain for the comprehensive and systematic archaeological research, gotten a comprehensive understanding of the distribution of ancient nomadic cultural relics and discovered a large-scale settlement site of ancient nomadic cultures, which has filled in the gap in this field of study. Since September 2015, we have been carrying out an archaeological excavation at the Sazhagan Site, which is located in 20 km southwest of Samarkand City, Uzbekistan. A number of precious cultural relics have been unearthed. It is basically ascertained that the cultural relics of the Sazhagan Site from 1st Century BC to 1st Century AD should belong to the ancient Kangju Culture.

In the spirit of being responsible for the historical cultural heritage, Northwest University has taken both cultural relics preservation and their future exhibition into full consideration during the archeological research in Central Asian countries, bringing positive impacts on having an in-depth understanding of the history, culture and tradition of the countries and regions along the Silk Road, accelerating the mutual understanding between China and relative countries and promoting people-to-people bonds. In late June this year, on the eve of his visit to Uzbekistan, President Xi Jinping pointed out in a signed article published in the media of Uzbekistan that Northwest University and other units actively co-conduct the archaeology and restoration of relics with Uzbekistan, which has made great efforts for the restoration of the historic image of the Silk Road. During his visit, President Xi also made a special meeting with Professor Wang Jianxin and other archaeological team members of Northwest University, which is not only the recognition of the scholars of Northwest University, but also the great inspiration to the cultural ambassadors who devoted themselves to establishing the people-to-people and cultural exchange bridge of the Silk Road.

Distinguished guests, Northwest University will unswervingly promote the archaeological study of the Silk Road, and play a more positive role in and make more important contributions to serving the development of the Silk Road and enhancing the well-being of people along the Silk Road.

Thank you!

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