The ruins of a Buddhist temple dating back 1,500 years ago have been discovered in China's largest desert, offering valuable research material for historians studying Buddhism's spread from India to China.
As one of the largest sand deserts in the world, the Taklimakan Desert covers an area of 330,000 square kilometers and houses numerous ancient ruins. [File photo]
The temple's main hall, with a rare structure based around three square-shaped corridors and a huge Buddha statue - now missing - has been uncovered after two months of hard work in Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, Dr Wu Xinhua, the leading archaeologist of the excavation project, said yesterday.
"The hall is the largest of its kind found in the Taklimakan Desert since the first archaeologist came to the area in the 20th century," said Wu, also head of the Xinjiang archeological team of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
The ruins are in the south of the Taklimakan Desert, in the Tarim Basin, known as the Damago Oasis in the ancient kingdom of Khotan, a Buddhist civilization thought to date to the 3rd century BC.
Temple halls with square-shaped corridors stemmed from early Buddhist architecture in India, and gradually disappeared after the Northern and Southern Dynasties (420AD-589AD), when Buddhist architecture in China began to pick up its own characteristics, according to Xiao Huaiyan, a member of the excavation team and a former researcher at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.
It is so far the best Buddhist site for scholars to study how the religion arrived in China, and its early development in the country, said Wu.