Richard Salomon

University of Washington,

n important scholarly meeting on the archaeology, literature, languages, history and culture of ancient Khotan took place at the British Library, London, on May 10 and 11, 2004. The symposium, organized by Ursula Sims-Williams and Susan Whitfield, was held in conjunction with the library’s spectacular special exhibit on “The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith” (May 7 to September 12, 2004). Thirteen prominent scholars from France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, United Kingdom, and the United States presented illustrated lectures on such diverse topics as art history, numismatics, geography, recent archaeological explorations, folk legends, historical chronology, and manuscript studies. (See the full list of presenters and lecture titles at the end of this article.) The audience consisted, in addition to the participants themselves, of some forty invited guests, many from abroad. Many specimens of the types of materials — manuscripts, paintings, coins, textiles, and the like — that were discussed in the lectures were also represented in the accompanying exhibits, which had the effect of vividly bringing to life the presentations about the world of Khotan.

Several of the many interesting presentations complemented each other, for example Joe Cribb’s lecture on the historical and numismatic context of early Khotanese coins and Helen Wang’s addressing broader issues of the monetary system of Khotan. Similarly, Christoph Baumer’s illustrated description of his recent expedition to Dandan Uiliq complemented Madhuvanti Ghose’s re-evaluation of the murals found in earlier excavations at the same site, while Mariner Padwa’s insightful lecture on residential patterns in the Niya site dovetailed with Richard Salomon’s discussion of the documents discovered there. Historical and cultural relations between Khotan and its Tibetan and Chinese neighbors were reflected in the presentations by Tsuguhito Takeuchi and Hiroshi Kumamoto, and Klaus Wille’s paper authoritatively summarized the extent and variety of the finds of Indian Buddhist literature in Khotan and adjoining regions of the southern Tarim Basin.

Finally, special presentations were given by Franz Grenet, regarding the Sogdian community in the silk road regions, and by Prods Oktor Skjærvø. The latter was the self-described “Alpha and Omega” of the symposium, who with characteristic vigor and energy gave both the opening and concluding lectures, presenting fascinating glimpses of the literature and folklore of Khotan. All in all, the symposium was a great success. All of the speakers presented new and original data and interpretations, demonstrating the vitality of the study of Khotan and the other related cultures of the Silk Road regions.

Lectures in order of presentation

  1. Prof. P.O. Skjærvø (Harvard University): Khotan between Iran and China — Legends on the Silk Road.
  2. J. Cribb (British Museum): The Sino-Kharosthi coins from Yotkan.
  3. Dr. C. Baumer (Hergiswil, Switzerland): 1998 expedition to Dandan-Uiliq.
  4. Dr. M Ghose (Ashmolean Museum, Oxford): A reappraisal of the iconography of the murals at Dandan-Uiliq.
  5. M. Padwa (Harvard University): The Geography of the Niya Oasis: a comparison of textual and archaeological evidence.
  6. Prof. F. Grenet (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris): Samarkand to Xi’an: the Sogdian self-image (evening public lecture).
  7. Prof. M. Maggi (University of Naples): The Book of Vimalakirti and Buddhism in Khotan [cancelled due to illness].
  8. Dr. K. Wille (Akademie der Wissenchaften zu Göttingen): Buddhist Sanskrit sources from the Southern Silk Road.
  9. Prof. R. Salomon (University of Washington): Buddhist and secular documents in Kharosthi script from Niya, Khotan and other Tarim Basin sites.
  10. Dr. Helen Wang (British Museum): Money in Khotan: archaeological and documentary evidence.
  11. Prof. H. Kumamoto (Tokyo University): The St. Petersburg bilingual documents and problems of chronology.
  12. Prof. T. Takeuchi (Kobe University): Khotanese/Tibetan and Tibetan/Khotanese cultural relations.
  13. Prof. P.O. Skjærvø (Harvard University): Perils of princes and ambassadors in tenth-century Khotan.

About the Author

The director of the Early Buddhist Manuscripts Project, Richard Salomon is a Professor in the Dept. of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington, His books include Indian Epigraphy: A Guide to the Study of Inscriptions in the Indo-Aryan Languages (1998), Ancient Buddhist Scrolls from Gandhara: the British Library Kharosthi Fragments (1999); A Gandhari Version of the Rhinoceros Sutra (2000).

From the Editor | Archaeological Explorations of Bronze Age Pastoral Societies in the Mountains of Eastern Eurasia | On the Antiquity of the Yurt: Evidence from Arjan and Elsewhere | The Burial Rite: an Expression of Sogdian Beliefs and Practices | Palmyra as a Caravan City | The “Ancient Tea and Horse Caravan Road,” the “Silk Road” of Southwest China | Klavdiia Antipina — a Tribute to the Ethnographer of the Kyrgyz | Mongolia: a different view | British Library Symposium on “The Kingdom of Khotan to AD 1000: A Meeting of Cultures” | Guidelines for Contributors