ultramarinus – beyond the sea

Posts tagged “Silk Road



After Yaprakhisar, the tour took us for a brief stop at Agzikarahan (Black Mouth) Caravanserai.  The ancient complex was built in the 11th century as an inn for travel caravans on the Silk Road.  Caravanserais, literally means “place for caravans”, were popular along the Silk Road and other ancient trade routes across Central and South Asia, Middle East, North Africa, and Eastern Europe.  A Caravanserai provided a safe place to accommodate the traveling merchants to stay the night, have meals, pray at an in-house mosque, store their merchandises, and rest their animals.  These ancient inns were often rectangular in shape centered at a large open courtyard.  Merchant caravans would arrive at the caravanserai from the only entrance.  Merchants would rest their animals and store their goods in niches around the courtyard, before retreating to the rest chambers behind.

On our way back to Goreme, our tour made a brief stop at a site full of spectacular fairy chimneys.  The guide Shalif described the formation of those mushroom-like rock towers as a product of volcanic actions and rain erosion.  The surreal curvatures of the rocks looked even more dramatic under the late afternoon sun.

06ME19-09The courtyard of Agzikarahan (Black Mouth) Caravanserai was dominated by a small mosque.

caravanserai 2The entrance to the Summer Sleeping Quarters of the Agzikarahan Caravanserai must have witnessed uncounted caravan merchants passing through.

06ME19-11The main gate of the caravanserai was highly decorative.

06ME19-07We didn’t have time to tour the entire complex, especially the dark labyrinth like system of chambers.

06ME19-12Before returning to Goreme, we dropped by a site with wonderful fairy chimneys.

06ME19-19In the late afternoon, the lighting was just perfect.

06ME19-20Similar to the Love Valley, the rock towers were created by erosion of volcanic rocks.

06ME19-16Because of the special qualities of the rocks in Cappadocia, many carved out small dwellings in the fairy chimneys.

fairy chimney 1The abandoned caves at the fairy chimneys reminded us the area was once occupied by inhabitants.

fairy chimney 3The moon came out already by the time we visited the fairy chimneys.

fairy chimney 6The cave dwellings of the fairy chimneys looks like a scene from movies such as the Star Wars.

06ME19-23Some of the old caves could only be reached by ladder.

06ME19-25We had a moment of freedom to wander around the caves of the fairy chimneys.

fairy chimney 7A cave with a perfect view.

06ME19-27The fairy chimneys were located in the middle of nowhere.

fairy chimney 5It was pleasant to watch the surrounding shadows moved across the land in front.

fairy chimney 9Some chimneys looks like they may collapse anytime.

06ME19-34A camel was placed among the fairy chimneys for tourists to pay a small tip and take photograph with the animal.


DAY 3 – SHAANXI HISTORY MUSEUM (陝西歷史博物館), Xian, China

Back from the Han Yang Ling Mausoleum, we continued our historical journey at the provincial history museum of Shaanxi.  There was a long queue at the gate for people to collect the free admission tickets (4000 daily).  We skipped the wait by buying a ticket to the special exhibition of “Treasures of Great Tang Dynasty”, which we wouldn’t want to miss anyway.  We entered the museum building which was designed to mimic the traditional architecture of the Tang Dynasty.

We started our visit with the special exhibition of Tang treasures unearthed from Hejia Village (何家村) of Xian.  Known as the Hejia Village Hoard (何家村唐代窖藏), the 1000+ treasures ranged from gold and silver wares, coins, jade items, agate wares, crystals, etc.  These treasures were carefully stored in clay pots roughly 65cm tall, hidden underground sometime after AD 732 during the An–Shi Rebellion (安史之亂) when Tang China was engulfed in a nasty civil war.  As the east terminus of the Silk Road, the treasures of Changan (now Xian) revealed the degree of cultural exchanges in the Chinese capital during Tang, when goldsmiths and silversmiths from Central Asia such as the Sassanian Empire (now Iraq and Iran) came to Changan and brought with them the world’s most advanced metal crafting skills.  The treasures from the hoard were mainly made domestically with a mixture of techniques and styles from both within China and other places along the Silk Road.  It was an impressive collection and indeed, a very fortunate case for Chinese archaeology that these items could survive the Cultural Revolution when the collection was first unearthed.

We then moved on to the museum’s permanent collections.  We quickly walked through the prehistoric exhibits, and focused on the bronze items from the Shang Dynasty 商朝 (1600-1046 BC) and Zhou Dynasty 周朝 (1046-256 BC), Terracotta Warriors of the Qin Dynasty 秦朝 (221-206 BC), treasures of the Han Dynasty 漢朝 (206 BC- AD 290), and more artefacts from the Tang Dynasty 唐朝 (AD 618-907).  In this post we have included selected photos of the magnificent artefacts from the Shaanxi History Museum.

dsc_7874The Main exhibition hall of Shaanxi History Museum was inspired by Tang architecture.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERASmall gold dragons (赤金走龍), Hejia Village Hoard.

dsc_7878Gilt Silver Plate with Double Foxes in Shape of Double Peaches (鎏金雙狐紋雙桃形銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard, is inspired by Persian influences in style and technique, combined local references of good fortune: peaches and foxes (foxes and a few other animals were also considered a reference to good fortune in Tang China).

dsc_7879Gilt Silver Plate with Phoneix (鎏金鳳鳥紋六曲銀盤), Hejia Village Hoard

dsc_7882Silver Vessel in Form of Nomadic Leather Flask Depicting a Dancing Horse  (舞馬銜杯仿皮囊式銀壺), Hejia Village Hoard.  Another piece of silver ware reflected the influences from the nomadic tribes of Central Asia.

dsc_7902Gold Bowl with Design of Lotus and Mandarin Ducks (鴛鴦蓮瓣紋金碗), Hejia Village Hoard.  A golden bowl for wine.

dsc_7904Agate Cup with Beast Head (獸首瑪瑙杯), Hejia Village Hoard.  A rare piece of Tang treasure with influences from Persia.

dsc_7915Bronze blades and masks for rituals, Late Shang Dynasty (13th-11th Century BC)

dsc_7918Bronze Bianzhong (編鐘) of Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC), an ancient music instrument.

dsc_7928Terracotta Warriors of First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

dsc_7945The Kneeling Archer, Terracotta Warriors of the First Qin Emperor, Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC).

dsc_7946Gilded Incense Burner, Han Dynasty (206 BC- AD 290), depicting a fantasy mountain supported by dragons.  The incense smoke would leak from the gaps like mountain mist.

dsc_7962Oil Lamp depicting a goose with a fish in its mouth, Han Dyansty (206 BC- AD 290).  The smoke from burning the oil would go through the goose’s neck to its body, which was filled with water.

dsc_7973Gilded Bronze Dragon with iron core, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_7976Tri-coloured Watermelon, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATerracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).  A selection of these terracotta figures revealed the impressive hair, makeup and fashion styles of the Tang Dynasty, which changed every few years.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATerracotta figure of Lady, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_7987Terracotta figures of the Chinese Zodiac, Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907).

dsc_8000Funeral Procession of the Prince Qinjian from the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368–1644).


Our posts on 2016 Xian and Jiuzhaigou:

DAY 1 – NIGHT ARRIVAL, Xian, China
DAY 2 – BIG WILD GOOSE PAGODA (大雁塔), Xian, China
DAY 3 – MING CITY WALL, Xian, China
DAY 4 -FIRST GLIMPSE OF JIUZHAIGOU (九寨溝), Sichuan (四川), China
DAY 5 – ARROW BAMBOO LAKE (箭竹海), PANDA LAKE (熊貓海) & FIVE FLOWER LAKE (五花海), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – PEARL SHOAL FALLS (珍珠灘瀑布), MIRROR LAKE (鏡海) & NUORILANG FALLS (諾日朗瀑布), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – LONG LAKE (長海) & FIVE COLOURS LAKE (五彩池), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 5 – RHINOCEROS LAKE (犀牛海), TIGER LAKE (老虎海) & SHUZHENG VILLAGE (樹正寨), Jiuzhaigou (九寨溝), China
DAY 6 – ASCEND TO FIVE COLOUR POND (五彩池), Huanglong (黃龍), Sichuan (四川), China