Saturday, November 26, 2011

Niya: 'The Pompeii of the East'

When Aurel Stein first uncovered the vestiges of a once thriving kingdom along the Niya River deep in the Taklamakan, he described it as 'The Pompeii of the East.' But although the ancient Romans and the people of Cadota - the name of the Niya kingdom - shared a love of the grape, the sites are very different. Life in Pompeii was arrested by the lava. The sands of the Taklamakan, while no less invidious, invaded over time. There are cemeteries at Niya but the living community had already left before the sands seeped in.

Working in collaboration with the Xinjiang Institute of Archaeology, the IDP team has just returned from Niya and the documentary photographs and videos showing many of the sites of Niya - and the caravanserai of Karadong - will be soon start becoming available online on IDP and here.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Early Tibet: Dzogchen and Chan

I’ve written four posts on Tibetan Chan without mentioning the question of whether the Chinese meditation tradition known as Chan influenced the Tibetan meditation tradition known as Dzogchen. Or, to put it in the stronger version, whether Dzogchen is just a disguised form of Chan. Partly, I’ve left the question alone because it doesn’t seem that interesting to me. It seems evident that if you spend a while with Chan and Dzogchen texts from the time when the influence is supposed to have taken place (the 8th/9th centuries) that there is one clear difference between the two: they are in dialogue with two different scriptural bases. That is to say, Chan is a tradition in dialogue with the sutras, while Dzogchen is in dialogue with the tantras.

Read more here.