Central Asian arts

Central Asian arts
Literary, performing, and visual arts of Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Tibet, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and parts of China and Russia.

The term usually denotes only those traditions not influenced by the Islamic arts. Tibetan developed as a literary language from the 7th century as a result of cultural contacts with neighbouring Buddhist countries to the south, on the Indian subcontinent. Most works produced between the 7th and 13th centuries are skillful translations of Buddhist works from Sanskrit, after which a vast body of orthodox Buddhist works of purely Tibetan origin was built up. Mongolian literature began in the 13th century with chronicles of Genghis Khan and his successors, but from the late 16th century Mongolian literature was profoundly influenced by Buddhism. The variety of musical styles in Central Asia ranges from the systematically organized classical music of the Turkic peoples, to the notated religious chants of Buddhists in Tibet, to the highly varied folk music styles of the Mongols, Siberians, and numerous other ethnic groups. Two main types of performance predominate throughout Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and Mongolia: those related to shamanism and those derived from Buddhism. Music performed on drums and stringed instruments accompanied shamanistic trances. The performance of Buddhist monastic dances and morality plays is also accompanied by various drums and horn instruments. The performing arts of the Turkic peoples are very different from these other traditions because of the influence of Islam. The tribes of Central Asia shared, for the most part, a "nomadic" Scytho-Altaic visual art that favoured animal and hunting motifs in objects such as belts and jewelry. Contacts with the Greco-Roman world and with India, Iran, and China also left their mark; Hellenistic influence culminated in the Kushan style of Gandhara. The most important pre-Islamic influence on Central Asia's visual arts, however, was Buddhism, which was reflected in the subject matter of sculptures and bas-reliefs. Nepal's traditions in architecture and painting were adaptations of those of India, whether the themes were Hindu or Buddhist. Buddhist religious art was gradually introduced into Tibet from the 8th century, and a distinctive Tibetan imagery was subsequently developed. See also Gandhara art; Kushan art; Scythian art.

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      the literary, performing, and visual arts of a large portion of Asia embracing the Turkic republics (Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan), Tajikistan, Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, and parts of Russia and China. As used here, the term denotes only those traditions that were not influenced by the religion of Islām.

      This immense tract of land—with its highly varied topography and climate and its diversity of ethnic and linguistic backgrounds—encouraged the development of greatly varied artistic styles and traditions among the inhabitants of widely separated regions. These differences were magnified by the emergence of dissimilar religions, which in turn encouraged the formation of distinctive schools or traditions of art. Further artistic variances can be attributed to cultural time lag, for comparable stages of artistic development were not reached simultaneously throughout the area.

      The arts that developed across Central Asia often fed or were fed by those of adjoining cultural regions or by such supraregional influences as Islam. Although reference will be made to such cross-cultural interactions wherever appropriate, more detailed information on these other areas may be found in the articles East Asian arts (arts, East Asian); Islamic arts; and South Asian arts. (The peoples and cultures of the region are treated in the articles Asia and Central Asia (Central Asia, history of), and in articles on specific Asian peoples, such as Pashtun.)

Tamara Talbot Rice

      Of the relatively few Central Asian languages that have developed written literatures, the most important are Turkic, Tibetan, and Mongol. (For a treatment of these languages, see Altaic languages and Sino-Tibetan languages.) This article will deal with Tibetan and Mongolian literatures from their inception to the 20th century and with Turkic literature from its inception to the 11th centuries, when the Muslim invasion introduced a period of Islāmic culture. Subsequent Turkic literature and Central Asian literatures written in Arabic and Persian are treated in the article arts, Islāmic (Islamic arts). (For literature in Chinese, see the article Chinese literature.)

      The purely Turkish period in the history of Turkish literatures came before the conversion of the Turks (Turkic peoples) to Islām and covers approximately the 8th to the 11th centuries AD. The oldest literary legacy of the period is found in the Orhon inscriptions, found in the Orhon valley, northern Mongolia, in 1889 and deciphered in 1893 by the Danish philologist Vilhelm Thomsen. The inscriptions are on two large monuments erected in 732 and 735 in honour of the Turkish prince Kül and his brother Bilge Kagan; they are carved in a script (epigraphy) used also for inscriptions found in Mongolia, Siberia, and western Turkistan and called by Thomsen “Turkish runes.” They relate in epic and forceful language the origins of the Turks, their golden age, their subjugation by the Chinese, and their liberation by Bilge Kagan. The polished style suggests considerable earlier development of the language. Excavations in Chinese Turkistan have brought to light specimens of writings of the Uighur Turks from the 9th to the 11th century. Maḥmūd Kāshgarī's comprehensive dictionary (1071?) contains specimens of old Turkish poetry in the typical form of quatrains (dörtlük), representing all the principal genres: epic, pastoral, didactic, lyric, and elegiac.

Fahir İz

      Tibetan was developed as a literary language from the 7th century onward as a result of earlier cultural contacts with neighbouring Buddhist (Buddhism) countries—namely, the small states of the Takla Makan, especially Khotan (Ho-t'ien) and the kingdoms of ancient northwestern India (modern Gilgit, Kashmir, and Kullu) and Nepal. Scripts of Indian origin were in use in these countries, so the Tibetans also adapted an Indian script to suit their own very different language. By far the greater number of works produced between the 7th and 13th centuries are skillful translations of Buddhist (Tibetan Buddhism) works, largely from Sanskrit, on which Indian scholars and Tibetan translators worked side by side. The Tibetans had to create an entirely new (and therefore artificial) vocabulary of religious and philosophical terms, mainly by ingenious compounding of simple terms available in their own language. Apart from some religious terms in daily use, this vocabulary remains a specialized scholarly language. An indigenous literature was also produced: annals and chronicles, sets of spells and prognostications, legendary and liturgical works, all representing the remains of ancient oral traditions. Large collections of such manuscript fragments, all earlier than the 11th century, were discovered early in the 20th century in the Cave of the Thousand Buddhas near Tun-huang (Dunhuang) (at the eastern side of the Takla Makan).

      The quasi-official work of translating authorized Indian Buddhist texts, which continued for six centuries, gave incentive to the Bon-pos (Bon) (the followers of the pre-Buddhist religion of Tibet) to collect and write down their own early traditions; but in so doing they adopted many Buddhist ideas and, inevitably, used the new vocabulary. The followers of the earliest Buddhist traditions to enter Tibet (the Rnying-ma-pa, or “Old Order”) also committed their teachings to writing; and, conversely, these are interspersed with pre-Buddhist traditions.

      The official Tibetan Buddhist canon was closed in the 13th century; it consisted of two parts, the Kanjur (Bka'-'gyur) (“Translated Word,” teachings or reputed teachings of the Buddhas themselves) and the Tanjur (Bstan-'gyur) (“Translated Treatises,” mainly commentaries by Indian teachers). By this time, however, there already existed some orthodox Buddhist works of Tibetan origin (for example, Mi-la ras-pa and Sgam-po-pa); and from the 13th century onward, under the impetus given by the prolixity of religious houses and orders, there were produced such lengthy and numerous collections of historical and biographical works, treatises and commentaries, and liturgy and religious drama that Tibetan literature must be one of the most extensive in the world. Just as in the European Middle Ages there was little secular literature worth the name, so there is none in Tibetan except for a great epic (Rgyal-po Ge-sar dgra'dul gyi rtogs-pa brjod-pa, “The Great Deeds of King Gesar, Destroyer of Enemies”) that recounts the exploits of the king and magic hero Gesar. This work grew through the centuries, assimilating whatever material pleased the fancy of the bards.

      After the craft of printing from incised wood blocks was introduced from China, possibly in the 14th century, certain monasteries became famous printing houses. This form of printing continued until the Chinese invasion in 1959. Manuscripts and block-printed books are always of elongated shape, thus imitating the form of ancient Indian palm-leaf manuscripts. There are considerable collections in some European libraries—London, Paris, and Rome—but few translations are available, because of the small number of scholars of Tibet.

      Despite the phonetic changes in the spoken dialects since the script was fixed, the Tibetans (Tibetan language) have never changed their system of writing. Thus, once the literary language and the various types of script have been mastered, the reader has immediate access to all literature of the 7th to the 20th centuries, though changes in style and vocabulary have left many obscurities in the earliest works. Since there is no modern style of writing, the 20th-century colloquial language can be written only in the traditional medium (as though, for example, one had to write modern Italian with Latin spellings and grammatical forms); the Tibetans themselves compose even personal letters in a conventional literary style.

David Llewelyn Snellgrove

Mongolian (Mongolia) literature
       Mongolian literature begins with the Secret History of the Mongols, an Imperial chronicle dealing with the life and times of Genghis Khan and his successors, written about 1240. Üligers, orally transmitted epic stories in verse, form the bulk of native literary expression. Highly stylized, these tales relate adventures of legendary heroes and villains. In spite of their great length (sometimes more than 20,000 lines), they are recited from memory by bards. Like other epics, such as the Greek Iliad and the Roman Aeneid, Mongolian epics are genuine artistic creations. The verses alliterate in couplets or quatrains, are seven or eight syllables long, and are characterized by parallelism. In addition to Genghis Khan, the epic stories tell of heroes such as Erintsen Mergen, Engke Bolod Khan, and Gesar Khan (the last of Tibetan origin). The villain of the epics is the many-headed monster, the manggus, whom the hero always defeats in the end.

      Historical chronicles represent another important form of indigenous literature. Usually beginning with the creation of the world from primordial elements, they attempt to link the Indian and Tibetan rulers with the house of Genghis Khan. Such are the Altan tobchi (“The Golden Button”), composed about 1655 and giving a world history down to Ligdan Khan (1604–34); another Altan tobchi (written about 100 years later); and the Erdeni-yin tobchi (“The Jeweled Button”), written in 1662 by Saghang Sechen.

      Mongolian written literature was profoundly influenced by the introduction of Buddhism about the end of the 1500s. Earlier surviving written works (on stone or paper) are mostly official documents; and no oral epics were written down until the late 1880s. The advent of Buddhism prompted translations of its sacred writings and related works. A Buddhist canonical collection, the Bka'-'gyur (or Kanjur; comprising the Sūtra and Vinaya of the Tripiṭaka), was translated and printed in 1635 in 108 volumes; the Bstan-'gyur (Tanjur), containing canonical commentary and noncanonical works in its 225 volumes, followed in 1741. Two especially well-known sermons (sutras) of Buddha are the Altan gerel (“Golden Beam”) and the Chagan lingqua (“White Lotus”), or, as they are known in Sanskrit, Suvarṇaprabhāsa and Saddharmapuṇḍarīka. None of these works, however, is indigenous.

      Religious but nondogmatic birth stories (called in Sanskrit Jātaka) deal with Buddha's meritorious deeds and, like the parables of Christianity, illustrate religious truths. Best known is the Üliger-Ün dalai (“The Sea of Stories”). Translations of other Indian fables are the Siddhi Kür (“Tales of the Vampire”) and the Bigarmijid (“Saga of King Vikramāditya”).

      In the 18th and 19th centuries Chinese traders brought from China many Mongolian translations of Chinese novels of enchantment and romance, including the San Kuo chih yen-i (Romance of the Three Kingdoms) and others.

      In the early 20th century T. Zhamtsarano, a Russian-educated Buryat writer and intellectual, founded the short-lived Mongolian newspaper Shine toli (“The New Mirror”). He also translated the works of some Western authors, such as Edgar Allan Poe, Jules Verne, and H.G. Wells.

      After a Soviet state was established in Mongolia in the early 1920s, the power and influence of the Tibetan Buddhist church declined, and with it the literature it sponsored. There began to arise a revolutionary and socialist literature serving the people according to the current beliefs of the Communist Party. Popular themes were social criticism of the feudal past, with its exploitation of the people, and exemplary tales that showed new socialist values and educated readers to overcome the resistance of reactionary forces. Mongolian reliance on and gratitude for the fraternal Soviet Union and its assistance was an ever-present undercurrent. The rise of a system of schooling extending to the university level enabled many young Mongolian writers, poets, artists, and actors to achieve, within limits, a self-expression never before available to them. Leading 20th-century modern writers are Dashdorjiyn Natsagorj, Ts. Damdinsürün, D. Sengee, S. Erdene, and others.

John Richard Krueger

      Music in Central Asia flowered along centuries-old caravan routes linking the Middle East with China and India via what is often referred to as Turkistan, the vast region extending from the Caspian Sea to Sinkiang province in China. Musical instruments diffused from one region to another, and many of the musical styles still display foreign influence. The variety of musical styles ranges from the systematically organized classical music of Turkistan to the notated religious chants of Tibet to the highly varied folk music styles of the region's numerous ethnic groups. The main thrust of this examination of Central Asian music will be on the traditions and styles first of Afghanistan and the sedentary population of Turkistan, then of the Turkic nomads, the Mongols, and the Siberian peoples, and finally of the Himalayan peoples in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sikkim.

Afghanistan and the sedentary population of Turkistan
      This region of Central Asia includes Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and the oases of eastern (Chinese) Turkistan. The region lies within the Persian cultural area, and in the arts and in language the Persian imprint has endured over many centuries. In music the links with Persia appear most clearly in terminology and instruments. Islām, another Middle Eastern heritage, predominates in this region and results in a generally low social status for musicians and musical performance—a situation generally not found in other regions of Central Asia.

      The area includes two main streams of musical practice: folk music in a broad range of styles, often closely linked to specific ethnic groups; and the more exclusive, cosmopolitan, classical music, derived from the medieval court music of Bukhara, Samarkand, and other urban centres of Transoxania (modern Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan). A third stream is now in the process of formation: popular music disseminated through the mass media.

      Generally characterized by a scarcity of musicians and musical instruments (musical instrument), folk music of this region is predominantly a matter of solo playing and singing, small ensembles, and a complete lack of musical notation or codified musical theory. In their general types, the musical instruments are closely related to those of Persia and the Middle East, but specific forms and playing styles are purely local. Thus, there are numerous variants of the Persian long-necked lute, with names derived from the Persian tanbūr (tanbur) or dūtār; small spike fiddles (rabāb), in which the neck skewers the body, forming a spike at the base; various block or fipple flutes (fipple flute), with air ducts like that of the Western recorder; transverse (horizontally held) flutes; oboes; metal jew's harps; and two basic drum types, a single-headed vase-shaped drum of pottery or wood and a large single-headed frame drum, or tambourine—all instrumental types widely diffused in the Middle East.

      Stylistically, the music relates to that of both the Middle East and the surrounding nomadic Turkic peoples of Central Asia. Songs are completely monophonic (i.e., consisting only of a line of melody), but instrumental music often includes two-part polyphony (music in more than one voice, or part). The polyphony may take the form of a drone (sustained note) with a melody played above it. Or it may be organum style—i.e., the second part playing the same melody as the first but at a higher or lower pitch. Most common are parallel fourths or fifths (a fourth encompasses four notes of a Western major or minor scale; a fifth, five). In structure, much of the music is based on small forms, frequently binary, or two-section, and ternary, or three-section. Small musical units may be repeated many times and varied slightly at each appearance. The recurrence of melodic phrases and an emphasis on marked rhythms (rhythm) is common and is related to the frequent role of music as dance accompaniment. Thus in the following example, a dance tune from Afghan Turkistan, sections A and B are similar in their overall melodic structure and also in the small units of three or four notes on which they are built. The sequence ABAB and so on, is repeated throughout the dance.

       vocal music may have greater rhythmic flexibility and melodic range, but in form it is almost always subordinated to the structure of the song text. Quatrains such as the rubai and charbaitai are the most prominent village verse forms, with the exception of the lundai, a couplet used by the nomadic Pashtuns of Afghanistan. In the urban oases, couplet forms based on the classical Persian ghazal, a lyric poem of 6 to 15 couplets, are more common.

      The generally negative attitude of Islām (Islamic arts) toward music has led in Afghanistan to strictures against musical performance and to extremely low social status for musicians. Music is heard mainly in male-dominated public teahouses or at private celebrations such as weddings and circumcisions. Women may have their own musical genres within their enclosures; in this context the strong tradition of women's music in the Fergana Valley of Uzbekistan (Uzbek) is noteworthy.

      Within this general picture there is enormous diversity. The Uzbeks (a Turkic people) and Tajiks (Tajik) (an Iranian group), who live side by side across northern Afghanistan and southern Turkistan, tend to share many musical traits and instruments. In contrast, most groups, such as the Pashtuns, Ḥazāras, and Baluchs of Afghanistan and Pakistan or, in the extreme, the isolated mountain peoples of Nūristān (Nūrestān) in Afghanistan and of the Pamirs in Tajikistan and Afghanistan, have maintained distinctive musical styles and, in some cases, unique musical instruments. The Nūristāni vaji, an arched (arched harp) harp (having a bow-shaped body with no forepillar), is a striking case of the possible survival of an instrument type on the margins of a now disintegrated culture area; there are no other harp traditions today between the Caucasus and Burma, although iconographic evidence indicates that in ancient times harps were widespread in Central Asia, the Middle East, and India. The music of the Ḥazāras (Ḥazāra) includes vocal effects produced by striking the throat while singing, causing a break in the sound, and Baluchi (Balochi language) music also features a broken-voice style.

Classical music
      In contrast to the folk music styles just described, the court-derived classical style of Bukhara and Samarkand represents a highly systematic, theoretically grounded, cosmopolitan musical tradition. Lying along the medieval Silk Road, the Turkistani oases were open to musical cross-currents. Today's musical roots may reach back to the period in which urban Central Asian music was in vogue at T'ang dynasty (Tang dynasty) courts in China (618–907). The movement of musical instruments across the caravan trail from the Middle East to China via Central Asia is well documented since early times. Over the centuries, town musicians evolved an urban style patronized by the local courts, notably under Timur (Tamerlane) and his descendants (c. 1350–1500) in Herāt (now in Afghanistan) and Samarkand. The degree of musical eclecticism characteristic of the era is illustrated by a court historian's description of the festivities of Timur's son:

Golden-tongued singers and sweet-sounding musicians played and sang to motives [melodic figures] in Persian style, to Arab melodies according to Turkish practice and with Mongol voices, following Chinese laws of singing and Altai meters.

      By the 17th century the court style had been codified into sets of nonimprovised suites of instrumental and vocal pieces using poetic texts in classical Persian and local court Turkish (Chaghatai). In Bukhara this collection of suites was known as the Shashmaqām, or six maqāms (suites), with each maqām (an Arabic term, but changed in meaning) set in one of the classical Persian musical modes. (The Persian modes are melodic frameworks, each with a given scale, typical melodic figures, and accepted emotional content.) Regional courts and large towns developed their own sets of maqāms, performed in unison by an orchestra and a male chorus.

      Areas of Turkistan under Soviet (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics) rule between about 1920 and 1991 underwent far-reaching modification of traditional music practice, although the older styles such as the Shashmaqām were also maintained. Changes include the reconstruction of local instruments to fit the Western musical scale of 12 equally spaced half steps, establishment of music schools and conservatories, creation of orchestras of folk instruments, introduction of vocal polyphony, and the writing of works in Western forms (symphonies, operas, chamber music) by native and European Soviet composers. In Afghanistan, musical change began on a national basis in the 1950s under the influence of Radio Afghanistan, which broadcasts principally popular styles based on Pashtun folk music and songs of the Indian film industry.

Turkic nomads, Mongols, and Siberian peoples
      This region includes primarily the great open spaces of Central Asia, from the Turkmen desert in the southwest to the Kazak steppes, Mongol plains, and from the Gobi to the vast subarctic Siberian (Siberia) evergreen forests, or taiga, and tundra, or Arctic plains, stretching to the Pacific. The considerable mobility and often close linguistic affinity of the peoples in the area led to substantial interchange of musical terms and instruments and to common social functions of music relating to the traditional tribal social structure of most of the groups of this region.

Social role of music
      Three basic functions of music are common throughout most of the region: music as ritual, with magical connotations ( shamanism); music as tribal record, aiding group solidarity (epic recitation); and music as entertainment (itinerant performers, festivals). Music is the medium of the shaman, or priest-medicine man, as he performs his role as mediator between the seen, or human beings, and the unseen, the spirits that inhabit the spheres above and below the earth. Traditional shamanistic séances were creative, impassioned musico-dramatic scenes produced by a single performer, the shaman. Not only is music the shaman's aid in inducing the trance that enables him to contact spirits, but in Siberia his drum (a very large tambourine) may be considered a steed for the trip to other worlds. Thus great attention is given to each stage of drum construction, from selecting the wood of certain trees to the painting of symbolically charged designs on the drumhead. The metal hangings, sometimes including bells, on the shaman's costume also play a musical role. Among the Kyrgyz and Kazaks (Kazakh) and until recently among the Turkmen, a fiddle with horsehair strings and bow perform the same function as the Siberian drum. Metal ringlets are attached to the head of the fiddle, and a niche is hollowed there for a mirror to catch the reflections of spirits. Shamans' horsehair fiddles can even be found among townspeople of northern Afghanistan. The occurrence of shamanism has sharply declined in the portions of Central Asia that were formerly Soviet states.

       epic recitation, which may serve as tribal history, also has magical overtones. Among Turks, the same term (bakhshi) may be used for both shamans and bards, and both may be called to their trade by spirits to undergo a difficult period of initiation. Storytellers use a fiddle or lute as accompaniment, and tales may run through several nights of exhaustive performance; one Kyrgyz bard is known to recite 300,000 verses of the Manas, the major Kyrgyz epic. Such marathon performances are facilitated by the use of stereotyped melodic motives—standard short melodic figures—often invented by the individual performer. Local epic traditions vary widely in dramatization—i.e., the proportion of dialogue, monologue, and narrative.

      The third areawide musical function, entertainment, takes many forms. One common diversion is the singing contest, in which rival minstrels (minstrel) compete in wit and virtuosity. Such trials of skill are most notable among the Kyrgyz, Kazaks, and Mongols (Mongol). The contests follow strict rules of versification, musicality, and procedure. Often the loser must pay a forfeit to the victor, who receives acclaim from the audience and gifts from wealthy patrons; a singer's reputation may be made or broken in a single afternoon. Frequently a contestant will vilify the clan championed by the opposing singer and laud his own faction. In Siberia another type of entertainment is the widespread practice of bear festivals at specific times of the year, during which a bear is killed and its head displayed, to the accompaniment of music, dance, and games.

Instrumental and vocal styles
      Across the region the principal instrument types are lutes, with two or three strings, the necks either fretted or fretless; fiddles, largely horsehair fiddles; flutes, mostly open at both ends and either end-blown or side-blown; and jews' harps, either metal or, often in Siberia, wooden. Few percussion instruments are found, except for the shaman's magic drum. Considerable instrumental polyphony is played on lutes and fiddles, particularly among the Turkic peoples. Vocal polyphony may occur in special ways: singers among the Mongols and Tuvins (Tuvan) (a Siberian people northwest of Mongolia) can produce two parts while singing solo, as in the example below, by strongly reinforcing upper partials (overtones) while singing a very deep fundamental pitch. West of the Urals, Bashkirs may hum a basic pitch while playing solo flute pieces, and certain Siberian peoples may sing choral overlapping responsorial songs (in which group and soloist alternate, one beginning slightly before the other finishes).

      The vast geographic stretch of the region produces musical links to neighbouring areas as well as highly distinctive local styles. The Turkmen live in Afghanistan and Iran as well as Turkistan and manifest some Persian influence

      in musical terms and instruments, yet they possess unique vocal and instrumental styles. Particularly striking is their series of guttural sounds serving as vocal ornaments. The Kyrgyz and Kazaks, closely related musically, maintain ties to Mongol and northern styles (e.g., of the Bashkir and Tatar peoples, west of the Urals) as well as to Turkistan. Nevertheless, their relaxed voice quality, musical scales, and distinctive instrumental polyphony set them off. Noteworthy here is the versatile polyphonic style of the three-stringed Kyrgyz komuz lute, based on extensive development of short melodies called kernel tunes. In the komuz piece shown below, the kernel tune is stated in the first two measures and is varied and developed elaborately as the piece progresses. Another Kyrgyz-Kazak specialty is programmatic music (program music), in which instrumentalists suggest situations or tell specific stories without words, through musical images alone.

      The Mongols display links to both Chinese and Tibetan music. Chinese influence is apparent in the use of certain instruments (e.g., some flutes and fiddles) and perhaps in the structure of melodies; Tibetan impact appears in the religious music and musical instruments of Tibetan Buddhism, introduced in the 16th century. Mongolian music also has its own distinctive profile, sporadically documented since the 13th-century Secret History of the Mongols, the first written Mongolian chronicle. Of interest is the fact that Arghūn Khān, Mongol ruler of Persia, sent a musician as emissary to Philip IV the Fair of France in 1289. Because of the focal position of Mongolia at the heart of Central Asia, some Mongol epic melodies have spread westward as far as the Kalmyks (Kalmyk) on the Volga River and eastward to the Ainu of Sakhalin Island, north of Japan. Mongol songs may be either quick and marked rhythmically or drawn-out in free rhythm, with extensive melodic ornamentation. The Mongol horsehair fiddle accompanies a singer with simultaneous variations on the melody, a technique called heterophony.

      Siberian music includes a broad spectrum of styles over a huge geographic expanse. Many unique traditions occur, such as the bridgeless, often rectangular zithers of the Khants and Mansi, Ugrian peoples along the Ob River; farther east, the solo flute-and-voice polyphony of the Tuvins and Bashkirs; and the rapid, compact songs with nonsense syllables of the Gilyaks, Chukots, and other peoples of the Far Eastern Amur River region and Pacific coast. At that northeastern shore of Siberia there is a carryover of musical style to the Ainu of northeastern Japan, and possible musical ties are found between the Eskimos of Asia and of North America. Other links beyond Central Asia may exist at the far western end of Siberia, for example, to the music of Lapland in the Scandinavian Arctic; or in the relation of tunes of certain peoples of the Volga River region, such as the Mari, or Cheremis, with old Hungarian folk songs.

      Outside the few written Mongol references to music, the only approach to discovery of the stylistic history of this region of Central Asia is through fragmentary information about musical instrument types. Perhaps the most remarkable instrument finds were made at Pazyryk in south-central Siberia, where Soviet archaeologists found wooden objects which possibly form pieces of a harp and an artifact resembling a vase-shaped drum, both dating from the 5th century BC.

The Himalayan peoples
      This region, including Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, and Sikkim (which was annexed to India in 1975), occupies an important middle ground between India and China, and its central position is reflected in the local music cultures. Of utmost importance for musical life was the introduction of Buddhism from India via Turkistan, beginning in the 7th century AD. Music became an integral part of the official creed of Tibetan Buddhism, and the considerable cultural influence of Tibet spread Tibetan religious music to the nearby areas of Nepal, Sikkim, and Bhutan and, much later, to Mongolia.

Tibetan (Tibet) music
      Tibetan religious music is the only Central Asian repertoire that has a long history of written notation (musical notation). This notation, for liturgical chant (plainsong), consists of neumes (neume)—i.e., symbols representing melodic contour rather than precise pitch, similar to the earliest music writing of medieval Europe. Also distinctive is the metaphysical aspect of Tibetan Buddhist music, related to Indian philosophy. Each instrument of the monastery orchestra, as well as the drawn-out tones of chant, is believed to represent an externalized form of the mantras (mantra), or sounds inherent in the human body, accessible otherwise only through steadfast meditation. For the monks, such music is a basic aid to devotion and prayer. Musical styles vary somewhat among the sects of Tibetan Buddhism, but the basic approach and instruments are the same.

      The monastery instruments typify the crossroads position of Tibet. Some, such as the large cymbals (cymbal), stem from China, while others (the majority), such as the conch-shell trumpet and handbells, can be traced to Indian influence and are found as instruments of Buddhist worship as far away as Japan. Still other instruments, such as the large oboe and the 10-foot metal trumpet, are perhaps Middle Eastern in origin. One wind instrument, the short trumpet made from a human leg bone, seems to be of purely local invention. Similarly, the structure of the music seems basically Tibetan. It is founded on a principle of greatly prolonged dense, deep sounds, such as unison long and short trumpets with oboe, or the seemingly endless bass chant of groups of monks, whose long, drawn-out notes are punctuated by sharp, extended bursts of percussion. Each monk is said to be able to sing two or even three notes simultaneously.

      Much of this music emerges from monasteries only at festival time, when the great 'cham (dance) dramas, which may last several days, are performed for the public's entertainment and edification. These plays, which generally show the triumph of Buddhism over Bon, the earlier shamanistic religion of Tibet, may involve hundreds of musicians in the guise of masked dancers with drums, backed by a large temple orchestra. Other types of public music also abound, such as secular, perhaps Chinese-related historical plays with an alternation of dialogue and songs with orchestral accompaniment. There is also a strong tradition of folk dance, which may include songs sung by mixed antiphonal choirs (i.e., two alternating groups of singers). Minstrels ply their trade along the caravan routes and play instruments perhaps more related to general Central Asian traditions than to the Indian and Chinese background of religious music.

The music of Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim
      Little is presently known about the music of Nepal, Bhutan, and Sikkim. Minstrels play a major role in the musical life of Nepal, where, under the influence of Indian practice, musicians are classified according to caste and each group is distinguished by specific instruments and repertoire. There appears to be a great deal of both Indian-related and indigenous folk music in the three Himalayan kingdoms. Varieties of lute, such as the long-necked damyan of Nepal and its Sikkimese relative, may be linked to a similar instrument of the Pamir Mountains, while a Sikkimese flute having an outside air duct (in contrast to the inside duct of a Western recorder) seems to be a unique instrument. The Sherpas (Sherpa) of Nepal and other Tibetan-related populations of the Himalayas, along with the thousands of Tibetan refugees now living in the area, maintain the traditions of Tibetan Buddhist religious music. The mani-rimdu dance-drama of the Sherpas, a variant of 'cham, is a good case in point.

The study of Central Asian music
      In the West the study of Central Asian music has until recently been restricted largely to travellers' accounts and analyses of small samples of music. By far the bulk of collection and study of Central Asian music of Turkistan and Siberia lay in the domain of Soviet scholars, who instituted systematic fieldwork as early as the 1920s; this literature remains largely inaccessible to the non-Russian reader. Mongol music was the subject of sporadic but intensive fieldwork by Scandinavian researchers in the 1920s and early 1930s, so that some of the traditional music culture was documented before Mongol society underwent the changes brought by war and the advent of socialism. Tibetan music has attracted increasing attention since the late 1950s, when large numbers of Tibetan refugees poured into the Himalayan kingdoms and northern sectors of India, thus making Tibetan music more accessible to outside observation. Afghanistan has been the object of intensive musical investigation only since the mid-1960s. Thus, outside Soviet contributions, Central Asia remains a lightly researched although quite fertile area of musical investigation.

Mark S. Slobin

Performing arts: dance and theatre
      The performing arts have played an important role in the spiritual and social life of Central Asia, where they evolved as didactic art forms within a religious context. Performance, therefore, occurs in conjunction with some religious or special event. Two main types of performance predominate throughout Tibet, Nepal, Sikkim, Bhutan, Mongolia, and the former Soviet republics of Central Asia: those related to shamanism and those derived from Buddhism. The performing arts of the Turkic peoples of Afghanistan and Turkistan are different from these because of the influence of the Islāmic religion and are discussed in the article Islāmic arts: Dance and theatre (Islamic arts). The Hindu influence found in Nepalese theatre and dance is treated in the article South Asian arts: Dance and theatre (South Asian arts).

      Although primarily intended to serve the overt purposes of religion, dance and theatre in Central Asia are performing arts with covert aesthetic values. Vocal and physical expressions of appreciation by an audience attending a performance depend on the graceful and rhythmic execution of hand gestures, body movements, and footwork. Aesthetic values are best expressed in the elaborate and artistic costumes, masks, and makeup, coupled with effective though crude stage effects and props.

      Musical instruments (musical instrument) play an important role in the performance of Central Asian dance and theatre. Usually a drum, but in some cases a string instrument, is used by the shaman to induce the ecstatic trance during which he symbolically journeys to the heavens or to the netherworld when playing the role of a psychopomp, or conductor of souls. Performances of the Buddhist monastic dance, known as 'cham, and the Buddhist morality plays, called a-che-lha-mo (“older sister goddess”), were accompanied by a variety of instruments, especially drums and horns. There were large and small drums, short horns with fingering holes, and long horns, particularly the dung-chen (great conch shell) made of brass (brass instrument) and extending many feet. The dung-chen with a deep haunting wail accentuates the macabre that is so much a part of 'cham. The Tibetan guitar sgra-synan (pleasant sound) is a stringed instrument used almost exclusively by Himalayan peoples for folk song and dance.

      Perhaps because of the subjectivism of their religions, it was not the custom among the peoples of Central Asia to carry out objective studies of elements in their cultures, and, therefore, no indigenous evaluation of their dance and theatre is available. Although a few manuals for the performance of shamanic rituals, music, and the 'cham do exist, as do scripts for the a-che-lha-mo, much of the history and traditional staging of these forms of theatre and dance was handed down by oral tradition.

Shamanic ritual
      Teachings that spirits are responsible for unexplainable phenomena, such as disease and death, and that these spirits can be controlled by an individual with special powers, such as a shaman (shamanism), evolved in many primitive societies throughout the world, including those of the nomadic peoples of Central Asia. The roles of the shaman include oracle, healer, sacrificer, and psychopomp, and each role calls for the performance of specific rituals (ritual). The earliest form of theatre and dance in Central Asia, these rituals developed into an often complex genre of the performing arts. The horse-sacrifice ceremony among the Altaic peoples of east Central Asia, for example, embraces a full range of dramatic elements despite the fact that like all shamanic ritual it is essentially a one-man performance. The ceremony, which lasts two to three days, is one in which the shaman undertakes a journey to the heavens. After having set the stage, the shaman symbolically releases the soul of a real horse and then, astride a goose-shaped device, he chases the soul of the horse, all the while imitating the noises of the goose and the horse. Capturing the soul of the horse, the shaman, with help from the audience, then kills the real horse, and the flesh is prepared. The next evening, the shaman offers pieces of the horse meat to the spirits, and, amid loud drumming and chanting, symbolically goes to the heavens on the soul of the horse while ascending a notched pole. As he ascends through the higher and higher heavenly planes, the shaman communicates to the audience important information, such as predictions about the success of the coming harvest and about epidemics and misfortunes that threaten and how to avoid them through sacrifices. The ceremony is followed by merrymaking and drinking.

      Shamanism maintains that the soul of one who dies a heroic or violent death (death rite) ascends to the heavens, but that the soul of one who dies from disease, which is caused by an evil spirit, must go to the underworld. The part of a psychopomp, or conductor of souls to the netherworld, was, therefore, another role commonly played by the shaman. The shaman guides the soul to its destination while narrating details of its journey to his audience. In some cultures, such as that of the Lolo, or Yi, in the mountains of southwestern China, the souls of all the dead are led in this manner to the underworld; while in others, such as that of the Tungus (Evenk), a subarctic forest people of eastern Siberia, the shaman is only called upon to act as psychopomp if the soul of the deceased continues to haunt his residence.

      The shaman also serves as the repository of tribal folklore and beliefs. Through dance and dialogue, he instructs the audience in the traditional teachings of their ancestors, and by passing his knowledge and techniques down to his successor, those teachings remain intact for future generations.

      Rituals for curing the sick, guiding the soul of the dead to the netherworld, invoking a deity (divination), or visiting the heavens are performed by the shaman in a state of trance induced by frenetic dancing to the music of a drum or a string instrument. Elaborate, symbolic costumes and ritual objects that are used in the ceremony provide a dramatic and mystic spectacle. The expectations of the audience are directly connected with the purpose of the shamanic performance; but whether it is the hope that the patient would be cured or that the oracular communication be auspicious, those attending the shamanic performance do so with the expectation that the ritual will be an entertaining religious experience.

      Before the introduction of Buddhism in shamanic Central Asia, there were no centres for the performing arts in the usual sense of the word. Each shaman performed his dramatic arts at his own residence or environs as the occasion demanded. He had his own ritual costumes (religious dress) and paraphernalia, which displayed regional variations, particularly in ornamentation. The representation of animals and birds is common, and metallic objects (ceremonial object), which are thought to possess a soul and do not rust, are also important. For example, the costume of a Siberian Yakut shaman must have from 30 to 50 pounds (15 to 25 kilograms) of iron to be efficacious, while a Siberian Buryat shaman, except for an iron casque, or helmet, wears mostly furs. The metal ornaments represent such diverse things as the internal organs, bones, a woman's breasts, the Sun, or the Moon; but the object common to all shamans is a metal mirror, in which the shaman can see the souls of the dead. Regardless of the variations in dress, the purpose and performance of the rituals remain essentially the same, whether carried out by a Buddhist monk among the Sherpas of Nepal or by a true shaman among the Siberian Yakut.

      The shamanic rituals of the steppe and desert peoples have analogies among the dramatic arts of the Himalayan kingdoms, where, because of the tolerance of local beliefs and rituals, many shamanic practices were adopted into Tibetan Buddhism. For example, the State Oracle of Tibet, a monk whose oracular powers were exercised on behalf of the government and the monastic system, was regarded as a high-ranking ecclesiastic, yet his ritualistic performances were no different than those of shamanic mediums throughout Central Asia. The adaptation of the psychopompic role of the shaman into Tibetan Buddhism resulted in the recitation of the Tibetan Book of the Dead to the corpse. This book describes in detail the frightening apparitions the deceased encounters day after day while in the 49-day interval between death and rebirth, and its reading is analogous to the shaman's narration of his journey to the underworld.

Buddhist ritual
Buddhist monastic dance
      The second major genre of the performing arts to develop in Central Asia was 'cham, the ritualistic dance performed in Buddhist monasteries. The origin of 'cham may well be an older form of shamanic ceremonial dance in Tibet, but centuries of evolution within a Buddhist-dominated society led to the recasting of the roles and theme of the dance in keeping with Buddhist dogma. 'Cham, which was introduced along with Tibetan Buddhism into Mongolia and certain parts of southern Central Asia in the 16th century, became the principal form of religious entertainment in eastern Central Asia.

      The origins of 'cham lie in Tibet's dim past, long before the introduction of Buddhism. Initially, it was performed as a ritual to drive out evil spirits and to appease the guardian spirits by means of human and animal sacrifices, thus assuring an auspicious and prosperous new year. According to Tibetan tradition, the ancient shamanic dance was adapted as a Buddhist one by Padmasambhava, the Indian tantric teacher who introduced Buddhism into Tibet in the 8th century AD. He is said to have interpreted the dance as symbolizing the victory of Buddhism over the shamanism of Tibet, and, since blood sacrifices are abhorrent to a Buddhist, these traditional elements were simulated by clever techniques using effigies and red-coloured substances.

      Sectarianism developed in Tibetan Buddhism in the 11th century, primarily as a reaction to the unreformed teachings of Padmasambhava and his followers; nevertheless, each of the sects retained the monastic dance as part of their religious repertoire. The reformed Yellow Hat sect (Dge-lugs-pa) changed the time for its performance from the birthday of Padmasambhava to the end of the official year, which would coincide with the lunar month from the middle of January to the middle of February.

      The acceptance and spread of Buddhism led to the eventual establishment of monastic communities throughout eastern Central Asia. These monasteries became fixed centres for the performance of 'cham. Every monastery of adequate size and monastic population maintained its own masks, costumes, props, and musical instruments. In spite of regional and sectarian variations, the performance of 'cham remains basically the same. The stage is set outdoors in the courtyard of the monastery called the 'cham-ra (dance enclosure). With the exception of high lamas and members of the nobility who sit on special seats, the audience stands or sits around on the edge of the dance floor or ground. The musicians with horns and drums take their places, usually under a cloth canopy. Then, accompanied by music, the various dancers emerge from a building or from behind a stage curtain and perform. The first to appear are dancers wearing wide-brimmed black hats topped with a simulated human skull. The costume of these dancers has led to the performance being referred to in some Western works as the black-hat devil dance. Although of shamanic origin, the costume of the black-hat dancers is said by the Buddhists to represent the black disguise worn by Dpal-gyirdo-rje, a 9th-century Tibetan monk who assassinated the fanatic anti-Buddhist king, Glang-dar-ma.

      The black-hat dancers are followed by a variety of performers, including those wearing monstrous masks (mask) representing a host of evil spirits that harass mankind, those costumed as skeletons and wearing skull masks, and those representing Indian teachers of Buddhism. There are also masked dancers representing the tutelary deities of Buddhism, and the most impressive of all is the Choskyi-rgyal-po (King of the Religion), who wears a mask fashioned after the head of a bull, which is emblematic of the aspect of the deity that vanquishes the Lord of the Dead. It is this dancer who dismembers an effigy of a corpse and scatters the parts in a simulation of the sacrificial and expulsional elements of the ancient shamanic dance rituals.

      The dance is not all macabre. Comic relief is provided by a dancer wearing a mask with an expression of stupidity. This buffoon represents Ho-shang, the Chinese monk who was defeated in an 8th-century debate on the merits of Indian versus Chinese Buddhism. Ho-shang is represented in the 'cham of the Sherpas of Nepal by a dancer wearing a mask portraying a balding, bearded old man, called Mi-tshe-ring (Long-Life Man), who delights the audience by his farcical antics and pratfalls.

      The whole of the 'cham performance, which takes two or three days, is a visual presentation of the fear of demons and monstrous creatures and the way in which Buddhism serves to alleviate that fear. The audience is reassured that the good forces of religion have neutralized the evil powers of demonic spirits, and so the new year will be a prosperous one. This religious dance is performed on varying scales of grandeur in monasteries throughout the Buddhist cultures of Central Asia, but the most magnificent of all is its performance in Lhasa for the Dalai Lama, the ruler of Tibet.

Buddhist morality plays (morality play)
      The last performing-arts genre to develop in Central Asia was the Buddhist morality play, called a-che-lha-mo. The plays are based on the lives of legendary and historical figures, and through costume and masks the ethnic origin and ethical character of the players are revealed. Folktales, as well as historical and Buddhist canonical literature, are sources for the stories presented in a-che-lha-mo. Most plays are about mythical heroes who prove that Buddhism and its virtues conquer all evil in the end; but there are those that tell the story of historical personages.

      Although traditions among the Central Asian peoples are vague about the development of shamanic rituals and 'cham, they are clear about the origin of a-che-lha-mo and even point out the historical creators of the art. Some scholars regard the plays as derivatives of Indian theatre, but Tibetan tradition claims that the first performance of a morality play was produced by Thang-stong rgyal-po, a famous bridge builder of the 15th century.

      One story tells of some Tibetans who were building a bridge and found that whatever they assembled during the day, demons dismantled at night. Thang-stong rgyal-po, a holy man well versed in the capricious ways of demons, advised the Tibetans to stage a play to divert the attention of the evil spirits. By this stratagem, they were able to complete the bridge. This story would seem to indicate that the primary purpose of the play was to entertain, but another story illustrates that Thang-stong rgyal-po realized that religious teachings would have a greater influence on the people if they were dramatized, so he developed the morality play to serve this purpose. Regardless of his intent, a-che-lha-mo evolved as didactic entertainment, and Thang-stong rgyal-po is regarded by the Tibetans as its patron saint.

      From primitive beginnings, the morality plays developed into a popular performing art, complete with stylized costumes and masks, complex scenarios and effective staging. The scripts are written in a dialogue song style called rnam-thar. There are at least nine traditional plays in the Tibetan repertoire.

      The most common type of a-che-lha-mo is the drama based on legend and mythology which often reflects a strong influence of Indian theatrical tradition. An example is the play 'Das-log Snang-sa. The phrase 'das-log means to return (log) from the beyond ('das) and is used in Tibetan to refer to anyone who was believed to be dead and then returns to life and relates all that was witnessed in the netherworld. 'Das-log Snang-sa is about a virtuous woman named Snang-sa who was unjustly accused of adultery and beaten to death by her jealous sister-in-law. When Snang-sa was led before the fierce Lord of the Dead (gshin-rje), he found that she was pure of heart and mind, and he allowed her therefore to return to life. Once home again, however, her husband and relatives began to mistreat her, so she became a nun. The play ends with Snang-sa flying away from the convent roof and disappearing like a rainbow in the sky.

      Another type of a-che-lha-mo is the plays based on the lives of Tibetan holy men or pious kings. Rgya-bza' Bal-bza' (“Chinese-wife, Nepalese-wife”), for example, tells the story of king Srong-btsan sgam-po (Srong-brtsan-sgam-po) (died AD 649) and his two Buddhist wives: Wen-ch'eng, a Chinese princess, and Bhrikuti, a princess from Nepal. These three historical figures are believed by faithful Tibetans to have been incarnations of Buddhist deities, and their story is very popular with the audience.

      The performance of a play may take more than a day. Narrative recitation is used to set scenes, delineate character, and give continuity to the songs that tell the main story. Comic sketches or dances are performed between the acts. Each character in a play has a distinctive costume or mask. Usually Tibetan male characters and the heroes wear no mask, while virtuous female characters wear flat, teardrop-shaped masks, particularly the serpentine deities. Three-dimensional masks are worn by evil foreigners, demons, and witches, and masks that cover the entire head are used to portray animals. Like the 'cham, the morality play is performed outdoors, with the audience, except for the specially seated lamas and nobles, standing or sitting on the ground around the performing area.

      The morality plays are performed (acting) for profit by groups consisting of lay men and women, and some have Buddhist monks or nuns as members. These troupes are generally associated with a given locale, such as a village or a monastery; however, they often travel to give performances on special occasions, transporting their wardrobe and stage props with them. In time, four of the most popular troupes were required by the Tibetan government to perform plays at the summer palace of the Dalai Lama. These performances were obligatory as a kind of taxation. There are still several of the a-che-lha-mo troupes to be found among the Tibetan refugees in Nepal and India, where their performances are in popular demand.

      The a-che-lha-mo did not spread from Tibet into other parts of Central Asia until the 19th century. According to tradition, the Mongolian lama Noyan Hutuqtu (1803–56) studied a-che-lha-mo as performed in the Kokonor (Tsinghai) region of northeastern Tibet and then introduced his own adaptations of it at Tulgatu-yin keyid, his own monastery near the village of Saynshand, in Mongolia. For the first time, in 1832, he produced a repertoire of four plays, and their performance required 17 full days. The four plays were based on the textual biographies of the historical Buddha, the Indian Buddhist Teacher Atīśa, the revered Tibetan hermit-poet Mi-la Ras-pa, and the fabulous “Moon-cuckoo” (Saran-u Kökügen-ü Namtar), a mystical story of a pious prince who became a cuckoo bird living in the forest.

      Noyan Hutuqtu's productions differed from the usual performance of a-che-lha-mo in certain respects. His repertoire did not include any of the plays traditional in Tibet. His actors, unlike those of a-che-lha-mo, wore no masks; instead they painted their faces, a makeup technique associated with Chinese opera. Whereas a-che-lha-mo is usually performed outdoors in the Himalayan regions, Noyan Hutuqtu had a special theatre constructed near his monastery. It was a three-sided, two-storied, mud-brick building with two stage floors; thus, two scenes could be performed at the same time. The upper stage represented the sky, the lower one the earth. There were stage exits on both sides and trap doors in the floor.

      The first Mongolian actors were called schabi, or disciples, of the lama Noyan Hutuqtu. These men and women formed a regular troupe and were invited all over Mongolia to perform.

      Among the peoples of Central Asia, folk dancing occurs as a form of entertainment at social occasions, such as festivals, weddings, and other celebrations, and private parties. Often impromptu, folk dances are sometimes performed without the accompaniment of musical instruments, and the performers rely on singing and footwork to maintain the rhythm.

      Formalized folk dance does not appear to have evolved among nomadic peoples of the steppe and desert regions, but such dances did develop among the sedentary agriculturists, particularly in the Himalayan regions, where troupes of amateur performers were formed for local entertainment. Some dances were performed by a group of men and women forming a circle; in others, the dancers faced each other in lines. The dance steps and body movement were performed according to a stylized routine, and the rhythmic beat was accented by a measured stamp of the foot.

Turrell V. Wylie

Visual arts

Prehistoric cultures
      The earliest artifacts discovered in Central Asia were found in Siberia and western Turkistan and are from about the 13th millennium BC. During the millennia that followed, migrants entered the region from various directions, regardless of the geographic obstacles they encountered. As a result, some of their artifacts correspond with those produced at a similar stage of development in more western areas; some finds from the northeastern part of what was formerly Soviet Turkistan, for example, are related to certain objects made in Iran and Mesopotamia, and those from northwestern Central Asia are linked to eastern and central Europe by means of the Volga River and of Kazakhstan.

      The Paleolithic (Old Stone Age) sites of western Turkistan are mainly concentrated in the Lake Baikal area. A cave in the Baysuntau Range containing the body of a Neanderthal boy aged about nine had been so carefully prepared that it is evident that the people who made his grave believed in an afterlife. The site of Malta, 50 miles (80 kilometres) to the southeast of Irkutsk, and that of Buret, 80 miles (130 kilometres) to the north, are noted for their mammoth-tusk figurines of nude women. They resemble Paleolithic statuettes from Europe and the Middle East and probably served as fertility symbols or as representations of the great goddess, whose cult was widespread. Some of these figurines depict elegant, slender women, others heavy, corpulent ones. Of five found at Buret, one is unusual in that it is of a clothed woman wearing a one-piece trouser suit with a hood attached to it comparable to those still worn by present-day Eskimos. In recent years Paleolithic sites have been discovered south of Samarkand, and rock paintings have been found at Zaraut Say (Zaraut Stream) in the Babatag Range, 50 miles east of Termiz, and in the Shakty Caves in the Pamirs. Executed in red ochre, they depict hunting scenes. Those in the Shakty Cave are the older and include a man disguised as a bird and other men wearing skins and shooting at wild oxen with bows and arrows.

      The invention of the bow is ascribed to the 10th millennium BC, the Mesolithic Period (Middle Stone Age). Artistic development during this period is attested by a pottery fragment of a most expressive woman's face dating from the 3rd millennium BC and recovered from the site of Vosnessenovka in western Siberia.

Neolithic and Metal Age cultures
      Many Neolithic (New Stone Age (Neolithic Period)) sites were discovered in what was formerly Soviet Central Asia, and the number of Bronze Age sites is even higher. The majority were found on the middle reaches of the Yenisey River, especially in the Minusinsk Basin, where metallurgy developed early. They testify to the existence of three main, basically successive, yet often overlapping cultures: the Afanasyevskaya, Andronovo, and Karasuk, so called after the villages near which each culture was identified.

      A cemetery to the southwest of Krasnoyarsk, on the slopes of the Afanasyevskaya Mountains, contained 80 burials dating from the 2nd millennium BC. The earlier ones were flat and marked by stone circles symbolizing the Sun god; the later ones took the form of barrows, or large mounds of earth, but were also encircled by similar stone slabs. The earlier graves (tomb) contained elongated, spherical pottery vessels with pointed bases decorated with herringbone patterns. In the later graves this type of ware was superseded by flat-bottomed pots usually associated with sedentary pastoralist cultures. The graves also contained numerous stone and bone objects. Although copper objects were rare, they heralded the dawn of a new cultural period, the Metal Age.

      The Andronovo culture succeeded the Afanasyevskaya in the 2nd and 1st millennia BC. Although found to the southwest of Krasnoyarsk, it is more frequently encountered in western Siberia and Kazakhstan. The settlement and cemetery of Alekseevskoe (present Tenlyk), some 400 miles (600 kilometres) south of Yekaterinburg (formerly Sverdlovsk), is especially important, because its earth houses were designed for permanent habitation. Their roofs rested on logs, and each dwelling had a central hearth used for heating purposes with side hearths intended for cooking. Bronze objects were numerous, and workshops existed for working copper. The metal probably came from mines in the Minusinsk Basin, Kazakhstan, and the western Altai Mountains, the latter having been worked as early as the 14th century BC.

      Dating from about 1200 to about 70 BC—the dawn of the Iron (Iron Age) and historical age—the Karasuk culture was located in the Minusinsk Basin, on the Yenisey River and on the upper reaches of the Ob River. Its creators must have been in touch with East Asia, for certain bronze objects, notably elbow-shaped knives, are related to those used between the 14th and 11th centuries BC in China during the Shang period. Stone pillars topped either with ram's heads, stylized animal forms, or human figures have also been discovered. Dzheytun, northwest of Ashgabat (Ashkhabad) in the Kyzylkum Desert, is the oldest known agricultural settlement in Central Asia. It possessed a thriving Neolithic flint industry.

      Annau, six miles (10 kilometres) southeast of Ashgabat and Namazga-Tepe, situated in the same region and occupying an area of some 145 acres (60 hectares), are important Bronze Age sites. The pottery vessels recovered from Namazga-Tepe are decorated with painted plant and animal motifs showing affinities with contemporary pottery wares from the Middle East. Figurines of dogs and sheep were numerous, and a model of a house has also been found. At Karatepe, also near Ashgabat, an agricultural society produced fine pottery from the 3rd millennium BC, but it reached its fullest development in the 2nd millennium BC in a series of vessels decorated with particularly spirited animal designs.

      The main Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures produced several distinctive offshoots, which began to emerge by the early Iron Age. In Chorasmia (Khwārezm) the Neolithic culture discovered at Dzhan-Bas-Kala is known as the Kelteminar, and that of the Bronze Age, as represented by the Chorasmian level of Kokcha III, as the Tazabagyab. The Neolithic Hissar culture of southern Tajikistan spread across northeastern Central Asia into the Semirechiye, or foothills of the Tien Shan, while in Siberia the Bronze Age Karasuk culture was replaced in the 8th century BC by the Tagar culture. The latter endured until the 2nd century BC, producing an art of animal motifs related to that of the Scythians of southern European Russia.

      The Bronze Age culture on Fergana's western border is associated with settlers living in large houses grouped to form settlements of considerable size. Some of the inhabitants worked in copper mines at the time when potters of the Chust Bronze Age culture of the Fergana Valley were producing fine-quality tableware, as well as cruder pottery articles. The best Chust pottery was very thin, covered with a red slip (liquid clay) and decorated after glazing with black triangular and scroll designs.

Nomadic cultures
      During the 1st millennium BC and the 1st centuries of the Christian era, certain nomadic tribes affected the course of Central Asia's artistic history. Cyrus II the Great, the ancient Persian king who founded the Achaemenian Empire, was killed by the nomadic Massagetai when campaigning in eastern Iran in 530 BC. At the time, the Śaka tribe was pasturing its herds in the Pamirs, central Tien Shan, and in the Amu Darya delta. Their gold belt buckles, jewelry, and harness decorations display sheep, griffins, and other animal designs that are similar in style to those used by the Scythians (Scythian art), a nomadic people living in the Kuban basin of the Caucasus region and the western section of the Eurasian plain during the greater part of the 1st millennium BC. When considered together with objects of a like nature recovered from the frozen burial sites of the western Altai Mountains, it becomes evident that many of the Central Asian tribesmen commonly shared the traditions and culture that were once associated only with the Scythians.

Altaic tribes
      Because of a freak climatic freeze, some of the Altaic burials, notably those of the 5th century BC at Pazyryk and neighbouring sites, such as Katanda, Shibe, and Tuekt, were isolated from external climatic variations by a protective layer of ice that conserved the organic substances buried in them. At Pazyryk these included the bodies of horses and an embalmed man whose body was covered with tattoos (tattoo) of Scythian animal motifs. The remarkable textiles recovered from the Pazyryk burials include the oldest woollen knotted-pile carpet known, the oldest embroidered Chinese silk, and two pieces of woven Persian fabric (State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). Red and ochre predominate in the carpet, the main design of which is of riders, stags, and griffins. Many of the Pazyryk felt hangings, saddlecloths, and cushions were covered with elaborate designs executed in appliqué feltwork, dyed furs, and embroidery. Of exceptional interest are those with animal and human figural compositions, the most notable of which are the repeat design of an investiture scene on a felt hanging and that of a semihuman, semibird creature on another (both in the State Hermitage Museum, St. Petersburg). Clothing, whether of felt, leather, or fur, was also lavishly ornamented.

       horse reins either had animal designs cut out on them or were studded with wooden ones covered in gold foil. Their tail sheaths were ornamented, as were their headpieces and breastpieces. Some horses were provided with leather or felt masks made to resemble animals, with stag antlers or rams' horns often incorporated in them. Many of the trappings took the form of iron, bronze, and gilt wood animal motifs either applied or suspended from them; and bits had animal-shaped terminal ornaments. Altaic animals frequently display muscles delineated with dot and comma markings, a formal convention that may have derived from appliqué needlework. Although such markings are sometimes included in Assyrian, Achaemenian, and even Urartian animal representations of the ancient Middle East, they seldom appear on those of purely Scythian origin. Roundels containing a dot serve the same purpose on the stag and other animal renderings executed by contemporary Śaka metalworkers. Animal processions of the Assyro-Achaemenian type also appealed to many Central Asian tribesmen and are featured in their arts.

      Certain geometric designs and sun symbols, such as the circle and rosette, recur at Pazyryk but are completely outnumbered by animal motifs. Such specifically Scythian features as zoomorphic junctures—i.e., the addition of a part of one animal to the body of another—are rarer in the Altaic region than in southern Russia. The stag and its relatives, however, figure as prominently in Altaic as in Scythian art. Combat scenes between carnivores and herbivores that occur quite often in Scythian art are exceedingly numerous in Pazyryk work; but, whereas the Scythians show the victim passively accepting its fate, as on 5th-century BC gold triangular plaques from the so-called Seven Brothers burial in the Kuban, the Pazyryk beasts are locked in such bitter fights that the victim's hindquarters become inverted.

Siberian tribes
      In the virtually contemporary metalwork of Siberian nomads, single animals of the cat family, such as panthers, carry the Altaic tendency of exaggeration further by twisting their bodies into a circle. In slightly later Siberian plaques, subtle openwork is used, a feature rarely present in Altaic or Scythian objects but frequently encountered in the more rounded versions of the animal style produced in the Ordos region of China, perhaps by Hunnish craftsmen, between the 4th century BC and the 2nd century AD. In the latter part of the 1st millennium BC, Siberian metalworkers adorned many of their gold and bronze plaques with artificial gems made of glass, as well as with jewelled inlays. They produced belt buckles (buckle) shaped like the letter B. Two such gold pieces (State Hermitage Museum) are of particular interest because of their figural content. It has been suggested that they illustrate some ancient Central Asian epics, for one depicts a hunting scene and the other a warrior lying under a tree with his head resting on a woman's lap while a servant holds their two horses. These subjects, possible forerunners of certain episodes in the Shāh-nāmeh (“Book of Kings,” a work by the 10th century Persian poet Ferdowsī giving an account of ancient Iranian history), are thought to complement those on a series of openwork plaques, some of them of Ordos origin, on which either two dismounted riders are shown fighting while their horses stand passively on either side or two horses are seen locked in battle, pursuing their masters' quarrel (State Hermitage Museum).

Mongolian Huns (Hun)
      In the 4th century BC the Huns started to migrate westward from the Ordos region. By the 3rd century BC they had reached the Transbaikalia and had begun to enter Mongolia, which soon became the centre of their empire. Many mounds mark their progress. Those in the Zidzha Valley lie at the same latitude as the Pazyryk mounds and were subjected to similar conditions of freezing, which helped preserve their contents. The richest of the excavated burial sites, however, are those of Noin Ula, to the north of Ulaanbaatar, on the Selenge River. Like those at Pazyryk, they included horse burials. The furnishings of one tomb were especially lavish. The prince for whom it was made must have been in contact with China, for his coffin was apparently made for him there, as were some of his possessions buried with him (e.g., a lacquer cup inscribed with the name of its Chinese maker and dated September 5, AD 13, now in the State Hermitage Museum). His horse trappings (State Hermitage Museum) are as elaborately decorated as many of those found at Pazyryk. His saddle was covered with leather threaded with black and red wool clipped to resemble velvet. The magnificent textiles in his tomb included a woven wool rug (rug and carpet) lined with thin leather (State Hermitage Museum); the centre of the rug depicts combat, of Scytho-Altaic character, between a griffin and an elk, executed in purple, brown, and white felt appliqué work. The animals' bodies are outlined in cord and embroidered. The design on another textile is embroidered in the form of a tiger skin with a head at each end. The animal's splayed-out body is formed of black and white embroidered stripes. Other textiles are of Greco-Bactrian and Parthian origin. In some of the Parthian fragments, Central Asian and Sāsānian Persian influences prevail over Hellenistic ones.

Tashtyk tribe
      On the Yenisey River the Bronze Age Tagar culture was replaced by the Tashtyk culture, dating from the 1st to the 4th century AD. The physical appearance of the Tashtyk people has been preserved by a seriesof masks (mask), some of them modelled, others cast from the dead. They were painted with the features rendered in blue, red, and green against a yellow ground. Spirals disposed on the foreheads, temples, and cheeks of many of these masks probably represent tattoos. In many cases pearl necklaces worn by the women are also included. Although the animal motifs of the Tashtyks remained strongly Scytho-Altaic in style, the community was so much influenced by China that even its architecture was affected. Just south of Abakan, a large house made of beaten clay in the Chinese style has been discovered. Its roof had been covered with Chinese tiles, some of which carry inscriptions of the Han dynasty.

      The Parthian empire came into being in Khorāsān during the reign of Seleucus I, 358–281 BC, following the absorption by the Parthians of Parni (Dahae) tribesmen. The caravans traversing their territory brought them wealth and ideas from abroad. The figural art of the Hellenistic world made an especially strong impression on them. The finest Parthian objects come from Old Nisa, a town situated on the edge of the Karakoram Range, some 11 miles (18 kilometres) south of Ashkhabad in Tajikistan, close to the later town of New Nisa. Old Nisa was founded around 171 BC by Mithradates I to serve as a royal Parthian residence and necropolis, as well as the kingdom's capital. It contained several fine temples and an impressive palace built around a vast central hall, the roof of which was upheld by wooden supports set in stone bases—a practice followed in the town's larger houses. Life-size clay statues of men and women stood between these supports. The royal treasuries contained many valuables, including silver and silver gilt statuettes of local Parthian deities and of Greek gods, bronze and iron weapons, burnished and painted pottery, glass, and cast bronze animals, such as griffins. The most significant of these treasures, however, is a series of ivory horn-shaped drinking vessels, or rhytons. Some are embellished with paste inlays and precious stones, others have a carved frieze or band encircling their open ends. One rhyton (State Hermitage Museum) has a frieze of a procession that includes a Greek god. Conceived in the purest Hellenistic style, the frieze contrasts sharply with the rhyton's horned, lion-griffin-shaped terminal ornamentation, which is admirably modelled in the round, in accordance with the Scytho-Altaic tradition.

The kingdoms of western Turkistan and Afghanistan
      Skill in irrigation, with the resulting expansion in agriculture, encouraged urbanism and the growth of states, changes that coincided with the rise of nomadism. While the nomadic cattle and horse breeders took over the steppelands, the culturally distinct states of Sogdiana (part of Uzbekistan and much of Tajikistan), Fergana (the greater part of Uzbekistan), Chorasmia (the Tashkent region), and Bactria (mainly Afghanistan) were established. At times independent, at other times reduced to vassaldom, the first three states were centred on rivers—Sogdiana around the Zeravshan and Kashkadarya, Fergana on the lower Syr Darya, and Chorasmia on the Amu Darya's basin. (The earliest references to these states are to be found in the Avesta, the principal scriptural work of the Zoroastrian religion, and in the inscription cut by order of the Persian king Darius I [reigned 522–486 BC] on the face of the rock of Bīsitūn in the Kermanshah province of Iran.) Bactria extended from the Syr Darya to the Hindu Kush (southern Tajikistan and Afghanistan) and is rich in unexplored mounds. Excavations at Balkh show that its first inhabitants settled there when others were doing so at Afrasiab (Samarkand) and Merv.

      The political and economic changes that developed in the 4th century BC, following the Macedonian Greek king Alexander III the Great's conquest of these states and their incorporation in the Seleucid empire, and the conquests made, in turn, by the Parthians, Arabs, Turks, and Mongols are reflected in the regions' arts. The city of Alexandria-Kapisu Bagrām, founded by Alexander the Great, became the clearinghouse for India's (India) western trade. India's religious beliefs, especially Buddhism, and the scriptural style that evolved in Gandhāra (Gandhāra art) (an area situated between the Qondūz and Indus rivers in the lower Kābul valley of northwestern Pakistan) and Mathurā (Mathurā art) (in the Punjab region of northwestern India) followed along the trade routes and reached not only Bactria but also, at times, Kashmir, Tibet, China, and even the remote oasis towns of the Tarim Basin in Sinkiang. At the same time, Seleucid (Seleucid kingdom) support resulted in the introduction of Greco-Roman art forms in Bactria, Kapisu, Taxila (Rāwalpindi), Gandhāra, Mathurā, and, after 30 years, even into Seistan.

      Sogdiana (Sogdian art), with its capital of Afrasiab, was already noted for the sophistication and number of its towns when Alexander the Great conquered it in 328 BC and opened it up to Greek soldiers and administrators, and eventually to Roman traders. The Sogdians resented being governed by Alexander's successors, the Greek kings of the Seleucid dynasty. It is difficult to establish their relationship with their Seleucid suzerains and still more so with the later Kushans, but there is ample evidence to show that neither group of conquerors hindered the rise in both Sogdiana and Chorasmia of a local feudal nobility and class of rich farmers.

      A considerable amount of secular and religious pottery sculpture (Western sculpture) dating from the early Christian era to the Arab invasion of the 8th century has been found at Afrasiab. The more interesting examples consist of statuettes of clothed women, some of them representing Zoroastrian (Zoroastrianism) deities such as Anahita. They have foreshortened bodies and large heads with a withdrawn expression on their faces and wear tiaras, hats, or hoods sewn to their cloaks. When the cloaks are sleeveless, they are worn over straight, long-sleeved robes instead of draped garments. All the figures hold a piece of fruit, a symbol of fertility. Statuettes of the 3rd–4th centuries from the fortified town of Tali Barsu, to the south of Samarkand, depict Syavush, the god of annual death and spring rebirth, as a musician. Statuettes of women flutists, riders, animals, and the Iranian semihuman-semianimal demigod Shah Gopat have also been discovered there. In the 7th and 8th centuries, sculpture, whether in clay or alabaster, was highly developed at Pendzhikent, a site some 40 miles (60 kilometres) east of Samarkand, where Indian influence was often felt.

      The earliest of Turkistan's mural paintings (painting, Western) have been found in its eastern section. Those at Niy date from the 2nd century AD, those at Miran from the 3rd. The inspiration for both stemmed from Rome, whereas Buddhism provided the impulses for the slightly later murals at Bamiyan and Kizil. In the eastern zone the paintings were designed as backgrounds for sculpture, and, as in western Turkistan, they were executed in tempera. Some very high quality murals recently discovered in western Turkistan are dated slightly later. The oldest ones, which are extremely fragmentary, are from the Varakhsha, a princely residence to the northeast of Bukhara, now lying in the desert; they date from the 3rd to the 4th century AD. Murals discovered at the beginning of the 20th century at Samarkand, which are almost contemporary with those at Varakhsha, have been lost. The importance of these murals is wholly eclipsed by the slightly later works discovered recently in Sogdiana, such as the 7th-century works at Varakhsha. Some of the rooms in the main apartments of the Varakhsha Palace (which consisted of several detached buildings) are decorated with high-relief alabaster stucco panels and carved woodwork, as well as with paintings. Benches are inserted into the walls of one room, the area above them divided into two registers, or horizontal rows, both painted red. In the upper register was a procession of animals, little of which survives, and, in the lower, splendidly attired hunters seated on elephants pursued spirited leopards and creatures of the griffin family.

      Some 200 miles (300 kilometres) east of Samarkand, in a once fertile, now desert tract of land, the ruins of the great feudal castle of Mug survive. Among the objects excavated there was part of a wooden shield with the painted figure of a rider (State Hermitage Museum), which foreshadows a type commonly found in Islāmic Persian book illumination. Mounted on a splendidly caparisoned horse, he wears a tunic of local cut and is equipped with a long sword, two daggers, two bows, and a quiver full of arrows. He is wasp-waisted in the manner of figures depicted in murals of Varakhsha and Pendzhikent.

      At Pendzhikent, a site close to Mug, and some 40 miles (60 kilometres) east of Samarkand, Sogdian architecture can be seen to advantage. The desert-engulfed city contained several large temples (temple) built of rectangular adobe bricks and blocks of beaten clay. The bricks were used for vaults and domes, while the flat sections of the roofs were made of rafters supported by wooden pillars or piers, some of which had been set in stone bases. Many of the more important houses were two-storied. A square room measuring 26 by 26 feet (eight metres by eight metres) had served as a temple sanctuary. Although, in a series of rooms connected to it, some fragmentary religious paintings survived, the paintings in another temple are better preserved. They depict the death, the Sogdian burial rite, and the rebirth of a youthful Syavush. More than 50 figures of this vast composition survive, some representing Sogdian noblemen, some a group of Turks. A number of the Sogdians are seated cross-legged in the Oriental manner and hold gold and silver vessels of Sāsānian shape in three fingers of one hand. The men's single, close-fitting Sogdian tunics resemble garments depicted in paintings of the Buddhist temples of Bamiyan and eastern Turkistan, notably at Kizil and Kuca. The style and, in some cases, the subject matter of these Sogdian scenes must have influenced the illuminators of such Islāmic Persian works as the Shāh-nāmeh. Another set of murals is unusual in that it was executed in high relief and then coloured. It shows human beings, sea monsters, and fish, with the waves of the sea rendered in lower relief than the figures. Yet another mural depicts a feast against a black background: a king and several priests sit cross-legged under a canopy; a woman harpist, some musicians and dice players, and a procession of elephants complete the scene. By placing light figures against dark or vivid backgrounds, Sogdian artists evolved a distinct form of perspective.

      A study of the religious paintings shows that Central Asian Zoroastrianism retained elements from the earlier indigenous cult of the Sun and Moon. Some of the scenes in the secular works are linked by their subject matter (but not their style) to a small group of older Siberian gold and bronze B-shaped buckles and to the Siberian and Ordos plaques that are thought to illustrate local epics. Other secular scenes give full expression to Sogdian interest in the splendour of contemporary court life and prowess in hunting and warfare. The love of overall decoration and of animal motifs is as prevalent as in nomadic art. Details incorporated in Sogdian paintings proclaim the eclecticism of the society they depict and for which they were created. Sāsānian (Sāsānian dynasty) influence from Persia is seen in crowns trimmed with ribbons, veils, and bells; in the styling and trimming of hair and beards; and in many of their vessel shapes. The helmets worn by the warriors in the Pendzhikent libation scene resemble those depicted in the murals of eastern Turkistan. The clothes follow local fashions, and certain horse trappings display disks the shapes of which recall nomadic types.

      Sogdian textiles (decorative art) are known to have been in great demand among their neighbours. Sāsānian motifs must have reached Sogdian weavers by way of imports from Persia, indirectly routed through Parthia, and also from Zoroastrians seeking protection in Sogdiana from Persian persecution. These motifs often figure both on surviving textiles and on those recorded in the paintings. The murals at Varakhsha, for example, include motifs taken from textiles, and a 5th-century mural from Balalyk Tepe displays the head of a tusked, boarlike animal set in a roundel that is almost identical to that on a Sāsānian fabric found at Astana in eastern Turkistan.

      Between the 5th and 7th centuries, the Sogdians made dried-brick caskets shaped like rectangular rooms to contain ossuaries, or urns for the bones of the dead. The sides and lids of the ossuaries were decorated. The ornamentation on an ossuary from Bia Naiman (State Hermitage Museum) has so many points in common with the decorations on a series of silver vessels that were, until recently, assigned to Bactria that the latter have come to be accepted as Sogdian. Several ewers have niches containing nude women rendered in a markedly Indian style, thereby recalling many a carved ivory plaque from Bagrām. Very similar niches adorn the Bia Naiman ossuary, but these contain crowned figures. In both cases the niches owe their form to Western influence, but those on the ossuary are formed of columns surmounted by capitals upholding pearl-studded arches, while on the ewers the Central Asian rosette replaces the capitals and the pearls.

      Sculpture, both in relief and in the round, was widely produced in Sogdiana. Much of the earlier work takes the form of panels or friezes made of alabaster, stucco, and wood. Rosettes, roundels, disks, and vegetation provide the chief motifs. Audience chambers and large reception rooms often contained statues in the round. Even the statues attached to the wall had the appearance of being worked in the round. The earliest wooden caryatids (caryatid), or columns in human form, are found at Pendzhikent. The caryatids in the form of women have their hair elaborately dressed, and, although nude at the waist, they wear boleros, as well as close-fitting, heavily trimmed skirts and splendid necklaces of Indian appearance. Once again, these figures recall those on Bagrām's ivory plaques and Buddhist statuettes of the 1st to 5th centuries.

Fergana (Fergana Valley) and Chorasmia
      Fergana produced much pottery of quality, but, as yet, there have been no finds of comparable importance to those in Sogdiana. Its arts appear to have paralleled the developments in the more prosperous, more heavily populated, and more highly urbanized state of Chorasmia (later Khwārezm). Chorasmia's defensive architecture was particularly notable. Its great citadels and palaces (palace) were enclosed by two lines of walls strengthened by massive towers that were fitted with lookout posts and firing slits and topped by archers' galleries. Chorasmian entrance gates were labyrinthine in plan. Many of these splendid buildings have disappeared beneath the desert's encroaching sands. Toprak kala, recently excavated, near Tashauz, is thought to have served not only as a citadel but perhaps as Chorasmia's capital until about the 7th century. Defended by stout walls, the palace of sun-dried bricks was equipped with three lookout towers. The ground floor of this two-storied building acted as a foundation for the living rooms and storerooms above. Many of the rooms were adorned with sculpture: its most impressive room, the Hall of Kings, had niches fitted with grills ranged along the tops of its walls to hold statues of Chorasmia's rulers and notables; the Alabaster Hall contained many sculptures executed both in the round and in relief; a Hall of Victories contained statues of kings seated in the presence of a goddess of victory; statues of warriors carrying shields adorned the Warriors' Hall. All of the Chorasmian (Khwārezm) figural works are so lifelike that it is evident that portraiture had reached a high state of development by the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. Surviving decorations in the fortified manorhouse of Teshik Kala display the palmette, rosette, lotus, and ace-of-spade motifs that the Seljuqs (Seljuq) later carried westward to Anatolia and beyond in the 11th and 12th centuries.

      The most Hellenized of these states in western Turkistan and Afghanistan was Bactria. Its fine coinage, for example, was distinctly Hellenistic in style, and Bactrian silversmiths were often influenced as much by Roman as Greek Hellenistic metalwork. Alexander the Great annexed Kābul to Bactria and founded Alexandria-Kapisu, a city astride the Indian caravan route, to serve as the province's capital. The multiracialism of Kapisu's population is reflected in the origins of the objects found there. Imports included articles from India, China, and the Greco-Roman world, especially from Syria. Artistic conventions characteristic of all these countries blended with the local Central Asian ones, with the Indian conventions predominating, to create Bactria's own distinctive style in sculpture, whether in alabaster, stone, ivory, or wood. Its mural paintings are wholly Buddhist in content, but they often contain features that link them to Fundukistan in India and the Sāsānian Persian world.

      The decorative arts were highly developed in Bactria. Many of their sun-dried-brick houses were large enough to include several reception rooms, which contained many luxurious decorative objects.

      Potters (pottery) remained attached to animal forms derived from nomadic art. The large production of votive statuettes, especially representations of Anahita and Syavush, may be partly attributed to the belief that Zoroaster was born in Balkh. This tradition was also evident at Merv until the Arab invasion of Central Asia. The Bactrians mastered the technique of working metals at an early date. A 4th-century-BC lion-griffin (British Museum) in cast bronze is descended from a Scytho-Altaic prototype, and so, too, is a pair of slightly earlier gold armlets (armlet) (British Museum), embellished with inlay, from the Oxus Treasure. A series of silver dishes (State Hermitage Museum) from the end of the 1st millennium BC are, on the other hand, decorated with scenes from the tragedies of the Greek dramatist Euripides and Greco-Roman mythology rendered in a Hellenized style. Other silver dishes employ Indian motifs such as elephants. By the 8th century these diverse ornamental motifs had fused, as on a silver-gilt bowl (State Hermitage Museum) dated from the 5th to 8th century AD, into a Kushān style that may well have provided the basis for Persia's later Rey figural pottery style.

      The Kushāns replaced the Greeks in Bactria about 130 BC. They are thought to have been of Yüeh-chih stock with a strong admixture of Hephthalites, Śaka, and Tocharian. One branch of this group migrated to the Tarim Basin and founded a short-lived empire, while the other, under the name of Kushān, gained control of Central Asia. Capturing a section of the great trade route leading from India and China to the west, the Kushāns derived much of their revenue from the transit dues they exacted from the caravans crossing their territory, which often were carrying supplies of Chinese gold, silver, and nickel from the Tarim oasis towns to the Seleucid Persians. About 106 BC the first caravan to carry silk from China direct to Persia passed through territory that had belonged to the Seleucids but was now divided between the Kushāns and Parthians.

       Kushān art reached its fullest development in the 2nd century AD, when the great king Kaniṣka (Kaniska) is believed to have reigned. A magnificent, almost life-size, now headless sculpture of Kaniṣka (Archaeological Museum, Mathurā) shows him wearing an elegant version of nomadic dress. His kingdom extended from Central Asia to include Gandhāra and Mathurā, where the Seleucids had so firmly established Hellenistic art that Western influence continued to maintain its hold even in the reign of the first members of India's Gupta dynasty. When Mahāyāna Buddhism reached Gandhāra during the 4th and 5th centuries AD, its sculptors turned to the Hellenistic world as a matter of course for a visual conception of Buddha and quickly evolved several Hellenistic versions. In the popular Apollo version, Buddha is long-faced, long-nosed, and has wavy hair. This type survived into the 5th century and penetrated as far as Kashmir and Turkistan.

      A school of religious sculpture equal in importance to that of Gandhāra (Gandhāra art) developed almost simultaneously at Mathurā (Mathurā art). Its earliest Buddhist images are virtually contemporary with the earliest ones produced in Gandhāra, but, in Mathurā, Indian influences predominate. The portrayal of Buddha in the Mathurān style is softer yet more direct. The features are more Eastern; eyebrows extend in a continuous, sinous line; hair is straight; the earlobes are elongated; and an enigmatic smile replaces the withdrawn expression of the Hellenized Buddhas of Gandhāra. While the sculptors of Mathurā used a red sandstone, the Gandhārans worked in limestone or a local gray schist. They generally chose the latter for the small, uniform-sized panels with which they faced their stūpas and vishanas, carving them with scenes of Buddha's life. On the panels, the story unfolds from left to right, each scene being framed within either trees, leaves, or Corinthian columns sometimes linked by arches. These religious narratives often include furniture and details drawn from contemporary life. The figures, which use gestures of Indian origin to convey emotion, display racial characteristics that range from Indo-European to Mongolian. Many figures are presented in the frontal position favoured by Parthian artists, while others appear three-quarter face, as in Hellenistic art. Some wear Hellenistic robes and headdresses such as those worn in Palmyra, an ancient city in Syria. The Gandhāran style of sculpture was no longer produced after this area was invaded by the White Huns, in the 6th century.

      Central Afghanistan is rich in Kushān sites. Āteshkadehye Sorkh Kowtal, situated in the Qondūz valley, close to the Kābul-Mazār-e Sharīf road, is dated by an inscription to the time of Kaniṣka's reign. The architecture of the region was very highly developed there. The town was protected by a double row of walls that ascended the hill on which it stood. The most impressive site within the wall was occupied by a dynastic fire temple, built to an Achaemenid (Achaemenian Dynasty) plan in large blocks of well-dressed stone and approached by an imposing staircase. Within, columns topped by Corinthian capitals supported the roof. Numerous sculptures had originally adorned the interior, those worked with floral and animal motifs conforming to the Gandhāran tradition while figural works followed Scytho-Parthian and, to some extent, Hellenistic traditions.

 The Buddhist art of central Afghanistan was admirably represented at Bamiyan, where Mani, the Iranian founder of the Manichaean (Manichaeism) religion, probably lived and encouraged the growth of a religious pictorial art in the 3rd century AD. At both the eastern and western approaches to Bamiyan, a huge statue of Buddha as ruler of the world was cut into the face of the rock. The smaller statue measured 120 feet (about 40 metres) and dated from soon after the town's foundation in the 4th century AD; the other measured 175 feet (53 metres) and dated from the 5th century. In their commanding monumentality, both reflected the influence of the Mathurān image of King Kaniṣka and the portrait sculpture of Sāsānian kings and Parthian notables. Traces of painting showed Sāsānian and Indian influences in the rock-hewn niche behind the earlier Buddha. In 2001 the statues were destroyed by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban, who regarded them as idolatrous.

      Regardless of Manichaean influence, Sāsānian elements prevailed at Bamiyan between the 4th and 6th centuries. At Dūktar-e Nowshirvān, near Bamiyan, a 4th-century painting of a Sāsānian king flanked by attendants survives. The murals in Bamiyan's 5th-century temple of Kakrak include one of a deified king of Sāsānian appearance, while others display the figure of Buddha set within a circle and wearing a costume of the Sāsānian type. Sāsānian motifs of paired birds and griffins placed in medallions or pearl circlets are common. In the murals at Imgur-Enlil, Buddha wears a close-fitting tunic resembling that worn by the Sāsānian king depicted on the rock carvings of Tāq-e Bostān. The traces of Hellenism, which are also evident in these wall paintings, began to disappear by the 5th century, when Sāsānian influence gradually gave way to the Gupta (Gupta dynasty) style of India.

      Stemming from Gupta art is the practice adopted at Bamiyan between the 5th and 6th centuries of painting in the dome of a sanctuary a Buddha within a circle or hexagon. Gradually, these circles and hexagons became symbols of the heavenly Buddha. Many developed into rosettes and eight-pointed stars—motifs that were retained in the 10th and 11th centuries by the Islāmic Seljuqs, who carried them to Persia and Asia Minor. As Gupta influence increased, sculpture gained in importance. A new style had evolved by the 8th to 9th centuries, but it did not penetrate into western Turkistan, where the Arab conquerors religiously opposed figural art. In the 9th century many Buddhists left Kashgaria, and Islām (Islamic arts) gained ground. Figural sculpture was forced underground and was primarily produced by secret shamanistic cults of an indigenous Central Asian origin. Although figural art was never to flourish in western Turkistan as gloriously as it had prior to the Arab invasion, there was a revival under the Mongols in the form of book illuminations.

Eastern Turkistan
Uighurs (Uighur)
      The figural arts found new patrons in eastern Turkistan among the Turkic Uighurs, who while living in T'ang dynasty (Tang dynasty) China had been influenced by Manichaean figurative art. The overthrow in China in AD 846 of Buddhism by official Confucianism forced the Buddhist Uighurs to migrate to eastern Turkistan. Gradually, they gained control over the Tien Shan region, Turfan, and the northeastern section of the Tarim Basin. The Turkic Uighurs especially favoured portraiture. In the 7th and 8th centuries Uighur artists already had acquired great proficiency in rendering likenesses in a style heavily influenced by Chinese portraiture of the T'ang period. These portraits were painted on silk and were frequently inscribed with the sitter's name.

Khitans (Khitan)
      The figural style is believed to have been transmitted to the Mongols by the Khitans when the latter were living on the middle reaches of the Yenisey. The wealth of the Khitan princes is reflected in the furnishings of burial mounds discovered at Kopeni, some 200 miles (300 kilometres) to the south of Krasnoyarsk. Dating from the 7th to 8th century, these mounds were similar in type to those constructed by the nomads of the 1st millennium BC. One of the richest graves contained four gold jugs set on a silver dish and a number of gold, silver, and bronze ornaments (State Hermitage Museum). Two of the jugs, although undecorated, carry Orhon inscriptions on their bases. Two others are covered with delicate relief representations of birds and fish surrounded by flowers and vegetation, executed in a style influenced by Islāmic art. A Scytho-Altaic hunting motif of riders pursuing a tiger, a deer, and a panther appears on a bronze ornamental object.

      Turkic tribes had been concentrating their numbers in Central Asia from about the 5th century AD. In the 6th century the Kul Tepe and Bilge Khan tribes established a state of their own in the Orhon valley. The inscriptions that they carved on the valley's rocks are of considerable historical importance. In the 7th century the Turkic Oğuz people were so numerous that they constituted 24 tribes. The Sāmānids, Ghaznavids, Ghūrids, and Seljuqs were of Oğuz extraction.

Sāmānids (Sāmānid Dynasty)
      The Sāmānids centred their kingdom in Khorāsān. In the 9th century, under the leadership of Esmāʿīl (Ismāʿīl I ibn Aḥmad), they ruled over Transoxania and eastern Persia from their capital of Bukhara. Esmāʿīl's türbe, or mausoleum, the oldest Islāmic monument surviving in Bukhara, reproduces the form of the Zoroastrian (Zoroastrianism) chanar taq, or fire temple. In Sāmānid and Seljuqid hands, the türbe generally took the form of a small circular or octagonal building, roofed with a turret shaped like the point of a pencil. Mounted on a solid or single-vaulted substructure, its single chamber had a domed ceiling and a mihrab, or niche indicating the direction of Mecca. In the more elaborate türbes, the single door was framed with bands of geometric decoration, and the turret was sometimes ribbed.

Ghaznavids and Ghūrids
      Alp Tigin, a slave of Turkic origin at the Sāmānid court, escaped in AD 962 to Kābul, where he rapidly gained control of the town. He transferred his headquarters to Ghazna (Ghaznī) in central Afghanistan and established his dynasty there. Few Ghaznavid (Ghaznavid Dynasty) works of art have survived, but the admirably proportioned and decorated mortuary (tomb) towers at Ghazna are architectural achievements of great splendour. Still finer is the minaret of Jām, a Ghūrid (Ghūrid Sultanate) structure of the 11th century. Standing alone in a desolate region, it escaped discovery until 1957. It is conjectured that the minaret may mark the position of the lost Ghūrid capital of Fīİūzkūh.

Seljuqs (Seljuq)
      The art of the Seljuqs, who founded kingdoms in Persia, eastern Byzantium, Syria, and Iraq, eclipsed that of the Sāmānids, Ghūrids, and Ghaznavids. They were great architectural patrons and constructed numerous mosques, madrasahs (Islāmic religious schools), hospitals, orphanages, baths, caravansaries, bridges, and türbes notable for their decorative masonry, elaborately ornamented portals, and use of Kūfic script as an architectural decorative device. The Seljuqs also attained a high standard in their decorative arts, especially metalwork, wood carving, and pottery. The Mongols, who terminated the Seljuq period, adopted certain Seljuqid artistic conventions, particularly the use of ornamented portals and glazed-tile paneling.

      Genghis Khan (died 1227), the renowned Mongol conqueror, sacked and destroyed Bukhara in 1224, sparing only the 12th-century Kalyan tower, which was used for throwing criminals to their death. The 14th-century Turkic conqueror Timur, however, endowed Samarkand with new glory by building a series of religious monuments widely renowned for their splendour and decorative use of glazed tiles. In the 16th century Bābur, prince of Fergana, coveted Samarkand. Failing to capture it, he chose Kābul as his headquarters for his conquest of India. His tomb there (he died in 1540) is the only visible testimony to the years he spent in the city.

Emirate of Bukhara
      Although fine-quality pottery decorated with animal, bird, and figural designs was being made in New Nisa in the 15th century, the artistic revival of the Mongol period that Timur had launched in western Turkistan had died out by the 16th century, when the emirate of Bukhara, incorporating much of Sogdiana, was established. Except for gold-thread embroidery and carpet making, in most of Central Asia the visual arts largely stagnated. In Mongolia the conversion of the Buryats to Lamaism in the 18th century brought into their tradition of ornamentation such Tibetan motifs as the lotus, dragon, and lion.

      In 1882 the emirate of Bukhara was incorporated as a Russian state. This political act had little cultural effect, and European art remained unknown to Central Asians. Traditional indigenous architecture of baked or unbaked brick construction was revived in the 18th century. Carved doors and screens were again produced. Old styles of Islāmic script were combined with arabesques to adorn metalwork. Zoomorphic junctures persisted in the animal designs created by metalworkers and potters alike, although the ornaments (jewelry) worn by nomadic women had become so stylized as to have lost all resemblance to the ancient animal motifs from which they were descended. Openwork remained a feature of much of the jewelry, notably of the necklaces formed of small openwork plaques linked by rings or chains.

      Following the Russian Revolution, a new phase of art began in the Soviet-controlled regions of Central Asia. Although the Soviet authorities took steps to maintain the existing carpet and textile industries, they encouraged the inclusion of genre scenes and native animals and vegetation. They also founded schools to train artists in the traditions of European art. Pictorial arts are naturalistic in style, conforming with the principles of social realism as defined by the Soviet authorities. The first Buryat-Mongolian Turkmen (Turkic peoples) painter to achieve distinction in this style was Tsyrenzhap Sampilov.

Arctic regions
      In the arctic zone of Central Asia, the prehistoric age extends from the 3rd millennium BC to the arrival of Europeans around AD 1800. Knowledge of the region's arts is still very limited, for it is wholly dependent upon the sculptures produced by Eskimos (Eskimo) living on the shores and in the hinterland of Siberia and the Bering Strait. These sculptures are mostly in walrus tusk, though wood and reindeer horn examples also exist. The majority are small in size and worked in the round to form terminal ornaments for utilitarian or ceremonial objects or statuettes. The latter are not provided with bases and thus must have been designed to be carried about. Many of the implements are decorated with incised patterns formed chiefly of lines and dots. As in all early arts, the statuettes and terminal ornaments are largely concerned with hunting or the magical practices of shamanism. The earliest and finest statuettes of which there is knowledge are assigned to the Okvik culture, which some scholars date to the pre-Christian era, but which others assign to its early centuries. Okvik art is concerned primarily with the representation of the human figure, differing in that respect from the contemporary or slightly later Old Bering Sea culture, where interest largely centres on animals, such as reindeer, elks, bears, and seals.

      Works of the Okvik and later Arctic schools often depict women, sometimes in the nude, sometimes clothed. The nude figures seldom include more of the arms than shoulder stumps. Their bodies are short and flat, their heads large, pear-shaped, and carefully worked, as are hands when included. The faces are carved and are sometimes incised with lines, probably denoting tattooing. The so-called Okvik Madonna (University of Alaska Museum, Fairbanks) is perhaps the most expressive of these statuettes.

      Some Okvik animal designs are particularly interesting because of certain stylistic details that point to a relationship with works of the Scytho-Siberian school. reindeer are so frequently depicted that the discovery at Pazyryk of a horse's mask in the form of a reindeer's head led to the suggestion that the mask was a survival from a reindeer cult acquired by the Altaians from a northern people such as the Eskimo. That theory has been discounted, yet some Okvik works are undoubtedly related to certain slightly older examples of Siberian metalwork. Thus, the heads of some terminal ornaments bear a close resemblance to those of certain Siberian works. The lozenge-shaped muscles that appear on Eskimo carvings amid lines intended to portray the animal's skeleton are very similar to those of the Pazyryk dot and comma markings. In late- or post-Okvik times certain specifically Eskimo objects, such as masks, were decorated with stylized animal heads executed in relief and accompanied by bosses that recall the Altaic, especially those that reflect Chinese influence. Compositions such as that on an unidentifiable object (possibly a rake or comb) in the University of Alaska Museum, which includes as its central motif the head of an animal resembling a bear or a seal, display a marked affinity with west Siberian ones.

      Climatic changes in the 17th century led to contacts with the outer world in the 19th century and brought the traditional Eskimo school of sculpture to an abrupt end. When, toward the end of the century, art started to revive, it did so under European influence, eventually developing a greater concern for aesthetic than religious considerations. The new style retained much of the directness of approach and formal conventions of the traditional style, but, in addition, there was a greater emphasis on naturalism. Group scenes, too, became popular, as did animal and bird compositions. There has been an extensive production of small sculptures, chiefly of fish, bird, or animal forms, in the 20th century.

Tamara Talbot Rice

Himalayan cultures of Nepal and Tibet
      The art of Nepal is centred in the Kāthmāndu Valley, in an area of less than 250 square miles (650 square kilometres). The artists are Newars (Newar), or Mongoloids, different ethnically from, though partly intermingled with, the peoples of India, whose art they made their own—whether its themes were Hindu or Buddhist.

      There is only one Nepalese architectural style, varied according to its function as private dwelling, palace, Buddhist monastery, or Buddhist or Hindu temple. The style is the protracted local flowering of an Indian architectural tradition—of brick and wood architecture with tiered, sloping roofs—other varieties of which are found in the western Himalayas and in Kerala in the southwest.

      Essentially, there are two kinds of Nepalese Buddhist shrine, or stūpa (stupa) (also called caitya): the large stūpa and the small, monolithic stūpa. Characteristic of the large stūpa like the one at Bodnath is the low base from which it rises and its crowning dome-shape. The small stūpa was generally set in the courtyard of a Buddhist monastery. The extant monasteries, none of which dates earlier than the 14th century, are consistent in their plans and structures. A central courtyard flanked by residential buildings is entered through a gate with a richly carved tympanum (torana) and porch. Opposite the gate and in the centre of the courtyard is the main building, the stūpa; with its one- to three-tiered roof, it rises higher than the buildings that surround it and forms the square of the courtyard. Most Hindu temples are freestanding. The more ancient temples have two superimposed roofs; the later ones are five-roofed temples, given further height by tiered brick socles, or bases. On each story of the towerlike structure, wooden beams and struts (a structural piece designed to resist pressure in the direction of its length) support a widely projected slanting roof, the struts ascending diagonally from the central structure to the edge of the tiled roof. The majestically tapered, ascending profile of the structure, with its strong contrast of light playing on the roofs and masses of shade looming below, is peculiar to Nepal. Rich in textures and colours, the temples are embellished with carved and painted struts, carved doorframes and window frames, and embossed gilded copper sheets. Like the pantheon on the stone temples of India, the pantheon of Nepal is laid out mainly on the exterior of the temple—in contrast to Tibet, where it is displayed on the interior of the temple.

Sculpture and painting (painting, Western)
      Combinations of Hindu and Buddhist iconography came about easily, though there is something facile about them, a smoothness found also in the form of the Nepalese images, which lack the surging dynamism of Indian form. Characteristic of the Nepalese transformation of Indian styles is a loss of depth but a gain in grace. Suavity of line, temperance of modelling, tonal clarity of vivid, contrasting colours raise Nepalese works far above the merely derivative. An indigenous physiognomy, too, modifies the physical formulas for sculpture laid down in India.

      While Nepalese sculpture is known to exist from the 2nd century BC (terra-cotta plaques, a stone bodhisattva, and a Buddha image), it was in the 5th to the 7th centuries BC that stone sculpture in Nepal came into its own. Vishnu Vikrānta (the three strides of Vishnu), dated AD 467, and 6th-century panels illustrating the Kumārasambhava (“Birth of the War-God,” an epic by the 5th-century Indian poet and dramatist Kālidāsa) are masterworks of narrative relief and dramatic mythical composition. On the more intimate level of daily life, sculpture takes the form of the many fountains (fountain) that adorn watering places (pranali) of Nepal. Water spouts forth from makara (Hindu water monster with the body of a crocodile and the head of an elephant) snouts sheathed in gilt copper into reservoirs laid out with architectural dignity. As far as present knowledge goes, Newari (Newar) sculpture was dominated from the 8th century into the 18th by gilt-copper images. In their glowing splendour, the gilt, sometimes jewel-encrusted images embody the Buddhist quality of compassion that leads to enlightenment.

      Painting in Nepal is known from the 11th century on palm leaves and wooden bookcovers of manuscripts, some of them hardly distinguishable, at first, from the Bengali prototypes. The Nepalese style, less nervous, more conscious of the beautiful line and clear, compartmental order of the surface, is fully developed in scrolls, or prabhas (most of them, vertical), on cotton known from the 13th century. These scrolls are of two kinds: one consists of arrays of religious images with a large figure of the main deity in their midst; the other consists of a maṇḍala (mandala), the Hindu and Buddhist symbol of the universe—a circle enclosing a square with the deities disposed within. Narrative panels or sections in the margins of both types of scroll soften the rigour of the composition. While this Nepalese hieratic, or sacerdotal, style was at its peak, a narrative style developed in manuscript illuminations (illuminated manuscript) such as the Hitopadeśa (1594; Kāthmāndu) and horizontal scroll paintings such as the Rathayātrā Scroll (1617; Prince of Wales Museum of Western Bombay). Its planar intricacies reveal a new and vital aspect of Nepalese painting, an immediacy of emotion and action of its protagonists, the figures of which are placed on an opaque, velvety ground. The colours of these book illustrations and scrolls retain the strength and depth of those of the hieratic scrolls, which continued to be painted into the 17th century. The influence of the more realistic Indian, Rajasthani paintings, from the latter part of the 17th century, finally overwhelmed the hieratic style. Its disappearance was further hastened by a wave of Chinese-influenced Tibetan painting.

Stella Kramrisch

      Tibetan art comprises ancient pre-Buddhist decorative and domestic crafts and the all-pervading religious art that was gradually introduced from the 8th century onward from surrounding Buddhist countries and developed subsequently as recognizably distinct Tibetan imagery, sculpture, and decorative architectural motifs. In all its forms Tibetan art has remained subservient to special lay or religious intentions and has never become an art pursued for aesthetic ends alone. The religious art is primarily didactic and symbolic; the lay art, decorative. Therefore, while lay art may be easily appreciated, to understand the significance of the religious art requires knowledge of Tibetan religion and religious symbolism. Since the destruction of Tibetan cultural traditions by Chinese-trained Communists from 1959 onward, a greater interest has arisen in the West in the surviving Tibetan objets d'art preserved in museums and private collections.

      Up to the 9th century AD, Tibet was open to cultural influence from Central Asia, especially Khotān, and from China. For two centuries, up to the collapse of the old Tibetan kingdom in 842, the Tibetans controlled the whole Takla Makan and the important trade routes from the Middle East to China. Stone carving and metalwork were certainly practiced in the pre-Buddhist period, and Persian, Indian, and Chinese influences, all received through Central Asia, have been noted.

      The introduction of Buddhism from the 8th century onward led to the arrival in Tibet of Buddhist craftsmen from Central Asia and later from Nepal and northwest India, all of which were then Buddhist lands. Some cast images from this first Buddhist period may survive in Lhasa. After 842, central Tibet dissolved into political chaos for over 100 years, and from the 10th century onward the cultural initiative passed to a line of kings in western Tibet. For temple decorations, such as wood carving of doorways and posts, decorative painting on ceilings and woodwork, temple frescoes, and terra-cotta and stucco images, they drew heavily on the cultural resources of pre-Islāmic Kashmir. Surviving monasteries and temples, with their magnificent contents, were made known to the Western world in the 1930s. With the establishment of religious hegemonies in central Tibet from the 11th century onward, cultural contacts with Nepal and the Buddhist centres in the main Ganges Valley flourished as never before. Conversely, cultural contacts with China dwindled for several centuries, at least in central and southern Tibet. From this time until the 20th century, Tibetan religious art and Nepalese Buddhist art remained a single unified tradition. Meanwhile, eastern Tibet, where the ancient pre-Buddhist crafts of metalwork had never died out, began to develop religious styles under the influence of craftsmen from central Tibet. From that time, the spread of Tibetan culture and art became coterminous with the spread of Tibetan religion; and, thus, from the 13th century onward, when Tibetan lamas began to convert the Mongols (Mongol), Mongolian religious art developed as a branch of Tibetan art. Through the Mongols, China began to extend its political influence over Tibet, and this led to a steady increase in Chinese cultural influence, especially in the east. From 1721, when the Chinese emperors became the suzerains of Tibet, Chinese influence was felt much more strongly throughout central as well as eastern Tibet, and Tibetan religious paintings and especially domestic decoration reveal distinct Chinese features.

      In the main temple (fo-khang) of Lhasa there is a pre-Buddhist silver jug with a long neck surmounted by a horse's head; and there are textual references to all kinds of articles made of gold: a large golden goose holding seven gallons of wine, a wine vase, a miniature city decorated with gold lions, and golden bowls. Gold animals (animal) are mentioned as decorating the camp of King Ral-pa-can when a Chinese envoy visited him in 821. These early Tibetan skills lived on through the Buddhist period. Tibetan metalworkers have excelled in producing fine things for ritual and domestic use: ritual lamps, vases, bowls, bells, prayer wheels, decorated trumpets and horns, for the temples, and, for home use, ornamented teapots, jars, bowls, ladles, and especially beautiful stands, often in silver or gold, to hold porcelain teacups, capped by finely worked lids of precious metals. Hand-woven rugs of magnificent Central Asian and Chinese designs, always adapted to Tibetan preferences, cover low seats, and tables and cabinets of carved and painted wood were commonplace in prosperous homes.

      From the 7th to 9th centuries there survive pre-Buddhist carved-stone pillars decorated with Chinese, Central Asian, and Indian motifs and also a stone lion showing traces of Persian influence.

      The art of casting images in bronze and other metals (metalwork) entered Tibet from Nepal and India. Having first followed foreign models, the Tibetans gradually developed their own styles and began to depict their own lamas and teachers as well as the vast pantheon of buddhas, gods, and goddesses inherited from India, each distinguished iconographically by posture, hand gestures, and accoutrements. (Of lesser divinities and especially of lamas, the identification is often difficult. It is rare that an image is named in an inscription and even rarer to find a date. Because of the extremely conservative nature of Tibetan art, correct dating within several centuries is often impossible.) Images of vast size, rising up through two or three stories, are quite often seen in Tibetan temples, and their construction and dedication is considered a work of vast religious merit.

      Since images are mainly cast or molded, carving is restricted to decorative motifs, especially on wooden pillars and roof beams. Wood carving and terra-cotta, particularly in western and southern Tibet, were common. papier-mâché, elaborately painted, was also used for masks of divinities. This use presumably originated in Kashmir.

Painting: frescoes (fresco painting) and temple banners
      Temple interiors (interior design) are usually covered with frescoes and often hung with painted banners, or tanka ( thang-ka). For the preparation of the latter, a taut cotton cloth is impregnated with a mixture of chalk and glue, rubbed smooth by some suitable object; for example, a flat polished stone. A religious painter trained in the tradition draws in the outline, often using printed designs for the main figures. There is no scope for originality so far as the iconographic details of divinities are concerned, and, thus, such painting is a highly skilled craft. For decorative details—for example, flowers, cloud effects, rocks, and groups of devotees—there is wider scope. The tradition of fresco painting and temple banners certainly goes back to that of the great Buddhist monasteries of northwest India and the Ganges Valley, but these Indian origins of the 9th to 12th centuries are now entirely lost. The Indian Buddhist paintings of Ajanta are of a much earlier period (up to the 6th century AD), thus predating the great increase in the Buddhist pantheon and in occult symbolism typical of the later Indian Buddhism received by the Tibetans (Tibetan Buddhism). Central Asian styles certainly reached central Tibet well before the 9th century, but, after that date, it was India and Nepal that were to have lasting influences on the development of Tibetan art. In more recent times, especially from the 18th century onward, Chinese influence became noticeable in the details of paintings, particularly in the freer but still balanced arrangement of the main figures and the use of Chinese-style landscapes as subsidiary decoration. With the disappearance of Buddhism from Central Asia and India from the 12th century onward, Tibetan art developed as a style exclusive to the Tibetans, the Newari Buddhists of the Nepal Valley, and the Tibetan converts of Mongolia.

Decorative architectural (architecture) motifs
      For temples, monasteries, and official residences such as the Potala Palace of the Dalai Lama in Lhasa, the Tibetans (Tibet) used their own solid indigenous styles but embellished these with Indian, Nepalese, and (very much later) Chinese motifs. Tiered, ornamented temple roofs are of Indian origin, as received through Nepal and later through China. The magnificent interior carving is of Indian and Nepalese inspiration.

David Llewelyn Snellgrove

Additional Reading

Turkish literature
Philologiae Turcicae Fundamenta, vol. 2 (1965), a collection of monographs on literatures of Turkish-speaking peoples—see Alessio Bombaci, “The Turkic Literatures: Notes on the History and Style”; also his Letteratura turca (1969), an important survey with several chapters on Central Asian Turkish literature; Janos Eckmann, Chagatay Manual (1966), mainly a grammar containing selections of Central Asian literary texts and a vocabulary; Talat Tekin, A Grammar of Orkhon Turkic (1968), an excellent introduction to the language and literature of the Central Asian Turks before Islām; Sir Gerard Clauson, An Etymological Dictionary of Pre-13th Century Turkish (1972), and Turkish and Monogolian Studies (1962); and the Handbuch der Orientalistik, vol. 5, pt. 1 (1963), three important studies of the arts of the Central Asian peoples; E. Denison Ross, “The Tonyukuk Inscription,” Bulletin of the School of Oriental Studies (London University), vol. 6 (1930), English translation of one of the oldest Turkish inscriptions. (Tibetan literature): J. Bacot, F.W. Thomas, and G.C. Toussaint, Documents de Touen-houang relatifs à l'histoire du Tibet, (1940); J. Bacot, Trois mystères tibétains (1921); W.Y. Evans Wentz (ed.), Tibetan Yoga and Secret Doctrines (1935), The Tibetan Book of the Dead, 3rd ed. (1957), The Tibetan Book of the Great Liberation (1954), Tibet's Great Yogi Milarepa, 2nd ed. (1951); H.V. Guenther, The Jewel Ornament of Liberation by sGam-po-pa (1959), and The Life and Teaching of Nāropa (1963). E. Obermiller, History of Buddhism by Bu-ston (1931); G.N. Roerich, The Blue Annals of gZhon-nu-dpal (1949, 1953); D.S. Ruegg, The Life of Bu-ston Rin-po-che (1966); R.A. Stein, Tibetan Civilization (1972); G.C. Toussaint, Le Dict de Padma (1933); T.V. Wylie, The Geography of Tibet According to the 'Dzam-ling rgyas-bshad (1963). (Mongolian literature): Richard P. Lister, The Secret History of Genghis Khan (1969), a retelling of the ancient chronicle of Genghis' life and successors; Charles R. Bawden, The Mongol Chronicle Altan Tobči (1955), a translation with notes of a major native historical work incorporating folk elements; The Mongolia Society, Mongolian Folktales, Stories, and Proverbs in English Translation (1967), a small collection of typical old tales; Ts. Zhamtsarano, The Mongol Chronicles of the Seventeenth Century, trans. by Rudolf Loewenthal (1955), a description of five major historical chronicles; Walther Heissig, “Mongolische Literature,” in Altaistik, vol. 5 of the Handbuch der Orientalistik, pt. 2, pp. 227–274 (1964), the best overall general sketch; Ludmilla K. Gerasimovich, History of Modern Mongolian Literature, 1921–1964 (1970; originally published in Russian), a careful survey of the modern decades and writers.

Richard A. Waterman et al., “Bibliography of Asiatic Musics,” 13th installment, Notes of the Music Library Association, 8:100–118 (1950); Mark Slobin, “Zentralasien,” in Die Musik in Geschichte und Gegenwart, vol. 14 (1968), see sect. 1, “Afghanistan and the Sedentary Population of Turkestan”; and Record notes for “Afghanistan,” vol. 1–4, series Anthology of the World's Music, include photographs, musical illustrations; H.G. Farmer, “Turkestani Music,” Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 5th ed., vol. 8, pp. 610–612 (1954), historical background and general information; A. Huth, “Instruments of East Turkestan,” ibid., pp. 608–610, historical background; Johanna Spector, “Musical Tradition and Innovation,” in Edward Allworth (ed.), Central Asia: A Century of Russian Rule, pp. 434–484 (1967), detailed information on Turkistani music, with emphasis on the court tradition, including excellent illustrations and charts. (Music of the Turkic nomads, Mongolia, and Siberia): Ernst Emsheimer et al., The Music of the Mongols (1943, reprinted 1971), the classic work; Mark Slobin, Kirgiz Instrumental Music (1969), detailed study of one Central Asian tradition. (Music of the Himalayan peoples): P. Crossley-Holland, “Tibetan Music,” Grove's Dictionary of Music and Musicians, vol. 8, pp. 456–464, a thorough basic survey; Luther G. Jerstad, Mani-rimdu: Sherpa Dance-Drama (1969), a thorough account of a specific Himalayan tradition.

Dance and theatre
Mircea Eliade, Le Chamanisme et les techniques archaïques de l'extase (1951; 2nd ed., 1968; Eng. trans., Shamanism: Archaic Techniques of Ecstasy, rev. ed., 1964), a classic study of the rituals, costumes, and symbolisms of shamanic performances; Luther G. Jerstad (op. cit.), an analytical and descriptive study of 'cham as performed in the Tengpoche monastery of northern Nepal. Materials and translations of some morality plays have been published by Marion H. Duncan in his Harvest Festival Dramas of Tibet (1955) and More Harvest Festival Dramas of Tibet (1967); and a study of the “Moon-cuckoo” play of the Mongols has been published in Japanese by Hidehiro Okada. Information on the performing arts may be found scattered in various other publications, but it is usually descriptive in nature and deals with only one genre. As yet no scholar has carried out a comprehensive analytical study of the origins and interrelations of dance and theatre in Central Asian regions.

Visual arts
Aleksandr Belenitsky, Central Asia (Eng. trans. 1969), a short general survey of the area and its art; M.P. Griaznov and A.P. Bulgakov, L'Art ancien de l'Altai (1958), a helpful introduction to the subject (in Russian and French); Basil Gray, Buddhist Cave Paintings at Tun-huang (1959), a scholarly study; René Grousset, L'Empire des steppes: Attila, Gengis-Khan, Tamerlan, 4th ed. (1960; Eng. trans., The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia, 1970), and De la Grèce á la Chine (1948), especially useful historical surveys; Ormonde M. Dalton, The Treasure of the Oxus, 3rd ed. (1964), a specialized and authoritative survey of this collection of objects; Richard N. Frye, The Heritage of Persia (1962), a helpful widely embracing survey of the Persian culture; Bruno Dagens, Marc Le Berre, and Daniel Schlumberger, Monuments préislamiques d'Afghanistan (1964), an aid to understanding Kushān art; Karl Jettmar, Die frühen Steppenvölker (1964; Eng. trans., Art of the Steppes, 1967), a useful survey of nomadic animal art; Albert Von Le Coq, Auf Hellas Spuren in Oltturkistan (1926; Eng. trans., Buried Treasures of Chinese Turkestan, 1928), of great importance for the work in this area; Sergei Rudenko, Frozen Tombs of Siberia: The Pazyryk Burials of Iron Age Horsemen (1970; orig. pub. in Russian, 1953), indispensable to the student of Altaic nomads; Tamara Talbot Rice, The Ancient Arts of Central Asia (1965), a useful introduction to the subject; W.W. Tarn, The Greeks in Bactria and India (1938),still an indispensable work; David L. Snellgrove and Hugh E. Richardson, A Cultural History of Tibet (1968), a general work that helps to place the various expressions of Tibetan art in an historical context—the index may be consulted for carving, metalwork, painting, and carpets; Giuseppe Tucci, Tibetan Painted Scrolls, 3 vol. (1949), the classic work on Tibetan religious painting; and Indo-Tibetica, 4 vol. (1932–41), a basic work (in Italian) for anyone seriously interested in Tibetan art, consisting largely of photographic plates, unobtainable elsewhere, and records of Tucci's early researches into Tibetan art history. George Roerich, Tibetan Paintings (1925), a useful introductory work containing 17 plates and detailed description; Walter Eugene Clark (ed.), Two Lamaistic Pantheons, 2 vol. (1937, reprinted in 1 vol., 1965), a detailed study of two sets of metal cast images useful for iconographic identifications; Alice Getty, The Gods of Northern Buddhism, 2nd ed. (1928, reprinted 1962), an old but useful work that relates the main Tibetan Buddhas and divinities to their corresponding forms in Indian, Chinese, and Japanese tradition; B.B. Bhattacharyya, The Indian Buddhist Iconography, 2nd ed. rev. (1958), an indispensable introduction; Stella Kramrisch, The Art of Nepal (1964), the first stylistic history; Pratapaditya Pal, Vaiṣṇava Iconology in Nepal (1970), an important contribution to the structure of meaning in the images of Vishnu; David L. Snellgrove, “Shrines and Temples of Nepal,” Arts Asiatiques, 8:3–10, 93–120 (1961); an introductory survey; D. Barrett, “The Buddhist Art of Tibet and Nepal,” Oriental Art (1957), a chronological study.Tamara Talbot Rice Mark S. Slobin Turrell V. Wylie Stella Kramrisch David Llewelyn Snellgrove John Richard Krueger Fahir İz

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  • Asian cinema — refers to the film industries and films produced in the continent of Asia. More commonly however, it is used to refer to the cinema of Eastern, Southeastern, South Asia, Afghanistan, and Iran. Sometimes West Asians are thought of as Middle… …   Wikipedia

  • Central Asia, history of — Introduction       history of the area from prehistoric and ancient times to the present.       In its historical application the term Central Asia designates an area that is considerably larger than the heartland of the Asian continent. Were it… …   Universalium

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