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DANDAN-UILIQ

 
 

Dandan-uiliq was a ruin Stein excavated during his first expedition located about half way between the Khotan and Keriya Rivers and south of a line between Mazar-tagh and Kara Dong. He described the work in chapter IX of Ancient Khotan. from which the account below is taken.

 
 

Dandan-uiliq is now called Dandan-Oilik. Tourists can visit the location from Khotan - Hotan.

 
 

Stein engaged the local Ak-sakal of Afghan traders, one Badruddin Khan, to send parties of 'treasure seekers' into the desert to locate potential ancient sites worth excavating. When Stein returned to Khotan in November the results were offered. The most promising result was offered by Turdi Khwaja, a resident of Tawakkel and a professional explorer with long experience in the desert, who already had visited such places. Turdi turned out to be one of Stein's best assistants in these explorations. He advised a visi to Dandan-uliq (houses of ivory). It turned out that this location had been discovered by Dr Hedin by accident in 1896 and his two guides were found. Moreover, the samples produced by Turdi convinced the local Chinese Amban - Pan ta'jen - of the potential of such explorations in the desert so that adequate labor was made available. Stein spent a week after 29 November writing reports of results to date. He also had to reorganize his baggage in order to take the minimum essential into the desert on camels. He left Khotan on 7 December for Dandan-uliq via Tawakkel. They crossed the Yurung-kash to Tawakkel, a recent colony in reclaimed desert. There he hired laborers for excavation teams. Stein spent 11 December at At-bashi organizing the 30 laborers and collecting a month's food supply. Eight camels were insufficient for the load so a dozen donkeys were hired as well and the ponies were sent back to Khotan. They started into the desert on 12 December. Meanwhile Stein had sent Ram Singh on another surveying route through the mountains east of Khotan before turning north to rejoin the party. The march to Dandan- uiliq took 5 days through empty sand dunes. Water was found on this route by digging wells to a depth of 7 feet. The daytime temperature remained below freezing and at night reached -10 degrees. On 18 December they reached the remains. The area containing the ruined buildings was 1.5 miles from north to south and about a mile east to west. immediately two Chinese copper coins of 713-741 were found. Once unloaded at the site the camels were sent on to the Keriya Darya for rest, water and fodder. The donkeys were sent back to Tawakkel


Stein got to work promptly on December 19th with the assistance of Turdi Khwaja who could indicate the best specific places to excavate starting with a Buddhist shrine. This consisted of an inner room surrounded by an outer corridor. Both inner and outer walls consisted of a wood frame with reed matting covered with rough clay plaster. These were covered with plaster of Paris fresco decorations of Buddhas and Bodhisattvas. Remarkably the color of many decorations was preserved. The uniformity of many stucco items indicated that they were made in moulds. Other decorations were produced by using stencils. Stein includes these in the illustrations. After describing both the excavation methods and results of work at D1 he continues to DII a much better preserved shrine. Because that building was more deeply buried in sand the decorations on walls were better preserved. Unfortunately a huge statue of the Buddha was not so protected which resulted in only the feet remaining.

Excavations on 20 and 21 December revealed another shrine containing many artistic items which Stein describes as usual. Again, many were small relief Buddhas or Bodhisattvas. Stein notes the similarity of the artistic style here to that of Gandhara. One relief, he notes, depicts two soldiers wearing coats of mail the look like Greeks with lower armor plates in horizontal rows and upper armor resembling a lorica with scales in vertical order exactly like armor worn by figures in the museum at Lahore. Stein considers that there is a representation of Kubera - Vaisravana - the most prominent of the four Yaksa kings or Lokapalas who was worshiped at Khotan. Vaisravana is depicted on one of the pillars. Stein continues with detailed interpretations of many items based on Buddhist mythology.


In addition to Buddhist art Stein found many ancient documents, among them some of the most significant finds. On December 22 he proceeded to another ruined building DIII expecting to find a former dwelling. This structure measured 23 feet east to west and near 20 feet north to south. In this one Stein found Buddhist texts in Proto-Tibetan language. Other documents were in Brahmi alphabet and Eastern Iranian language. Sanscrit documents of the 7th to 8th century were also uncovered. Stein uncovered a kitchen complete with many utensils and supports. He also found more shrines among the ruined buildings. He found also painted wooden blocks. Among the representations Stein identifies Vajrapani, Manjusri, Maitreya and Avalokiesvara.


Stein next shifted work to ruins east north east of the camp, Div and Dv. They yielded some wood paintings and tablets and Brahmi documents. A Chinese document was also found. It was a private petition to recover a donkey and dated from 781 AD. It remarkably corresponded with other documents Turdi had recovered and sold some years past. Stein continues with discussion of many more documents. From these Stein dates the closing of the site to shortly after 781- 790. And he believes that the Brahmi script documents in Iranian language then date the same as the Chinese documents, indicating that the Iranian language was still spoken there at the end of the 8th century.
Stein recovered a significant harvest of relics from another groups of buildings designated Dvi and Dviii. The lower part of the walls still had their fresco decorations. He found manuscripts as well. These related to a Buddhist monastery.

This section deals with various other ruined buildings that Sten excavated. All are described in detail. He notes in this section that Ram Singh arrived on 24 December from his extensive survey route from the east - the Keriya River route. He records his general conclusions. He again proposes that Dandan-uiliq was abandoned near the end of the 8th century, shortly after 790. The documents also indicate that there was a Chinese garrison with Chinese control at that time. Stein connects this abandonment with the major political changes that took place in T'and China at that time. This was the period of the Tibetan invasion and collapse of T'ang power in the Tarim. The loss of population and effective political control would result in the desert gaining an upper hand due to failure to maintain irrigation canals and reduced water supply. Stein notes that Dandan is on the highest ground, the watershed between the Keriay Darya and the Yurung-kash and that this would be the logical location for a line of canal coming from the south. Thus the permanent abandonment of the location centuries later is likely due to the change over that time period in the climate and reduction of the amount of water available at the oases due south.

Stein finished work at Dandan on 3 January and set out north to Rawak on the 4th.

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Detail from map in Ancient Khotan showing Keriya and Keriya river with area west to Gulakhma and Domodo - in the desert to the north is Dandan-uiliq

 
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The section of Stein's map of Khotan area showing Keriya and the Keriya river flowing north into the desert -Dandan-uiliq is at north-west edge.

 
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The south west corner of the Takla Makan bordered on south by the Kun-lun and west by the Pamirs - This shows Stein's routes from Yarkand through Kargahlik and Guma to Khotan along the edge of the desert and also his route between Yarkand and Khotan through the mountains. South of Khotan it shows Stein's multiple routes through, around and over passes while searching for the river headwaters. At the lower left side is the caravan route to the Karakoram Dawan (pass). North of Khotan Mazar Tagh appears on the Khotan River. Stein's routes between Khotan and Keriya are both along the desert and through the foothillls. North of Keriya is Kara-dong on the Kariya River. Between the rivers is Dandan-uiliq. Rawak Stupa is north of Khotan

 
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The section of Stein's map showing the area north of Keriya - along the Keriya river -Dandan-uiliq and the smaller Rawak are at center north side - But the larger Rawak-Vihara is north of Aksipil - north of Khotan - on the west site - Domoko is a bit west of Keriya

 
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Plate - Plan of ruined site at Dandan-uiliq

 
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Ancient Khotan 28 - Ruins of Buddhist shrine D ii, Dandan-uiliq, seen from south before excavation. Stein was led to these sites by local 'treasure seekers' who noticed the tops of the buried building posts in the otherwise empty sand dunes.

 
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Ancient Khotan 29 - Ruins of Buddhist shrine D ii, Dandan-uiliq, seen from north-east after excavation - Compare this with the previous photo of the same place still buried in sand. These excavation projects were laborous as the sand would flow back in. But they revealed information that astounded contemporary Europe. Stein always made personal friends of the local Chinese officials whose support was essential for him to obtain laborers and logistic support.

 
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Ancient Khotan 30 - Fresco and relief sculpture in small cella of shrine D ii, Dan-dan-uiliq - The amount of original art work remaining toward the bottom of these buildings depended on how fast the sand came in after the roof and upper reaches collapsed in which case the sand could protect the remaining items.

 
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Ancient Khotan 31 - Small cella of Buddhist shrine D ii, Dandan-uiliq, seen from west after excavation - Another view of the work site.

 
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Ancient Khotan 32 - Ruined dwelling D, iii, Dandan-uiliq, in course of excavation

 
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Ancient Khotan 33 - Interior of ruined dwelling D iii, Dandan-uiliq, after excavation - the same building as in previous photo

 
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Ancient Khotan 34 - Remains of ruined shrine D. iv, Dandan-uiliq

 
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Ancient Khotan 35 - remains of eastern portion of ruined dwelling D. v, Dandan-uiliq - before excavation

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II, LIII - Stucco relief of Buddha or Bodhisattva from shrine D II, Dandan-uiliq

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II, LIX Portion of fresco painting on stucco, with inscription from wall of shrine D. ii, Dandan-uiliq - and Painted panel, from ruined dwelling, Dandan-uiliq

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II, LXI - from ruined dwelling ,Dandan-uiliq. Reverse of painted panel D viii 6 from ruined dwelling at Dandan-uiliq - The other side (obverse)shows a 3 -headed demon. Stien considered this illustration so significant he included in several of his books. He writes that when he found it he was very nonplused as to its iconography. The figure is not Indian, nor Turkish nor Chinese but Persian. He is wearing the gold triple crown of A Sasanian king of kings. - He is a divinity (Buddhist Bodhisattva) as shown by the four arms. He ollds a curved sword, a drining cup and a spear head - but in the upper right hand raised the image is too damaged to tell what he is holding. He has a black beard and mustache and ruddy face. The narrow waist is Persian as are thebrocaded coat and top boots. The panel was a votive deposit at the temple. It was not until 15 years later, while Stein was completing his third expedition by exploring in Sistan - southeastern Iran that he solved the riddle. There at Kol-i-khwaja he found a large mural hidden behind a false wall. The immage was the same. And at that point he recognised it was a depiction of the Persian epic hero, Rustam, described among other places in Fidausi's Shan-nana. In his upraised right hand Rustam holds the ox-head mace. Stein notes that the period of occupation of Dandan-uiliq is approximately the same as that of Koh-i-khwaja indicating the artistic influence had spread widely..

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II - Observse of painted panel D vii 6 from ruined dwelling Dandan-uiliq

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II - II - Fresco and stucco relief in small cella of shrine D II, Dandan-uiliq -

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II - IIIa - Fresco from outer south wall of passage, hrine D. II, Dandan-uiliq

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II - IIIb - Frescos on inner walls of passage, shrine D.II, Dandan-uiliq, seen from south-east - Stein drew attention to the use of template and multiple copies of the figure.

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II - Va - Fresco on the south wall of cella D. xii, Dandan-uliq

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II Vb - Ruined cells D. xii, Dandan-uiliq, after excavation

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II, XXV - Plan of southern group of ruined buildings, Dandan-Uiliq

 
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Ancient Khotan Vol II, XXVI - Plan of ruined structures D vi, D vii, Dandan-Uiliq - Plan of ruined shrine and house D iv, D v, Dandan-Uiliq

 
     
     
     

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