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Digging up the Buddhist past

Archaeologists unearth intriguing clues hinting at a legacy of architectural achievement, Wang Ru reports.

By Wang Ru | China Daily | Updated: 2024-04-18 05:49

A bird's-eye view of the foundations of the Mo'er Temple Site in Kashgar, Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Editor's note: April 18 is the International Day for Monuments and Sites. To mark the occasion, China Daily's reporters have interviewed those involved with protecting the heritage of ancient civilizations to explore how the sites inspire us today.

On the wind-swept desert outskirts of Kashgar in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, the remains of two towers have long stood in defiance of the elements. Local residents call them mo'er, which means "chimney" in the Uygur language, and regard them as ancient emplacements, but nobody knows for sure what exactly they were.

When Xiao Xiaoyong, an archaeology professor at the Minzu University of China in Beijing visited the site in 2019, he initially thought there might not be any key findings, as he only saw two pagodas and some low mounds with shapes he couldn't exactly describe. But his later work proved that he was wrong.

Several days after they started excavations in 2019, Xiao realized the importance of the site, as they discovered buried walls.

About two weeks later, they began unearthing exquisite Buddhist statues, which shocked not only them, but also the local authorities.

Since then, during the course of four excavations over the past five years, more than 10,000 precious artifacts have been unearthed, including ceramics, wooden pieces, stone, bronze and bone artifacts, the remains of fabric made from silk and hemp, and fragments of statues.

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