Freer Gallery of Art Arthur M Sackler Gallery Gallery Guide Cave as Canvas: Hidden Images of Worship along the ancient Silk Routes
Cave as Canvas: Hidden Images of Worship along the Ancient Silk Routes
The Rediscovery of Qizil
Beginning in the late nineteenth century, Western explorers and archaeologists took an intense interest in Chinese Central Asia. Initially, scholar-explorers such as Aurel Stein, and Paul Pelliot entered this region to conduct archaeological exploration and fieldwork. Between 1902 and 1914, a German expedition team headed by Albert Grünwedel and Albert von le Coq staged four campaigns to investigate various sites in the Turfan oasis and around the city of Kucha. During their third expedition, guided by local informants, the German team discovered hundreds of rock-cut cave temples at Qizil. Albert von le Coq wrote of his discovery: "Everywhere we found fresh, untouched temples, full of the most interesting and artistically perfect paintings, all of early date." Some of the wall paintings were subsequently removed and transported to Berlin; today they can be seen in the Museum für Indische Kunst in Dahlem.

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