The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage Project 
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Chinese Sources

Select Annotated Bibliography of Publications on Early Islamic period Chinese Texts and Material Culture concerning Bactria/Tokharistan (with a special emphasis on Balkh) until the middle of the 10th century AD (prepared by Tasha Vorderstrasse).

I. Primary Sources

IA. Histories

Wang Pu. Tang huiyao. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju (1955), partial ed. and trans. S. Stark. Transoxanien nach dem Tang Huiyao des Wang Pu: Übersetzung und Kommentar. Norderstedt: Books on Demand GmbH (2009).

This book contains an institutional history of the Tang Dynasty compiled by Wang Pu and given to the Song dynasty emperor Taizong in 961.

Liu Xu, et al. Jiu Tangshu. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju (1975).
Old Book of Tang, it was written between 936-946 and focused on the history of the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

Ouyang Xiu and Song Qi. Xin Tangshu. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju (1975).
New Book of Tang, concerned the history of the Tang dynasty (618-907) and was presented to the emperor in 1060.

Sima Guang, et al. Zizhi Tongjian. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju (1986), partial trans. J. P. Yap. Wars With the Xiongnu, A Translation from Zizhi tongjian. Bloomington: AuthorHouse (2009).

"This Comprehensive Mirror to Aid in Government" was published in 1084, after the Song emperor ordered scholars to publish a universal history of China. The text covers Chinese history from 403 BC-959 AD.

IB. Encyclopedia, Miscellanies, etc.

Duan Chengshi. Youyang zazu, complete trans. Imamura Y. Yuyo zasso. Tokyo: Heibansha (1980-1981), partial trans. C. E. Reed. Chinese Chronicles of the Strange: The "Nuogao ji". Asian Thought and Culture Vol. 44. New York, Washington D. C., Baltimore, and Bern: Peter Lang (2001).

This work was compiled by Duan Chengshi (ca. 800-863), and consists of about 1400 entries of stories that he had observed, read about, or heard. The subject matter is extremely varied.

Li Fang. Taiping guangji. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju (1961).

This was a collection of stories that was compiled and first published in 978. The stories that were selected date from the Han dynasty until the early Song dynasty.

Wang Qinruo, et al. Cefu Yuangui. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju (1994).

This encyclopedia was compiled during the Song dynasty and was begun in 1005 and finished in 1013.

IC. Religious Texts

Fazang. Ru Lengqiexin xuanyi (Mysterious Meanings in Entering the Heart of the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra). Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo vol. 39, text. no. 1790. Tokyo: Taisho Issaikyo Kankokai (1924-1932).

Written in 704-705, this commentary on the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra, provides information about Fazang's collaboration with Mituoshan in the last years of the reign of Empress Wu (700-705).

Huichao. Wang wu Tianzhuguo zhuan, trans. Fuchs, W. "Huei-Ch'ao's Pilgerreise durch Nordwest-Indian und Zentral-Asien um 726." Sonderausgabe aus den Sitzungsberichten der Preussischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, Philosophisch-historische Klasse XXX (1938): 426-469 and trans. and ed. Yang Han-Sung, Jan Yünn-Hua and Iida Shotaro and L. W. Preston. The Hye-Ch'o Diary: Memoir of the Pilgrimage to the Five Regions of India. Religions of Asia Series Number 2. Seoul: Asian Humanities Press (1985).

Huichao (or Hyecho in Korean, who lived from 700-780 or 704-787) was a monk from the Silla kingdom of Korea (668-935 AD), who recorded a journey to India and left this record of his travels. The only known surviving copy of this text was discovered in Dunhuang.

Mituoshan (Mitrasena or Mistrasanta) and Fazang. Wugou Jingguang [da] tuoluoni jing (trans. of Sanskrit Raśmivimalaviśuddhaprabhādhāranī sūtra).

Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo vol. 19, text. no. 1024. Tokyo: Taisho Issaikyo Kankokai (1924-1932).

Chinese translation from Sanskrit made by Tocharian monk Mituoshan (Mitrasena) with the assistance of Fazang, in 704. Copies of this text have been found in Dunhuang (see Teiser, S. F. The Scripture and the Making of Purgatory in Medieval Chinese Buddhism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press (1994), and most famously, in Korea. The text from Korea was found in the reliquary of the Sǒkkat'ap at Pulguksa in Kyǒngju and is the earliest woodblock text that can be dated (it dates to ca. 704/705 AD).

Ṡikṣānanda, Mitrasena, and Fazhang. Dacheng ru lengqie jing (Chinese translation of Sanskrit Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra. Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo vol. 16, text. no. 672. Tokyo: Taisho Issaikyo Kankokai (1924-1932)
This translation appeared in 704 and the Empress Wu herself wrote a preface to the translation.

Yijing. Da Tang Xiyu qiufa gaoseng zhuan. Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo vol. 51, text no. 2066. Tokyo: Taisho Issaikyo Kankokai (1924-1932) and Wang Bangwei (ed.) Da Tang Xiyu qiufa gaoseng zhuan jiaozhu. Beijing: Zhonghua Shuju (1983), trans. L. Lahiri, Chinese Monks in India: Biography of Eminent Monks Who Went to the Western World in Search of the Law during the Great T'ang Dynasty. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass (1986). See also Wang Bangwei. Da Tang Xiyu qiufa gaoseng zhuan jiaozhu. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju (1988).

Yijing (635-713), visited India between 671-695. In addition to his descriptions of his travel there, he also compiled together biographies of Chinese monks who went to India.

Zanning. Song Gaoseng zhuan. Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo vol. 50, text. no. 2061. Tokyo: Taisho Issaikyo Kankokai (1924-1932).

Biographies of Song monks compiled during the Song period by the monk Zanning (919-1001). The biographies were primarily compiled from the Tang period (618-907) and were finished in 988.

Zhisheng. Xu Gujin yijing tuji. Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo vol. 55, text. no. 2053. Tokyo: Taisho Issaikyo Kankokai (1924-1932)T. 55

Kaiyuan shijiao lu. Taisho Shinshu Daizokyo vol. 55, text. no. 2154. Tokyo: Taisho Issaikyo Kankokai (1924-1932).

Zhisheng fl. circa 730 and the Buddhist catalogue in the Kaiyuan era (Kaiyuan shijiao lu) is considered his most important work, which he composed around 730. Xu Gujin yijing tuji is another catalogue. He collected together all available Buddhist catalogues, which had been written to record both translated and Chinese Buddhist texts, and made a comparative study of these materials. The catalogue notes scriptures and then gives a biography of the translators.

II. Secondary Sources

Barrett, T. H. "Stūpa, sūtra and śarira in China, c. 656-706 C. E." Buddhist Studies Review 18 (2001): 1-64. Reprinted in Buddhism: Critical Concepts in Religious Studies, ed. P. Williams,12-55. Abingdon and New York: Routledge (2005).

Bielenstein, H. Diplomacy and Trade in the Chinese World, 589-1276. Handbook of Oriental Studies Section 4: China. Leiden: Brill (2005).

van Bladel, K. "The Bactrian Background of the Barmakids." In Islam and Tibet: Interactions along the Musk Routes, ed. A. Akasoy, C. Burnett, and Y. Yoeli-Tlalim, 43-88. Farnham: Ashgate (2011).

Chavannes, E. Documents sur les Tou-Kiue (Turcs) occidentaux: recueilles et commentés, suivi de notes additionelles. St. Petersburg: Commissionaires de l'Académie impériale des sciences (1903).

Chavannes, E. and P. Pelliot. "Un traité manichéen retrouvé en Chine, traduit et annoté." Journal Asiatique (1913): 99-394.

Chen Jinhua. "Fazang (643-712): The Holy Man." Journal of the International Association of Buddhist Studies 28 (2005): 11-84.

"A Korean Biography of a Sogdian Monk in China: Ch'oe Ch'wǒn's Biography of Fazang, its Values and Limitations." Journal of Asian History 41 (2007): 156-188.

Philosopher, Practitioner, Politician: The Many Lives of Fazang (643-712). Leiden: Brill (2007).

Compareti, M. "The Last Sasanians in China." Eurasian Studies 2 (2003): 197-213.
"Chinese-Iranian Relations xv. The Last Sasanians in China." In Encyclopaedia Iranica online (2009).

Daffinà, P. "La Persia sassanide secondo le fonti cinesi." Rivista degli Studi Orientali 57 (1983): 121-70.

Grenet, F. "Nezak." In Encyclopaedia Iranica on-line (2002).

"Regional Interaction in Central Asia and North-West India in the Kidarite and Hephthalite Period." In Indo-Iranian Languages and Peoples, ed. N. Sims-Williams, 203-224. Proceedings of the British Academy 116. Oxford: Oxford University Press (2002).

Hansen, V. "The Impact of the Silk Road Trade on a Local Community: The Turfan Oasis, 500-800." In Les Sogdiens en Chine, ed. E. de la Vaissière and E. Trombert, 283-310. Paris: École française d'Extrême Orient (2005).

Harmatta, J. and B. A. Litvinsky. "Tokharistan and Gandhara under Western Türk Rule (650-750)." In History of Civilizations in Central Asia. Volume III, ed. A. Litvinsky, et. al., 367-402. Paris: UNESCO (1996).

Inaba M. "The Identity of the Turkish Rulers to the South of Hindukush from the 7th to the 9th Centuries A. D." Zinbun 38 (2005): 1-19.

Kurbanov, A. The Hephthalites: Archaeological and Historical Analysis. Unpublished Phd. dissertation. Freie Universität Berlin (2010).

Kuwayama S. "The Hephthalites in Tokharistan and Gandhara." In Across the Hindukush of the First Millennium. A Collection of Papers, 107-139. Kyoto: Kyoto University (2002). Reprint with some changes of Kuwayama 1989.
"Historical Notes on Kāpiśī and Kābul in the Sixth-Eighth Centuries." Zinbun 34 (1999): 25-77.
"The Hephthalites in Tokharistan and Northwest India." Zinbun 24 (1989): 89-134.

Lieu, S. N. C. "Nestorians and Manicheans on the South China Coast." Vigilae Christianae 34 (1980): 71-88.
Manichaeism in the Later Roman Empire and Medieval China. Wissenschaftlichen Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament 63. Tübingen: Mohr (1992).

"Manichaean Art and Texts from the Silk Road." In Studies In Silk Road Coins And Culture: Papers in Honour of Professor Ikuo Hirayama on his 65th Birthday, ed. Tanabe K., J. Cribb and H. Wang, 261-312. Kamakura: The Institute of Silk Road Studies (1997).

Manichaeism in Central Asia and China. Nag Hammadi and Manichaean Studies 45. Leiden: E. J. Brill (1998).

Litvinsky, B. A. "Outline of Buddhism in Central Asia." In Kushan Studies in USSR, ed. B. Gafurov, et. al., 53-132. Calcutta: R. D. Press (1970).

Die Geschichte des Buddhismus in Ostturkestan. Studies in Oriental Religions Volume 44. Harrassowitz Verlag: Wiesbaden (1999).

"The Hephthalite Empire." In History of Civilizations in Central Asia. Volume III, ed. A. Litvinsky et. al., 135-162. Paris: UNESCO (1996).

Litvinsky, B. and M. I. Vorobyova-Desyatovskaya. "Religions and Religious Movements II." In History of Civilizations in Central Asia. Volume III, ed. A. Litvinsky, et. al., 421-448. Paris: UNESCO (1996).

Pelliot, P. "Les traditions manichéennes au Fou-Kien." T'oung Pao 22 (1923): 193-208.

Reed, C. E. "Preface." In Chinese Chronicles of the Strange: The "Nuogao ji", Duan Chengshi, 1-30. Asian Thought and Culture 44. New York, Washington D. C., Baltimore, and Bern: Peter Lang (2001).

Reed, C. E. A Tang Miscellany: An Introduction to Youyang zazu. Asian Thought and Culture 57. New York, Washington D. C., Baltimore, and Bern: Peter Lang (2003).

Schafer, E. H. The Golden Peaches of Samarkand: A study of T'ang Exotics. (1963). Berkeley: University of California Press (1985).

Suzuki D. T. Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra. London: Routledge and Keagan Paul (1930).

de la Vaissière, E. "Is there a "Nationality of the Hephthalites"?" Bulletin of the Asia Institute 17 (2002): 119-132.
"The Last Bactrian Kings." In Coins, Art and Chronology II: The First Millennium C. E. in the Indo-Iranian Borderlands, ed. M. Alram, D. Klimburg-Salter, M. Inaba, and M. Pfisterer, 213-218. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften: Philosophisch-Historische Klasse Denkschriften, 412. Veröffentlichungen der numismatischen Kommission. Band 50. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (2010).

Vondrovec, K. "Coinage of Nezak." In Coins, Art and Chronology II: The First Millennium C. E. in the Indo-Iranian Borderlands, ed. M. Alram, D. Klimburg-Salter, M. Inaba, and M. Pfisterer, 169-190. Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften: Philosophisch-Historische Klasse Denkschriften, 412. Veröffentlichungen der numismatischen Kommission. Band 50. Vienna: Österreichische Akademie der Wissenschaften (2010).

Waley, A. Secret History of the Mongols. London: George Allen and Unwin (1963).

III. Nestorian Stele

Deeg, M. "Brilliant Teaching": The Rise and Fall of "Nestorianism" (Jingjiao) in Tang China." Japanese Religions 31 (2006): 91-110.

Deeg, M. "The Rhetoric of Antiquity: Politico-Religious Propaganda in the Nestorian Stele of Chang'an." The Journal of Late Antique Religion and Culture 1 (2007): 17-30.

Deeg, M. "Ways to Go and Not to Go in the Contextualisation of the Jingjiao Documents of the Tang Period." In Hidden Treasures and Intercultural Encounters: Studies on East Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia, ed. D. W. Winkler and Li Tang, 135-152. Orientalia-Patristica-Oecumenica Vol. 1. Vienna: LIT Verlag (2009).

Hunter, E. C. D. "The Persian Contribution to Christianity in China: Reflections in the Xi'an Fu Syriac Inscriptions." In Hidden Treasures and Intercultural Encounters: Studies on East Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia, ed. D. W. Winkler and Li Tang, 71-85. Orientalia-Patristica-Oecumenica Vol. 1. Vienna: LIT Verlag (2009).

Keevak, M. The Story of a Stele: China's Nestorian Monument and its Reception in the West, 1625-1916. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press (2008).

Li Tang. A Study of the History of Nestorian Christianity and its Literature in Chinese together with a New Translation of the Dunhuang Nestorian Documents. 2nd revised edition. Series XXVII Asian and African Studies Vol. 87. Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang (2004).

Li Tang. "A Preliminary Study on the Jingjiao Inscription Unearthed at Luoyang." In Hidden Treasures and Intercultural Encounters: Studies on East Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia, ed. D. W. Winkler and Li Tang, 109-132. Orientalia-Patristica-Oecumenica Vol. 1. Vienna: LIT Verlag (2009).
Lieu, S. "Monumenta Nestoriana Serica." In Exegisti Monumenta: Festschrift in Honour of Nicholas Sims-Williams, ed. W. Sundermann, A. Hintze, and F. de Blois, 227-246. Wiesbaden: Otto Harrassowitz GmbH & Co (2009).

Nicolini-Zani, M. "Past and Current Research on Tang Jingjiao Documents: A Survey." In Jingjiao: The Church of the East in China and Central Asia, ed. R. Malek with P. Hofrichter, 23-44. Sankt Augustin: Institut Monumenta Serica (2005).

Pelliot, P. L'inscription nestorienne de Si-ngan-fou, edited with supplements by A. Forte. Kyoto and Paris: Scuola di Studi sull'Asia Orientale and Collège de France, Institut des Hautes Études Chinoises (1996).

Saeki, P. Y. The Nestorian Monument in China. London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (1916).

Saeki, P. Y. The Nestorian Documents and Relics in China. Tokyo: The Maruzen Company Ltd (1937).

Shih Miaozhe. "Tripitaka Master Prajnā of the Tang Dynasty." (2009). Online at

Takakusu J. "The Name of "Messiah" Found in a Buddhist Book: The Nestorian Missionary Adam, Presbyter, Papas of China, Translating a Buddhist Sûtra." T'oung Pao 7 (1896): 589-591.

Xu Longfei. Die nestorianische Stele in Xi'an: Begegnung von Christentum und chinesischer Kultur. Begegnung: Kontextuell-dialogische Studien zur Theologie der Kulturen und Religionen 12. Bonn: Borengässer (2004).

  • Brief Timeline
  • Project Milestones
  • The BACH Project
  • Recent Articles

دری ]

Bactra—the Greek name under which pre-Islamic Balkh was known—encapsulated Bronze Age settlements around 2,000 BC when its ancient water systems were built.

It was a province of the Achaemenid Empire (sixth century BC), the capital of the Hellenistic kingdom of Bactria and a part of the Kushan Empire that flourished in the first to the third centuries AD.

The first surviving textual mention of ancient Bactria is in the Vendidad section of the Avesta, the Zoroastrian Holy Book. Bactria (Baxtri) is mentioned in the trilingual inscription of the Emperor Darius I (r. 522-486 BC) at Bisutun and Persepolis as one of the Achaemenid satrapies (provinces). According to varying traditions, Balkh was founded by the mythical Iranian kings Gusthasp, his father Luhrasp, or the first man, Gayumarth. The Zoroastrian Prophet Zoroaster is rumoured to have died in Balkh.

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September 2011 - Launch of the BACH project

5-6 January 2012 - First BACH workshop in Oxford. Participants on the first day were limited to team members and special advisors to discuss the parameters of the BACH project, its training agenda, and practicalities, logistics and context. Day 2 included a wider audience of key experts on Afghan art, archaeology, documentary and narrative history of Balkh and comparable cities. Participants included Philippe Marquis, Roland Besenval, Edmund Bosworth, Nicholas Sims-Wiliams, Geoffrey Khan, Deborah Klimburg-Salter, James Howard-Johnston, Étienne de la Vaissière, Frantz Grenet, and Chahriyar Adle (by video link). Presentations were made on the basic topography of Balkh, the Nuh Gunbad (Hajji Piyada) site, and Zadiyan in the northern confines of the Balkh oasis, on coins, and Chinese and Arabic sources on historical Balkh. Comparanda from cities like Samarqand and Dehistan (Turkmenistan) were also considered.

April 2012 - First visit by BACH Oxford to Kabul conducted by Michael Jackson Bonner, aimed principally at working out the key elements and modalities for BACH cooperation on the ground, together with the Ministry of Information and Culture and the Délégation Archéologique Française en Afghanistan (DAFA).

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The Balkh Art and Cultural Heritage project (BACH) is funded by the Leverhulme Trust and is housed at the Oriental Insititute, University of Oxford.

This project focuses on the site of Balkh in the north of Afghanistan, south of the Oxus (Amu Darya) River. It analyses a selection of archaeological artefacts and unexplored texts against which hypotheses concerning the development of early Islamic cities can be tested. Balkh was in existence (as 'Bactra') since at least the fifth century BC, becoming a major economic centre and flourishing from the third century BC before being significantly reduced (but not abandoned) in the thirteenth century through the Mongol invasions.

The BACH project is not just about research. An essential element concerns training. Each of BACH's scholarly experts acts as a mentor and trainer to an Afghan trainee to analyse the material culture from, or textual finds on, Balkh. Trainees obtain daily on-the-job training during focussed visits to Kabul by BACH team members. The training follows a pre-determined curriculum, and includes reading lists of books and articles to be discussed during training. Trainees obtain stipends, and have the opportunity to engage with an international network through their mentors.

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Journal articles

Shaked, Shaul, "Early Persian Documents from Khorasan" Journal of Persianate Studies 6 (2013): pp 153-162

Azad, Arezou, "The Faḍāʾil-i Balkh and its place in Islamic historiography" IRANJournal of the British Institute of Persian Studies 50 (2012): pp 79-102

Azad, Arezou, "Female Mystics in Mediaeval Islam: the quiet legacy", Journal of Economic and Social History of the Orient 56 (2013): pp 53-88

Siméon P., 2012."Hulbuk: Architecture and Material Culture of the Capital of the Banijurids in Central Asia (ninth–eleventh centuries)", Muqarnas, An Annual on the Visual Cultures of the Islamic World, vol. 29, pp. 385-421.

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Banner Image: Tepe Rustam of Balkh, thought to be the old Buddhist temple site of Naw Bahar. Photo by Arezou Azad