Sogdians in China: Archaeological and Art Historical Analyses of Tombs and Texts from the 3rd to the 10th Century AD.

Author:Dien, Albert E.
Position::Book review

Sogdians in China: Archaeological and Art Historical Analyses of Tombs and Texts from the 3rd to the 10th Century AD. By PATRICK WERTMANN. Archaologie in China / Archaeology in China and East Asia, vol. 5. Darmstadt: PHILIPP VON ZABERN, 2015. Pp. iv + 336, 116 plates. [euro]86.

As indicated in its title, the purpose of this volume is to cover in detail the archaeological material related to the Sogdian presence in China from the third to the tenth centuries. There is a short introduction, a somewhat longer Part II (pp. 9-28) sketching out the history of the Sogdians from earliest time to their settlements in China and some elements of their activities there, followed by Part III, "Archaeological artifacts from China related to the Sogdians" (pp. 29-125), the major focus of the volume. The tomb sites examined are primarily arranged geographically west to east, followed by ossuaries and finally tomb furniture held by museums both in China and outside that have no archaeological context but are clearly of Sogdian origin. The discussion of the tombs and find material is quite detailed. The scenes depicted on the stone slabs that make up the sarcophagi and stone couches are described in detail, and references are made to the secondary scholarly studies where relevant. In Part IV, "Discussion" (pp. 127-66), the author draws back to discuss overall specific items such as ossuaries, sarcophagi, and coffins, as well as themes and motifs, such as scenes of the hunts, banquets, and music and dance that occupy a major role in the art of the tombs. The very short Part V, "Conclusions" (pp. 167-70), is followed by an extensive bibliography (pp. 171-90), evidence of the scholarly interest, both in China and beyond, in the study of the Sogdians across Asia. The volume concludes with many carefully prepared ancillary materials. There are 116 plates that illustrate the text, many in glowing color that outshine their original sources. The illustration captions are listed separately, pp. 211-15, and credits, pp. 215-17. The meticulously prepared Tables 1-15 (pp. 193-210) include a listing of the materials included in the volume, a list of the Western Region localities with population figures according to the Hanshu, the dimensions and contents of the tombs of the Shi family cemetery at Ningxia, minute details as available of the find material from the major Sogdian tombs to the ossuaries, and much else.

There is much to say about this admirable volume but I...

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