Unknown China: The Story of the Buddhist Towers of Sirkip and Taizang

The mysterious and unique Sirkip and Taizan Towers, located in Xinjiang, an autonomous region in northwestern China, represent an important cultural heritage of the region. It is known that these structures were built in the 6th and 7th centuries and still attract the attention of researchers and tourists from all over the world.

The Taizang Tower, reaching a height of 20 meters, is one of the most impressive sights of Xinjiang. It is decorated with Buddhist shrines on all sides and is a testament to the prominence of Buddhism in the region during the heyday of Silk Road trade.

Sirkip Tower has unfortunately collapsed and disappeared, leaving only ruins. However, it also reflects the importance of Buddhism in Xinjiang and its connection to the ancient city of Gaochang, which emerged as a trading center on the Silk Road. In this city, the ancestors of the Uyghurs established a kingdom in the early 9th century and named it Kocho.

For the Uyghurs living in Xinjiang, these ruins have special significance as they are reminders of their Buddhist cultural heritage before their conversion to Islam.

The history of Sirkip and Taizan Towers is also linked to Western explorers who traveled the Silk Road in search of treasures and antiquities. One of the most famous explorers was Aurel Stein, a Hungarian-British archaeologist who made several expeditions to Central Asia in the early 20th century.

Aurel Stein was inspired by his “patron saint” Xuanzang and sought to discover the riches of the Silk Road. During his expeditions, he documented and photographed the sites he visited, including the Sirkip and Taizan Towers.

One of Aurel Stein’s most significant discoveries was the finding of ancient tablets, relics, frescoes and scrolls. He even discovered the world’s oldest printed text, the Diamond Sutra.

Stein’s discoveries, however, brought competition from other groups and nations. In the first quarter of the 20th century, archaeologists from different countries fought for the right to a share of the Silk Road treasures. These archaeological exploits became embroiled in a political game between Britain and Russia, who were vying for influence at the crossroads of their empires.

In addition to Western explorers, Christian missionaries also made their way to Xinjiang. Francesca French and Mildred Cable, renowned missionaries, documented Sirkip Tower and Taizan Tower in their book The Gobi Desert.

Sirkip and Taizan towers continue to attract the attention of researchers and tourists, leaving many riddles and mysteries. They bear witness to the ancient and rich history of Xinjiang and its connection to the Silk Road.

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