Representatives of the Uzbek Embassy in China recently had a meeting with the President of the Buddhist Association of China Venerable Master Yanjue on developing pilgrimage tourism to Uzbekistan from China.
The sides discussed the possibilities of organizing pilgrimage tours for Chinese tourists to the historical Buddhist monuments and monastic centers located in the area of Surkhandarya and other regions of Uzbekistan.
The participants of the meeting specifically highlighted the role of Uzbekistan in the history of the Great Silk Road, being located in the very center of the Silk Road and serving as a connecting point between the East and the West. Being a crossroad of world civilizations, Uzbekistan combined different cultures and religions, including Buddhism.
The ongoing comprehensive measures and efforts initiated by the President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev on promoting and developing pilgrimage tourism in the country have been mentioned during the meeting. Several scientific research works and archeological excavations being held as a part of the current measures have made it possible to demonstrate the world, including scientific societies, earlier unknown and undiscovered Buddhist monuments located in the territory of Uzbekistan.
In the seventh century A.D., a Buddhist monk, Xuanzang, visited Central Asia on his way from China to India. Later, he reported that Buddhism appeared to be thriving in the region, with hundreds of temples and thousands of monks. One place, in particular, stood out in Xuanzang's recollections -- the ancient city of Termez, located on the banks of the Amu Darya River.
Just across the border from Afghanistan, the town of Termez has the sites of two major stupas, dated between the 1st and 3rd century AD — Kara-Tepe and Fayaz-Tepe. The ruins show that both were major monastic centers. The Fayaz Tepa site consists of a rectangular building complex with a stupa, a dome-shaped shrine containing sacred Buddhist relics. The walls of the sanctuary and parts of the central court bear the remains of mural paintings.
Several other Buddhist monuments have been discovered in the surroundings of ancient Termez. Kara Tepa, a complex of Buddhist monastic and ritual structures, and the 16-meter high Zurmala tower, the largest Buddhist stupa remaining in the region, are among the most attractive. Kara-Tepe has vast and extensive ruins and must have housed a large number of monks. This is the same period of time when the great Indian Pandit Kumarayana would have traveled on the Silk Route, from Kashmir past here to Urumqi (now in China), where he married Princess Jiva of Kucha. Their son Kumarajiva went on to become the greatest name in Buddhism in China. Travelling through Uzbekistan reminds one of the great romances of the exchange of philosophic and aesthetic ideas in ancient times.
The excavations of such sites have lent valuable insight into the culture of the region's former Buddhist community with the discovery of sculptures, paintings, and building inscriptions. Many of these historic relics have been gathered at the Surkhandar'ya Regional Museum of Termez, and the Museum of the History of the Peoples of Uzbekistan in Tashkent. Excavation work at the sanctuary of Fayaz Tepa has turned up one of the most celebrated pieces of early Central Asian art: a limestone sculpture showing the Buddha in meditation with disciples.
A number of charter flights for Chinese tourists willing to visit the abovementioned Buddhist Monuments located in Uzbekistan are going to be organized during 2021. The visitors will be able to enjoy their trips in the most comfortable way by visiting and getting in close in touch with the unique historical Buddhist heritage, which have also been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
The President of the Buddhist Association of China Master Yanjue gladly agreed to lead the first group of Chinese pilgrims to Uzbekistan.