Monday, November 15, 2010

Chinese Mine in Afghanistan Threatens Buddhist Site



The Associated Press is running with a major story about a Mainland Chinese mining operation in Afghanistan that is about to destroy the archaeological site of an extremely important, 2,600 year Buddhist monastery known as Tepe Kafiriat, at Mes Aynak, 20 miles from Kabul. The monastery is atop a mountain of copper.

Did somebody say Copper Mountain?!?

Daily Mail picks it up, with photographs, but it isn't getting the play it deserves in the United States. This is a significant matter, so maybe we can change that, eh?

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4 reader comments:

Anonymous said...

Is that a seated Padmapani in the photo?

GK Sandoval said...

I picked up on this yesterday and sent it around on Twitter. Personally, I love stupas and to hear of the destruction of monastery grounds and ancient stupas was devastating. Not necessarily for the loss of the site but for the amount of extreme negative karma that would be generated by the purposeful destruction of the stupas--one of the five uninterrupted karmas.

I sincerely hope they will realize the essence of Dharma and make a different choice not to inflict harm.

Om Mani Padme Hum

James said...

Am I the only one having trouble with the dates? Here's what Wikipedia says about Shakyamuni's birth:

[M]ost early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE, but more recent opinion dates his death to between to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE.


So relatively outdated scholarship puts his birth at nearly 2,600 years ago; better scholarship says more like 2500. He was born in the 6th, or maybe the 5th, century BCE. So how could it be a "2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery" and "a major 7th century B.C. religious site"?

Furthermore, the transmission from India into central Asia wasn't instantaneous; the first known dates (like for Gandhara) are MAYBE 3rd century BCE, more like 2nd or 1st. The idea that a full-blown site appeared during the Buddha's life, or POSSIBLY EVEN BEFORE, is far-fetched.

Somebody--most likely the journos--made a mistake.

The Guardian makes it "almost 2000 years." Wikipedia calls it a Gandharan site (and Gandhara is 1st-century BCE). The Reuters article has an archaeologist saying, "Some of the relics date back to the fifth century (AD). We have come across signs that there are items maybe going back to the era before Christ or prehistory." And this from the Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Marquis says that it's likely Mes Aynak was begun in the first century, but most of the ruins he showed me date from the fourth and fifth centuries." The BBC, unfortunately, duplicates The Guardian's blunder.

Anyway, the WSJ article holds out the possibility that further steps may be taken to preserve the site.

Links:
The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/15/mining-threatens-afghanistan-buddhist-treasures

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mes_Aynak

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67G1CN20100817

The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704644404575482251955785046.html

The BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11757639

James said...

Am I the only one having trouble with the dates? Here's what Wikipedia says about Shakyamuni's birth:

[M]ost early 20th-century historians dated his lifetime as c. 563 BCE to 483 BCE, but more recent opinion dates his death to between to between 486 and 483 BCE or, according to some, between 411 and 400 BCE.


So relatively outdated scholarship puts his birth at nearly 2,600 years ago; better scholarship says more like 2500. He was born in the 6th, or maybe the 5th, century BCE. So how could it be a "2,600-year-old Buddhist monastery" and "a major 7th century B.C. religious site"?

Furthermore, the transmission from India into central Asia wasn't instantaneous; the first known dates (like for Gandhara) are MAYBE 3rd century BCE, more like 2nd or 1st. The idea that a full-blown site appeared during the Buddha's life, or POSSIBLY EVEN BEFORE, is far-fetched.

Somebody--most likely the journos--made a mistake.

The Guardian makes it "almost 2000 years." Wikipedia calls it a Gandharan site (and Gandhara is 1st-century BCE). The Reuters article has an archaeologist saying, "Some of the relics date back to the fifth century (AD). We have come across signs that there are items maybe going back to the era before Christ or prehistory." And this from the Wall Street Journal: "Mr. Marquis says that it's likely Mes Aynak was begun in the first century, but most of the ruins he showed me date from the fourth and fifth centuries." The BBC, unfortunately, duplicates The Guardian's blunder.

Anyway, the WSJ article holds out the possibility that further steps may be taken to preserve the site.

Links:
The Guardian: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2010/nov/15/mining-threatens-afghanistan-buddhist-treasures

Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mes_Aynak

Reuters: http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE67G1CN20100817

The Wall Street Journal: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704644404575482251955785046.html

The BBC: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11757639