Christoph Baumer, Ph.D.
(Author, The History of Central Asia in Four Volumes)
9.9 – The Hidden Empire (7.15.16)
Christoph Baumer (born June 23, 1952 in Zurich) is a Swiss scholar and explorer. From 1984 onwards, he has conducted explorations in Central Asia, China and Tibet, the results of which have been published in numerous books, scholarly publications and radio programs.
Baumer grew up in the Swiss Canton of Thurgau. His father was a businessman; his mother had been a war correspondent for the French national radio station and reported during the Finnish-Russian war in the winter of 1939-1940. Sven Hedin, the renowned explorer of Asia, aided her return to occupied Belgium, at that time her home. As a young boy, Baumer was already fascinated by the travel reports of Hedin, and these likely laid the foundation for Baumer’s later development. After graduation from High School, he studied Psychology, Philosophy and Art History at the University of Zurich.
Since 1996, he has worked as a freelance author with emphasis on the cultural history of Central Asia. Christoph Baumer is Founding Member and President of the Society for the Exploration of EurAsia.
EXPLORATION IN THE TAKLAMAKAN DESERT
In 1994, Baumer led the First International Taklamakan Expedition, and was the first Westerner to reach the ancient oasis of Niya and Loulan since the 1930s.
The Second International Taklamakan Expedition followed in 1998. Christoph Baumer was the first visitor to the ancient ruined city Dandan Oilik in the Taklamakan Desert since Emil Trinkler and Walter Bosshard in 1928. Results of this expedition were, among others, the rediscovery and excavation of unknown ruins in Dandan Oilik and Buddhist murals dating from the mid-8th century A.D.; the discovery of a paper document from the 7th/8th century set in the Khotanese language, i.e. in Brahmi script; the discovery of a very rare stone inscription in Kharoshthi from the 3rd century A.D. in the ruined city Endere; and the rediscovery of a Tibetan mural from 790. From this expedition stemmed the ZDF (Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen) documentary “The Lost City of Taklamakan” by Jon Jerstad (Also as domestic German version: Land of No Return’ by Jon Jerstad and Viktor Stauder.)
In 2003, Baumer conducted the Third International Taklamakan Expedition in collaboration with the Archaeological Institute of Ürümqi, Xinjiang and with a representative of the University of London, during which he made finds north of Qiemo from the Neolithic Age (4th – 3rd millennium B.C.)
In 2007, he led the Fourth International Taklamakan Expedition into unexplored regions of the Lop Nor Desert. There he discovered, among others, a heretofore-unknown settlement, dating from approximately 100 B.C. – 400 A.D.
In 2009, he led the Fifth International Taklamakan Expedition into the unexplored ancient delta of the River Keriya in the centre of the desert, and discovered two unknown graveyards: Satma Mazar (Iron Age) and Ayala Mazar (Bronze Age).
Further expeditions took Baumer to southern Tibet in 1996, where he discovered in the former monastery Serkar Guthok hitherto unknown murals from the early 12th century; and in 1997 again to southern Tibet, where he discovered in the Pa-Lha-Puk Monastery the oldest existing murals of the Bön religion – from the early 15th century – in all of Tibet.
In the years 2000 to 2005 he researched and documented all relevant cultural relics of the Assyrian Church of the East, from southeastern Turkey to Mongolia, China and southern India.
In the years 1993, 2006 and 2007 he visited and documented all Buddhist monasteries of Mount Wutai Shan, northwestern China.
The epic plains and arid deserts of Central Asia have witnessed some of the greatest migrations, as well as many of the most transformative developments, in the history of civilization. Christoph Baumer’s ambitious four-volume treatment of the region charts the 3000-year drama of Scythians and Sarmatians; Soviets and transcontinental Silk Roads; trade routes and the transmission of ideas across the steppes; and the breathless and brutal conquests of Alexander the Great and Chinghiz Khan. Masterfully interweaving the stories of individuals and peoples, the author’s engaging prose is richly augmented throughout by color photographs taken on his own travels. For all the complexity of the history, Dr. Baumer, a noted authority on Central Asia, never loses sight of the sweeping grandeur of its overall setting. Volume 1 focuses on the geography of the area now occupied by present-day Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, northern Afghanistan, western and central Mongolia and parts of southern Russia and northern China. Discussing the changing climates of the Palaeolithic, Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Ages, the author explores subjects as diverse as glacial retreat; the invention of the wheel; the legendary Cimmerians and Amazons; Hellenism and Zoroastrianism; and the Oxus Treasure. Future volumes will explore the later historical periods of the region.
Rising from Shanxi Province like a three-dimensional mandala, the soaring peaks of Wutai Shan (“”Five-terrace Mountain””) have inspired pilgrims and travelers for almost two millennia. A striking terrain of towering emerald forests, wraith-like mists and crenellated ridges, this consecrated and secluded site is said to be the spiritual home of Wenshu Pusa, Bodhisattva of Wisdom. It is one of the most venerable and important Buddhist sanctuaries in China, yet still remains relatively little known in the West. Christoph Baumer has traveled extensively in the Wutai Shan region, and here offers the first comprehensive account of the cradle of Chinese Buddhism. In his remarkable new travelogue, 300 luminous photographs capture the unique spirituality of the 60 monasteries which straddle the complex. Charting festivals, rituals, pilgrimages, and the daily life of the monks, abbots, and abbesses, China’s Holy Mountain is both a splendid introduction to the history of Buddhism in East Asia and an evocative and lavishly-illustrated gazetteer of the monasteries and sacred artifacts themselves. It will be an indispensable resource for students of Asian religion and philosophy, with further appeal to general readers.
Tibet, the highland beyond the Himalayas, seems permeated with an atmosphere of living spirituality. Here in ancient times the religion of Bön was widespread, marked by shamanistic practices and a pronounced cult of the dead. Until well into the eighth century, Bön was the dominant religion and culture on the roof of the world; it is in essence the belief system of ancient Tibet.
From the second half of the eighth century onward, Bön was superseded by Buddhism, which had traveled north from India, and the two religions came to influence each other in both doctrine and ritual. In spite of the eventual dominance of Buddhism through its position as the state religion, however, a reformed Bön school has been able to assert itself down to the present. Its tradition continues to remain alive in a few monasteries as well as in visible signs of Tibetan popular religion, including prayer flags and spirit traps, temple and mountain circumambulations, death and marriage rites, oracle techniques, and countless religious rituals. In fact, it may be reasonably asserted that Tibetan culture cannot be completely understood without a knowledge of Bön practices.
This book takes the reader to secluded monasteries and sacred sites of the Bön religious community. With its thoroughly informed text and more than 200 photographs of Bön monasteries, lamas, and sacred sites, most undocumented until now, this volume introduces the myths and culture of ancient Tibet. The preface, written by the spiritual head of all Bönpo, confers additional authority on the work, while its notes, maps, index, and an extensive bibliography make it essential reading for anyone with an interest in Tibet or eastern religions.
The Tarim Basin in Central Asia is, historically speaking, one of the most fascinating places in the world. Located in this huge basin is the Taklamakan Desert, crossed for thousands of years, to the rythms of camel caravans, by traders of the ancient Silk Road. This area became a melting pot of various religious traditions and cultural influences. It became a meeting point of Indian, Chinese, Iranian and Mongolian peoples, to name but a few; it became a bridge between East and West long before modern globalization. In the footsteps of the caravans, unfold the enthralling story of the fabled commercial product, silk.
In this book the author, Dr. Christoph Baumer, presents all the most important ancient cities of the Taklamakan, namely Dandan Oilik, Endere, Karadong, Loulan, Mazar Tagh, Miran, Niya and Rawak. The author, after Sir Laurel Stein and a Chinese archaeologist, is the third person to have visited and explored all these historical places.
The book is generously illustrated with original photos made by the author, images that reveal the magic and mystery of a human heritage almost beyond mere verbal description. Here is a taste of what is most adventurous and suprising in archaeology and history of art.
The knowledge gained by Sir Laurel Stein and Sven Hedin, both pioneers in the field, is recorded and examined. The author also writes about the newext and most fascinating discoveries made in the Tarim Basin and elaborates on the stunning results of the Sino-French excavations made in Karadong. He tells the tale of knowledge gained through the most recent discoveries of mummies, knowledge that throws much light on the lives,struggles and migrations of the old Indo-European population in the Taklamakan. We accompany the author who is the first explorer in many decades to have visited and conducted excavations in Dandan Oilik and, most significantly, to have mapped the area. The tale of the ancient Silk Road that enfolds will engross and bewitch every person who wants to trace the footsteps of humanity across the ages. It is an inspiration to all who marvel at what man has contrived to his profit and advancement on the long trek through the millenia; an absorbing ballad of interaction of the world’s great cultures and religions; a revealing tale of political strife and commercial hegemony.
The first study dedicated solely to the culture of Eastern Tibet, the cradle of Tibetan culture. The thoroughly researched text is the result of fieldwork conducted by both authors over a period of several years. The brilliant and inspiring images
Christoph Baumer is one of the very few Westerners to have visited many of the most important Assyrian sites, and has written the only comprehensive history of the “Nestorian” (or Apostolic Assyrian) Church, which now fights for survival in its country of origin, Iraq. He traces its apostolic beginnings to the present day, and discusses the Church’s theology, christology and uniquely vigorous spirituality. He analyzes the Church’s turbulent relationship with other Christian chuches and its dialogue with neighboring world religions such as Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Islam, Buddhism and Taoism. Richly illustrated with maps and over 150 full-color photographs, the book will be essential reading for those interested in a fascinating but neglected Christian community which has profoundly shaped the history of civilization in both East and West.
For five millennia, the peoples and cultures of East and West have met and mingled in Central Asia. For explorers and travellers it is a promised land, a region of white spaces on the map, forgotten cities and archaeological treasures. Christoph Baumer has spent a lifetime travelling through the countries of Central Asia, making extraordinary discoveries along the way. Traces in the Desert follows in his intrepid footsteps as he finds evidence of Indo-Europeans in the steppes of Western Mongolia, discovers lost oasis cities in the Taklamakan and unearths art treasures in Tibet. He embarks on a quest to find Genghis Khan’s long-lost tomb and has numerous, occasionally hair-raising, encounters with shamans, corrupt policemen and bandits. Enlightening and full of adventure, Traces in the Desert uniquely illuminates the hidden parts of Central Asia that have not just disappeared beneath the shifting sands, but also from the horizon of our memory.