Mahakhitan: A Chinese Buddhist Civilization in India

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: Before 1900' started by Green Painting, Nov 27, 2017.

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  1. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    Should I change the font when it’s conversational?

    As for the Bamiyan Buddha, hopefully we could butterfly the entire background story behind Taliban’s rise, including ethnic strife between Pushtuns and Tajiks and others, British and Soviet invasions, poverty etc.
     
  2. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    And they would still try to keep Classical Arabic as prestige language.

    But the royal family would identify with Greek culture, have Greek names, read Greek literature, and most of their subjects would be Greek.
     
  3. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    Updates coming today or tomorrow.
     
  4. canute Well-Known Member

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    Good update, was the crusaders called x-armies in otl? I found that part amusing.
     
  5. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    Sorry for the delay, it may take a few more hours. I’ve been tending my hospitalised grandfather. I do have spare time as there isn’t much to do here, but editing is tedious on a phone.
    The “cross” is literally the character for number ten (十) in Chinese. So the crusaders were “character ten army”. The closest thing I could find in English is “X”, being Roman numeral for ten.
     
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  6. ZhugeLiang Chancellor of the Han

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    Interesting premise. I’m looking forward to seeing Ming-Liao interactions. (I would assume that there would be a lot more Ming traders in this area IOTL, and maybe even many more Chinese immigrants, since this is a ‘Chinese-ish state’ at a time when the Yuan was still in the process of sinicizing)
     
  7. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    The next update is coming. To make things clear, there were two “Central Capitals”, or “Zhongdu”.

    Zhongdu I was in Udabhanda, or OTL Muzaffarabad, Pakistan;
    Zhongdu II was in Takshashila, or OTL Taxila, Pakistan.
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  8. Threadmarks: Chapter 6: City of a Thousand Cities, or Stories about the Planning and Construction of Central Capital (Part 1)

    Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    Chapter 6: City of a Thousand Cities, or Stories about the Planning and Construction of Central Capital (Part 1)




    Part Three of the Mahakhitan architectural history will be dedicated to the capital city of Mahakhitan, a city with one thousand faces.

    [​IMG]



    In the course of two centuries, millions of souls made their performances here in the days as well as at night, harbouring both love and hatred for it.




    For the Punjabi vendor who sold incense and candles on the alley with stinky gutters, behind the West Market, who have just completed his offer of incense to the Ksitigahba Buddhisattva, and was going to start a the new day of good business, this city was like the joyous land of Abhirati. For the prince of the blood, who was imprisoned for twenty years in the Tuisi Park (退思苑, Self-Examination Park), spending his sleepless night in the Fifth Street neighbourhood north of the Fourteen Princes’ Mansion, this city is the Avīci, the unending hell.




    It was as if only during that exact quarter-hour around sunrise, this city’s sixty-five Chinese miles of stone walls, together with its twelve gates, and its twenty-eight walled quarters, could happen to have its worldly colors wiped off by the Surya, the sun god, and return to its original drawing on the plans by Construction and Renovation Branch of the Ministry of Works. It was the exact moment when all the Mahakhitan subjects in the Central Capital Prefecture could make the same exclamation:




    What a Glazed Mandala!


    ============================================================================================================================


    However, to give this story an appropriate beginning, we could only, for now, rewind to late 12th century, to the era of Emperor Xuanzong, son of Yelü Dashi.




    A major event during Zhuque Era of the Emperor Xuanzong was the Second Punjab War. A long-planned war of conquest against the Lahore-based Ghaznavid Dynasty. This move has touched their patron the Seljuq Sultan to the sore spot. After a few exchanges of embassies, the war became a great war between the Khitan State and the entire Sunni Islamic World. The emperor often came to the Indus basin to take personal command during the eight years of bitter battles (1176-1184).




    During this few years, Xuanzong once took up residence in the old palaces of the the Kingdom of Sindh, as well as the tent city in Debul, near the Mouth of Indus. (For your information, this temporary city would end up becoming the largest trading port of Mahakhitan, the Southern Capital Debu Prefecture.)




    Those places shared the same problems: their unbearable heat in summer, long distance from Shangjing, and difficult traffics. The emperor found himself almost unable to deal with matters in the northern grasslands pertaining to the Khitan tribes, and was forced to return every other year, as he could not divide himself in two. So, after the war in Punjab and Gandhara eased a bit, the emperor looked for a venue for his Nabo, or Encampment, in Northern India, the closer to Liao Proper the better.



    In early Year 12 of Zhuque Era (1185), the war ended. Having triumphed over the Seljuqs, Emperor Xuanzong of Liao brought the valiant soldiers from his most elite North Army on the way back to Balasagun. On the day Yisi of the 5th month (or June 22nd), a summer solstice, the grand army passed by a valley dozens of kilometres east of Purusapura (Peshawar). Five thousand voices sang a Bohai tune with newly written lyrics, plates from five thousand coat-of-plate armors shimmering in a sea of grass.



    It was the last part of a day’s march, thirty Chinese miles from Heluo Chuan (訶羅川, or Haro River) , where they could stop and camp.



    As for what happened later on that day, people nowadays are not very well informed about.



    What I do know is that in the Huayan Temple (華嚴寺, Flower-adorned and Solemn Temple, or Avatamsaka Temple) east of Central Capital, a fifteen-Chinese-feet-tall stele claimed in a confirmative tone, that His Majesty the Emperor saw the setting sun, with myriad of golden rays befell the ruins of a grand Stupa built by the King Kaniska. His Majesty was moved by the scene, and made up his mind immediately on rebuilding the temple. Later on, the emperor also resolved to build his future capital city on the land of the Buddha, with its hundred ancient stupas.



    However, a document of unknown nature, copied by someone from the Ministry of Rites, said that when the Emperor Xuanzong lead his army to Mozheluo Hills (摩遮羅嶺, Margalla Hills) , where he saw a great scene of mountains safeguarding the place like natural city walls, a forest of snow peaks, and a web of rivers running through, he immediately decided that this place, with its easily-defensible terrain, its fertile land, and the benefits derived from being on the conjunction point of trade routes from north to south, made a good seat for a monarch’s throne.



    Probably both accounts were right, or both exaggerated. Anyway, what we do know, is that on his southern tour in the Year 15 of Zhuque, he stayed here for the entire winter, declaring this land in eastern Gandhara a Temporary Residence, which he named Wude Fu. He only set off for return to Shangjing in the 6th month next year.



    This little Temporary Residence was centred on a palace called Da’an Palace (大安宫, or Place of Great Peace), built beside one of the meanders by upper Haro River, in the mountains’ embrace. Thousands of tents spread downwards from the mountain top, as halls and palaces, each with its own name. Each year, or every other year, the emperor would bring his courtiers to reside in the Da’an Palace in Wude Prefecture for winter, to deal with practical matters big and small, created in the course of the year, that needed to be dealt with by the Emperor or the courtiers. His loyal southern subjects would have long been waiting for him, on their knees.

    [​IMG]
    Time for the Emperor to Have Dinner!






    Other works for His Majesty included: collecting the fancy tributes send by the old vassals along the Indus River, personally teaching their next generation the national custom of hunting and war, and then hold a grand feast, drinking up all the wines stored in Wude Prefecture (Ministry of Work’s archives showed that the cellar in the Da’an Palade was expanded eight times in half a century), challenging the young nobles for wrestling with while drunk (which he lost more often than he won, but he didn’t mind), and play half a month of game of leaves (a precursor to the playing card). When the grass turned green, he would bring along his falcon, and rush into the streams with an entourage of young and old people, and then return, singing, with swans, deer, wild boars, and even rhinoceros.



    That’s the emperor’s winters and springs in his temporary residence.


    [​IMG]
    Liao nobles in the Nabo.



    For decades, emperors came and went, the Da’an Palace’s meander gained several new buildings. Those mansions were much more decorated than the “Hall of Ten-thousand Years” and “Hall of the Focused Mind”, and a new generation of Emperors preferred those colourful courts and mansions with their glazed bricks and tiles, they felt like the Upper Capital.



    Mahakhitan craftsmen also made use of local materials, and built a lot of wooden pavilions with Himalayan cedars. Three generations have passed, the Mahakhitan craftsmen have lost the Liao’s apex wooden structure. Those shuttle pillars and roof trusses with their coloured murals, Overhanging gable Roofs with glazed rims, with their ratio of wood and colours already deviated from those in China, but still displayed influences of their homeland in the east.





    However, by the time the Upper Capital fell in the 1st Year of Deyou Era (1246), when Emperor Wuzong lead his exhausted army of royals, courtiers, and officers south, the little Da’an palace and nearby offices were filled. The courtiers had nowhere to live. For instance, His Excellency the Secretary during the early Wuzong Era gave up his central secretariat offices to two imperial consorts, and made a fairly decent yurt with his subordinates, with a tablet bearing the name “Administration Hall”, and found a nearby hill where he built a thatched house, and lived there for half a year. He was later on called the “Straw House Chancellor”, a nice anecdote associated with him.



    The Emperor then summoned some local craftsmen with an emergency decree, and quite some new houses were built. Those hastily-built mud-brick flat-top houses situated along the river, a fact that made Wude Prefecture appeared as an ordinary small Gandhara city, but it was at least a temporary solution to the problem. This small palace city, spreading in the valley, has suddenly become the nerve centre of Khitan rule. Mahakhitan’s civil and military officials plunged themselves into urgent military matters. In the entirety of Deyou Era under Wuzong (1246-1260), the emperor and the courtiers lived here, in a small but comfortable city, and in offices as large as a local landlord’s courtyard, they dealt with case after cases of extreme emergency: the Afghan noblemen’s rebellions, a bitter battle with the Malwa Kingdom, a major power in western India, and the incessant Mongol southern expeditions.


    [​IMG]
    Drawing By Chuye Kara
    A quick sketch of the “Central Capital” Wude Prefecture, during its crowed years of Deyou and Qianhe Era.



    As time goes by, the courtiers seemed to have gotten used to living in this mountain city. It’s not clear who started it, but the officials privately referred to this small city as the Zhongdu, or central capital. The reason why they didn’t use the term “Zhongjing” was to avoid the official term of Five Capitals (jing). This term had been widespread, but never officially recognized.



    The empire was not yet powerful enough for a decent palace complex and codified system, a fact that has become Wuzong’s lifelong regret. The emeperor, who was born in the peaceful days under his father’s reign, who could never been able to return to his hometown in the north, and could therefore only see his court cramped into this mountain valley, spent the last years of his reign planning for the Empire’s future. His son Emperor Yingzong acquired, in front of his father’s deathbed, a thick volume of laws and reform plans, tied up together like palm-leaf manuscripts.




    In the 1st year of Qianhe Era (1261) the 6th month, Emperor Yingzong decreed, according to the last words of the late emperor, on reorganization of the offices of the empire. The emperor abolished the Northern and Southern Administrations, which had been dead in all but name, as well as the long-disintegrated Khitan Great Ordu and the East, West and North Armies. In the fiefdom regions given to military aristocrats, the emperor formally set up tens of military prefectures, and named over a dozen military governors to rule over the prefectures which the centre could not hold, while keep granting them the position of dukes. The dukes and marquises were in turn obliged to provide prefectural troops, and pay taxes, etc. Gradually, the emperor began to built his own imperial guard.


    The new system was founded entirely on the vassals’ loyalty towards the emperor. When the Mongols descended into a civil war between two rival princes fighting for the Khan’s throne in the 1st Year of Zhongtong (1260, or 12th of Deyou in Liao), the pressure from the north had since eased a bit, the Emperor then started preparing for a new ritual system, emphasizing on the rank difference between a monarch and a vassal. The new imperial capital with its palaces was one of the most important points of this ritual system. The new capital needs to appear a palace for a rightful Son of Heaven, upon whom the mandate of heaven laid, in the eyes of Khitan, Han, and Uyghur noblemen, and, at the same time, in the eyes of local Sindhu subjects, a manifest of a cosmic order in which supreme monarch lasts till eternity.



    Within several years, that “straw house chacellor” lead his men from the Liao Ministry of Works, and they travelled around and visited every mountain, and river of Punjab and Gandhara. In the end, they set their eyes upon the land of ancient Takshashila on river Haro, south of Wude Prefecture, which we have previously mentioned as the “land of the buddha”, the “seat for a monarch’s throne”.



    Rivers flowing out of the snowy peaks stretching for thousands of Chinese miles in the north, once they reached the small plain of Gandhara, dispersed into up to a thousand braids. Having watered this land, warm and wet in all seasons, combined into one to form the Indus river, which cut through the tableland of the south, and came downstream with force. This grand city, it would be built on the eastern part of this land on the thoroughfare to Punjab.




    This place was called the Takshashila, translated as Dachashiluo (呾叉始羅) in Xuanzang’s Great Tang Records on the Western Regions, named personally by the Emperor as “Tangshi”(棠石). This translation was a case of phono-semantic matching, “tang”was named after Birtchleaf pear tree in the Ode of Shao& South, Classics of Poetry, symbol of benevolent rule by the ruler of Shao, “shi” means stone, in line with its original meaning in Sanskrit, it was in the hope that this city may hold firm forever,



    Tangshi was once a Persian old city, a Indo-Hellenic capital, a Kushan royal residence, and a border stronghold of the Gupta Dynasty. On the Margalla Hills south of the city, the stupas built by Emperors Ashoka and Kaniska made a good match to each other, under the hills, there were the layers of stone city walls a millennia in age. In the ruins of sangharama (temples) among trees and wild grass, fine, inticate stone carvings could frequently be sighted.



    However, poverty obviously constrained the Ministry of Work’s imaginations. The ministry, in the 5th year of Qianhe Reign (1266), submitted to the emperor a plan for the new capital, in the forms of a walled city less than ten-Chinese-miles on one side, like the fallen Upper Capital, but a bit more regular in shape. The walled palace complex was in the north, walled quarters in the south, a standard shape for a 6th to 11th century East Asian capital city, seemed nothing very special.


    However, just as the project had been approved by the Emperor, when preparations were gradually under way, and works on it started in part, an incident took place that was going to change the appearance of the Mahakhitan central capital for good.




    (The passages on the Central Capital will have grand scales, there will be architecture as well as urban planning. I’ve decided to speed up, to write depending on my mood, and any part I’ve written, I will release it. Today, it’s on its origines, there are more to come soon. Sorry for the long wait.)
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  9. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    There would be religious and conmmercial interactions, but also contentions, between Ming and Mahakhitan.

    Chances are that the Mahalhitans would try to block the Zhenghe Voyages.
     
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  10. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    Mahakhitan’s Record of the Western Regions~ Two:

     
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  11. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    Thoughts?
     
    Last edited: Dec 11, 2017
  12. canute Well-Known Member

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    I like the update, but dont know much about architectural or art history, so its hard to make specific comments. On the other hand I feel like I learn a little from every update.
     
  13. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    Thank you for your hearty comment!

    I’d say I learn a lot as the translator as well, big or small.

    But any question about things you aren’t clear about or correction to our mistakes would be helpful.
     
  14. canute Well-Known Member

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    Will Indian art and architecture be more visible in the Liao cityscape as the senter of their government move into Indian proper.
     
  15. Green Painting Ship of Theseus

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    As you have seen, the “Chinese” arts are already getting Indianized.
    Zhongdu will a showcase of official ideology, so it’s not obvious, but in other aspects, yes. The later in time the more Indianized it will be.
     
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