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Humanities 2018, 7(3), 63; https://doi.org/10.3390/h7030063

Rethinking China’s Frontier: Archaeological Finds Show the Hexi Corridor’s Rapid Emergence as a Regional Power

Department of Art and Art History, Santa Clara University, Santa Clara, CA 95053, USA
Received: 7 May 2018 / Revised: 21 June 2018 / Accepted: 22 June 2018 / Published: 23 June 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Further Explorations Along the Silk Road)
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Abstract

The Chinese government’s expansion of infrastructure in Gansu province has led to the discovery of a number of important ancient tombs in the Hexi Corridor, a thousand kilometer stretch of the Silk Roads linking China to Central Asia. This study investigates recent finds in the context of older excavations to draw a more cohesive picture of the dramatic cultural and political changes on China’s western frontier in the Wei-Jin period (220–317 CE). A survey of archaeological reports and an analysis of tomb distribution along with structural and decorative complexity indicate that after the fall of the Han dynasty (206 BCE–220 CE), the nexus of regional power shifted from the eastern Hexi Corridor to Jiuquan and Dunhuang in the west. This phenomenon was related in the rise of magnate families, who emerged from Han dynasty soldier-farmer colonies and helped catalyze the region’s transformation from a military outpost to a semi-autonomous, prosperous haven that absorbed cultural influences from multiple directions. This dynamism, in turn, set the stage for the Hexi Corridor’s ascent as a center of Buddhist art in the fifth and sixth centuries. View Full-Text
Keywords: Silk Roads; Hexi Corridor; Dunhuang; Jiuquan; Han dynasty; Wei-Jin period; Northern Dynasties; tomb; art; China Silk Roads; Hexi Corridor; Dunhuang; Jiuquan; Han dynasty; Wei-Jin period; Northern Dynasties; tomb; art; China
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This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. (CC BY 4.0).
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Clydesdale, H. Rethinking China’s Frontier: Archaeological Finds Show the Hexi Corridor’s Rapid Emergence as a Regional Power. Humanities 2018, 7, 63.

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