An eight-member delegation from China comprised of researchers, scholars, and archaeologists visited archaeological sites in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, a province in north-western Pakistan, and the Peshawar Museum on 20 April. The delegation was particularly interested in the Buddhist complex of Takht-i-Bahi, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the Peshawar Museum’s collections of Buddhist art.
The delegation, composed of members from Peking University, the National Arts University, the Singapore Institute, and Ranwan University and Research Centre, was received by the assistant protocol officer of the Chinese division of Pakistan’s Foreign Office, Muhammad Tariq, the curator-in-charge of Peshawar Museum, Muhammad Asif, the general manager of Pakistan’s Tourist Information Center, Muhammad Ali Syed, along with other officials.
Muhammad Ali Syed observed that the visit would showcase the significance of Buddhist heritage and archaeological sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, as well as promoting religious tourism to the region. He added that the government of Pakistan had launched a number of initiatives to attract foreign tourists, scholars, and researchers to the province.
Syed also noted that the Pakistani government was developing a comprehensive policy of preserving and protecting these valuable archaeological sites, which include further excavations of ancient places and structures using modern techniques and methodologies. He noted some of the latest discoveries and developments, such as renewed excavation and preservation efforts at Bhamala Buddhist Complex,* one of the many relics of the ancient Gandhara civilization (c. 1500 BCE–535 CE). Syed expressed hope that the visit would provide the members of the delegation with an opportunity to share their knowledge and experience in archaeological excavation and preservation for the benefit of the government and research teams working in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
Addressing the delegation, Peshawar Museum’s curator-in-charge, Muhammad Asif, related that there are more than 6,000 archaeological and heritage sites in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and that research is being carried out to revive the sites. “The followers of Buddhism would find a treasure trove of Buddhist statues and heritage after thorough research and revival of these sites,” Asif told the delegation. (The News)
Representatives of the delegation noted that they found Peshawar to be a historic and safe city, and that the people of the capital of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and elsewhere had been kind and hospitable. They offered compliments for the warm-heartedness and friendly nature they had encountered, and the efforts made to promote religious and cultural tourism, and the archaeological destinations in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
Last year, the respective governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and China’s Shaanxi Province signed a memorandum of understanding to preserve Buddhist heritage sites that connect both historic regions, as part of a sustainable bilateral development initiative under the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project.
* Restoration work at the Bhamala Buddhist complex has been criticized by national and international organizations as stone hewers hired by the Department of Archaeology and Museums of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa re-carved rather than restored some imgaes at the site. For details, please see: Restoration Workers Tamper with Original Buddha Sculptures at Bhamala Buddhist Complex, Pakistan (Buddhistdoor Global)
Chinese scholars admire preservation of Buddhist heritage (The News)
Chinese Delegation Visit Takht Bhai Relics, Peshawar Museum (Pakistan Point)
Chinese delegation visits archaeological sites in KP (Business Recorder)
Chinese scholars, archaeologists visit historical sites in K-P (The Express Tribune)
China to help KP preserve archaeological sites (Dawn)
Tourism Corporation Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (Facebook)