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The mass pilgrimage at Kumbh Mela unites Hindus in a splendid showcase of faith and devotion!

Pilgrims at the Kumbh Mela take shelter at a decorated wall near the ghats in Ujjain to escape the blistering heat during this time of the year. © Genther Deichmann

A compilation of visual stories that connect the land, culture and people of Eurasia that were linked by the former Mongol Empire under Genghis Khan, the ruler who united the nomadic tribes of northeast Asia.

Horse Breeding in Eastern Mongolia. The Mongol Empire was established on horseback. The rise and fall of the empire was dramatic. The Mongols are back to where they began and their horse breeding traditions continue.

 

The sun peaked over the horizon, and in a matter of minutes, the darkness which had cloaked me for hours vanished, replaced with a warm, orange glow. Though a good sized crowd was gathered at the summit, you could have heard a pin drop, such was the silent reverence for the place. © Shutterstock

With a history spanning over 2,000 years, sumo offers an exhilarating taste of Japanese culture. 

Inside the arena, Kyokutenho entertains a packed stadium during his danpatsu-shiki (the official retirement ceremony). © Lord K2

Shinto origins

Shinto is ‘the way of the gods’ and, just as it is for many mortals, sumo wrestling is a favourite pastime. For nearly 2,000 years, sumo wrestlers have performed their martial art, first in intimate shrines, and then in stadiums before thousands of spectators. At least as early as the 3rd century AD, the wrestlers would perform complex rituals to purify both their body and their spirit, and then fight for the entertainment of the gods during the matsuri (religious festivals). It was a sacred act of ritual, not a sport. Yet what began in the temples later spread to the courts, and sumo became something to be enjoyed by all involved– competitors and spectators.

There were few rules, wrestlers frequently drew blood, and you could box your opponent as well as wrestle him to the ground. In fact, not all the wrestlers were men: one particularly celebrated sumo wrestler was a nun! With topless women pitted against blind men, and prostitutes and warriors fighting one another to settle the political scores of their patrons, the sumo ring was not dissimilar to a gladiator arena.

Over the centuries, it gradually evolved to the extent that the sumo these earlier wrestlers practiced would be almost unrecognisable to their modern counterparts.

Hakkaku Stable, Tokyo. © Lord K2

The Evolution of Sumo

250-858: Between 250-552, sumo bouts were performed at Shinto shrines to entertain the gods during festivals. 710-794 saw the first recorded accounts of sumo bouts at the imperial court. According to legend, in 858, the Emperor Seiwa secured his throne after winning a sumo bout.

1185-1684: Between 1185-1333, sumo was used to train samurai warriors and to settle disputes. In 1684, the first professional sumo tournament was held at the Tomioka Hachiman Shrine in Tokyo.

1761-1884: 1761 saw the introduction of the banzuke, the written rankings for sumo wrestlers. In 1853, sumo wrestlers performed for Commodore Matthew Perry, one of the first foreigners to witness the sport. The Meiji Emperor visits a sumo match in 1884, raising its status to a national sport.

1909-1949: In 1909, construction of the first dedicated sumo stadium began. 1912 saw the birth of Futabayama Sadaji, the sumo wrestler who set an all time record by winning 69 consecutive bouts, and 12 yūshō (sumo championships). A merger of the Osaka and Tokyo sumo into a single, pan-Japanese organization took place in 1927, becoming the Japan Sumo Association. In 1931, the standard diameter for a dohyō – the wrestling ring – is set at 4.55m. The basho, or sumo tournament, is extended from 10 to 15 days in 1949.

1950s: In 1953, there was the first television broadcast of a sumo tournament. A year later in 1954, there was the opening of the Sumo Museum at Kuramae Kokugikan, the home of professional sumo prior to its move to Ryōgoku Kokugikan.

Sumo wrestlers can often be spotted walking around Ryogkoku in Tokyo. © Lord K2

1984: There is the reconstruction of the Ryōgoku Kokugikan, the home of sumo tournaments in Tokyo.

1990s: In 1993, Akebono, an American sumo wrestler from Hawaii, becomes the first foreign sumo wrestler to obtain the highest sumo rank, yokozuna. In 1994, sumo was rated as the most popular sport in Japan, significantly ahead of soccer and baseball.

2000s: The first US Sumo Open, the largest annual sumo tournament outside Japan, took place in the USA. In 2016, Sumo wrestler Hakuho wins his 37th championship with a perfect 15-0 score.

Read more in Asian Geographic Passport, ‘Travel Through History’, Collectors' Edition 2016-2017.

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Original article by Sophie Ibbotson, Photos by Lord K2.

ASIAN GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE celebrates Asia in all its rich diversity, from its natural environment to its assortment of wildlife, cultures and scientific discoveries. Based in Singapore, the team has its fingers on the pulse of Asia, with its award-winning contributors scouring the region to bring powerful stories and images to you. Titles under Asian Geographic Magazines include its flagship title ASIAN Geographic, PASSPORT, JUNIOR, and its diving titles, Asian Diver and Scuba Diver.

The illegal animal trade, deforestation and its affect on the climate, pose an existential threat to Borneo’s wildlife. © Gil Woolley/ Scubazoo

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Here are some essential information for the June 2017 trip to Silk Road, Dunhuang China

Departure : 4th June 2017, Shanghai Pudong Airport
Return : 10th Jun 2017, Shanghai Pudong Airport

Min : 10 guest
Max : 16 guest

Highlight

  • Dunhuang - Established in 111 BC it was an important gateway to the West as a centre of commerce along the Silk Road. It was a meeting place of various people and religions such as Buddhism.
  • Mogao Caves - A system of Buddhist cave temples near the city of Dunhuang, they were a center of culture on the Silk Road from the 4th to the 14th centuries which contain religious artworks spanning the entire period. It is the 3rd heritage site in China to be inscribed on UNESCO World Heritage list.
  • Gobi desert – The most notable desert in history as part of the great Mongol Empire,. It is the location of several important cities along the Silk Road.
  • Yadan National Geological Park and Devil town - famous for its largest scale of landforms with unique rock formations developed over a period of 700,000 years.
  • Crescent Lake - An oasis in the Gobi desert, it is surrounded the numerous sand dunes. Camel rides and mesmeric sunset photo opportunities at Mingshashan sand dunes.
  •  Zhangye Danxia Landform Geological Park - Rows of reddish rock formations streaked in pink, white, yellow, grey and green in a colourful formation
  • Jiayuguan - The first pass at the west end of the Great Wall of China, it is one of the most intact surviving ancient military building in China.
  • Lanzhou -  A hot spot on the ancient Silk Road. The only provincial capital city with the Yellow River flowing through. Experience the traditional way of cruising down the Yellow River on an ancient-style sheepskin raft made up of a dozen inflated sheepskins.

Package inclusion

  • Fully private tour in vehicle (33seat- 45seater)
  • 6 nights accommodation in comfortable hotels (a mixture of 3 - 4star, local standard)
  • Room is twin sharing basis (Single supplement is additional SGD250)
  • All entrance fees and permits
  • Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner 3 meals a day
  • English speaking guides for the entire trip
  • XA tour leader X 1 , Asia Geo tour leader X 1 (if it is maximum capacity 16)
  • 3 domestic flights  include tax and surcharges (Shanghai to Lanzhou return, Dunhuang to Lanzhou one way)
  • China domestic Travel insurance covered.

Package exclusion

  • International flight to Shanghai , China
  • Arrangement to Shanghai Pudong Airport
  • Visa entry to China (if applicable)
  • Additional beverages (including alcohol) not included in meals
  • Any other incidental expenses incurred by participants
  • Tips for both driver and local guide per person (voluntary basis)

Here are the detail of the itinerary, for Silk Road China, scheduled for 4th to 10th Jun 2017.

  • Day 1 - 4th June 2017 Shanghai - Lanzhou, Ganshu Province

    Depart from Shanghai Pudong Intl Airport on a domestic flight and arrive in Lanzhou in the afternoon, the capital city of Gansu province in Northwest China. Check in hotel and rest. Visit to the Lanzhou Museum to have the brief understanding of the ancient Silk Road and its history. Travel to Wuwei by late afternoon. Wuwei city is positioned along the Hexi Corridor. Historically it was the only route from central China to western China and the rest of Central Asia. Check in hotel and dinner. Overnight at Lanzhou.
  • Day 2 - 5th June 2017 Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park

    Following breakfast, pay a visit to the Tiantishan Grottoes with a 9 storey Buddha statue built 1600 years ago. Tiantishan Grottoes are the earliest chiseled grottoes in China, and are representative of the art of China's earliest grottoes. After lunch, proceed to Zhangye Danxia National Geological Park. The park is called ”China's rainbow mountains", known for its colorful rock formations. It has been voted by Chinese media outlets as one of the most beautiful landforms in China. The Geological Park is full of unusual colours of the rocks, which are smooth, sharp and several hundred meters tall. They are the result of deposits of sandstone and other minerals that occurred over 24 million years. The result, similar to a layer cake, it is connected to the action of the same tectonic plates responsible for creating parts of the Himalayan mountains. Overnight at Zhangye town.
  • Day 3 - 6th June 2017 JiayuGuan Pass

    Relish a rare opportunity to visit JiayuGuan Pass. It is the first pass at the west end of the Great Wall of China. The pass is located at the narrowest point of the western section of the Hexi Corridor and lies between two hills. The structure lies near an oasis on the extreme western edge of China. It was built during the early Ming dynasty, sometime around the year 1372. Jiayuguan is the most intact surviving ancient military building. The pass is also known by the name the "First and Greatest Pass Under Heaven". The fortress there was greatly strengthened due to fear of an invasion by Timur. However Timur died of old age while leading an army toward China. After lunch, visit the Overhanging Great Wall, which is an important part of the defense network of Jiayuguan Pass. Viewed from a distance, the Wall appears like a dragon overhanging the slope, hence the name. Built on the eastern slope of Black Mountain, it is not visible to anyone looking from the west to east. This was to fence off intruders who tried to attack inner China from here through the Black Mountain Canyon. Overnight at Jiayu city.
  • Day 4 - 7th June 2017 Dunhuang  and Gobi Desert

    Continuing the journey to the west, visit Dunhuang, a city located at the edge of the Gobi Desert which was once a frontier garrison on the Silk Road. Dunhuang is situated at a vital strategic point and is of great logistical importance on a crossroads of two major trade routes within the Silk Road network. Due to its strategic position at the crossroads of the ancient Southern Silk Route and the main road leading from India via Lhasa to Mongolia and Southern Siberia, Dunhuang was one of the first trading cities encountered by merchants arriving in China from the west. It is also an ancient site of Buddhist religious activity, and was a popular destination for pilgrims. It also acted as a garrison town protecting the region. In the afternoon, we proceed to Gobi Desert to visit Yueyaquan Lake. This is a crescent-shaped lake in an oasis. Mildred Cable & Francesca French visited the lake during their travels in the region and recorded their impressions in their book The Gobi Desert in 1950. Enjoy the desert at Mingsha Shan (Eco Sand Dunes), try out the camel ride or hike up on the sand dunes to enjoy the spectacular sunset. Overnight at Dunhuang city.
  • Day 5 - 8th June 2017  Yumen Pass, Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark

    Morning visit to Yumen Pass or Jade Gate. During the Han dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD), this was a pass through which the Silk Road passed, and was the one road connecting Central Asia to China and the former called the Western Regions. Traders in ancient time travelled to 'The Western Regions' left China through Yumen Pass. Named for the many jade caravans that passed through it, and continuing their long caravan journeys to India, Parthia, and the Roman Empire. Proceed to Dunhuang Yardang National Geopark. Learn about unique rock formations in the park developed over a period of 700,000 years created over time by the soft part of the earth's surface being eroded by wind and rain. Overnight at Dunhuang city.
  • Day 6 - 9th June 2017 Mogao Caves

    The Mogao Caves, also known as the Thousand Buddha Grottoes, form a system of 492 cells and cave sanctuaries, an oasis strategically located at a religious and cultural crossroads on the Silk Road spanning 1,000 years of Buddhist art. It was first constructed in 366AD and represented the great achievement of Buddhist art from the 4th to the 14th century. 492 caves are presently preserved, housing about 45,000 square meters of murals and more than 2,000 painted sculptures. As evidence of the evolution of Buddhist art in the northwest region of China, the Mogao Caves are of unmatched historical value. These works provide an abundance of vivid materials depicting various aspects of medieval politics, economics, culture, arts, religion, ethnic relations, and daily dress in western China. The unique artistic style of Dunhuang art is not only the amalgamation of Han Chinese artistic tradition and styles assimilated from ancient Indian and Gandharan customs, but also an integration of the arts of the Turks, ancient Tibetans and other Chinese ethnic minorities. Many of these masterpieces are creations of an unparalleled aesthetic talent. Travel by domestic flight to Lanzhou in the evening, overnight at Lanzhou.
  • Day 7 - 10th June 2017

    Morning visit to the Waterwheel Expo Garden. Learn about ancient devices that uses flowing or falling water to create power by means of a set of paddles mounted around a wheel, to transfer water from Yellow River to the city of Lanzhou. One could try the traditional sheep skin raft on the Yellow River. The raft has a long history in China, it was first used by the troops as early as the Han Dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) to carry people across the Yellow River. Taste a local favourite dish, Lanzhou Beef Lamian for lunch. It is a type of a spicy soup with sliced beef, radish, red chili oil and chewy hand-pulled wheat noodles. Depart Lanzhou with domestic flight to Shanghai, end of the trip.

 

Price

Cost per head: SGD2,488 only*
Include One year subscription plus an official (One) polo T-shirt

*Refer to inclusions and exclusions of cost per head

Booking for our Uzbekistan and India expeditions are not yet open. However, send us your details in an expression of interest and we will update you with the itinerary and dates in due course.


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In 28 September 2017 - 4 October 2017, explore Samarkand and Bukhara in untouched Uzbekistan. A crossroad of cultures and a centre for Islamic scholarly study, Samarkand boasts a history going back hundreds of years. Bukhara, a World Heritage Site, has over 140 architectural monuments waiting to be explored. 

 

 
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ASIAN GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINES PTE LTD

20 Bedok South Road
Singapore 469277

Tel. 6298 3241
Fax:  6291 2068
Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.