The 1700 Year Old Vineyard of the Niya Site in China

Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943) was a scholar who carried our four expeditions to Chinese Central Asia. Throughout these expeditions he surveyed, photographed, and conducted excavations. In 1913 Marc Aurel Stein was granted funding for his third expedition. His route for this expedition was based on his experiences during his 1906-1908 expedition. Thus on a cold December morning he returned to the Niya Site. His plan was to explore the ancient river bed and the surrounding ruins in greater detail.


Everything remained as he had previously seen. Incredibly, there was an ancient wooden bridge, now collapsed on the dry river bed, a partially collapsed residence, and the remains of a fenced in space. The fence encompassed a space approximately 253 by 149 yards. Within this space that Marc Aurel Stein found an ancient vineyard and orchard. The vines were planted in rows spaced twenty feet apart. Each vines was next to a stout wooden post which supported the trellis that carried the vine branches. In areas not touched by wind erosion the ancient dessicated vines and their posts stood up to three feet above the ground. This is staggering because the site dates to the third century.

The material Stein collected and generated is stored in different institutions. Several years ago The International Dunhuang Project: The Silk Road Online was launched to provide online access to all material related to the Eastern Silk Road. Amongst the digitized materials are high-resolution images of this ancient vineyard. Marc Aurel Stein published several papers and books about his expeditions. His volumes of Innermost Asia and On Ancient Central-Asian Tracks are available at the National Institute of Informatics – Digital Silk Road Project. Until I can devote further effort to the history and images of this vineyard I strongly recommend you check out the two websites I have mentioned.


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