Besides the booming trade and investment between China and the Belt & Road Countries, archaeological cooperation along the ancient route, especially with Central Asian Countries, has also thrived with forgotten glories unearthed to the modern world.

More than 2,000 years ago, the Yuezhi, also known as Rouzhi, people, who were first reported living in the west of today’s Chinese province of Gansu, migrated from China to Central Asia.

Zhang Qian, the envoy sent by an emperor of China’s Han Dynasty (202 B.C.-220 A.D) to seek a military alliance in the west with the Greater Yuezhi, a branch split from the Yuezhi, eventually arrived on their land via the Kangju Kingdom after the ordeals of a long journey.

It was Zhang Qian’s diplomatic mission in ancient China that prompted the prosperous trade route now known as the Silk Road.

However, the disappearance of the Greater Yuezhi people has been a mystery to historians, anthropologists and linguists for many years, said Wang Jianxin, a professor from the Northwest University of China in Xi’an, capital of Shaanxi Province.

In order to find the cultural relics of the Yuezhi people, since 2009, an archaeological team led by Wang has cooperated with archaeologists from countries including Uzbekistan. They made several excavations and discoveries in Samarkand and other places.

“We’ve preliminarily identified cultural characteristics and distribution ranges of the Yuezhi and the Kangju people,” said Wang.

“We have presented evidence and scientific proof to demonstrate the history along the Belt & Road.”

Another archaeological institute in Shaanxi has also cooperated with the Issyk State Historical-Cultural Museum in Kazakhstan to gradually unveil ruins of the Rahat site, home to an ancient civilisation which once thrived on the Silk Road at the northern foot of the Tianshan Mountains in Kazakhstan.

The joint archaeological research team excavated 980 square meters and surveyed 500,000 square meters of the Rahat site in 2019. They excavated one house, 23 pits and four tombs and unearthed 70 pieces of iron, pottery and bone items. The house is a form of semi-crypt, with a sloped doorway and a stove pit. Relics from the ruins date back between 2,400 years ago and 1,400 years ago.

The Shaanxi Provincial Archaeological Research Institute has signed an agreement with the Institute of History, Archaeology and Ethnology of the Kyrgyz Academy of Sciences to carry out joint excavations and research on the Krasnaya Rechka site. So far they have completed the first phase of joint archaeological work and the second phase is on the way.

The Krasnaya Rechka village is an important ancient site in the Chuhe River valley. During the 8th to the 12th century, the site witnessed the development of the ancient Silk Road.

The joint team applied various technologies on the site, such as RTK surveying, total station mapping, drone filming and three dimensional scanning.

They conducted a survey upon a Buddhist temple on the east side of the Krasnaya Rechka site. It was the first time that the survey and excavation methods commonly used in China had been utilised in archaeological practices in Kyrgyzstan, said Tian Youqian, a researcher from the Shaanxi institute.

“The archaeological cooperation with Central Asian countries has filled in their historical blanks concerning ancient nomads,” said Wang.

“It also reveals the process of fusions of different cultures and ethnic groups along the Silk Road, and awakens the common historical memories and feelings shared by people in these regions.”