Home > History of Wine > The 1700 Year Old Vineyard of the Niya Site in China

The 1700 Year Old Vineyard of the Niya Site in China


Panoramic View Taken in Southern Portion of Niya Site. (Vineyard in back right). From On Ancient Central-Asian Tracks: Volume 1.

Panoramic View Taken in Southern Portion of Niya Site. (Vineyard in back right). From On Ancient Central-Asian Tracks: Volume 1.

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.

Ancient vineyard seen from foot of tamarisk cone to west-north-west [Niya-Site], 18 January 1931. Image from IDP.

Ancient vineyard seen from foot of tamarisk cone to west-north-west [Niya-Site], 18 January 1931. Image from IDP.

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.

Site Plan showing Ancient Vineyard.  Innermost Asia. Image from National Institute of Informatics.

Site Plan showing Ancient Vineyard. Innermost Asia. Image from National Institute of Informatics.

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.

Niya, N.XLIV., vineyard with reed wall behind, from the south, 14 November 2011.  Image from IDP.

Niya, N.XLIV., vineyard with reed wall behind, from the south, 14 November 2011. Image from IDP.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: