DANDĀN ÖILÏQ (“ivory houses”), ruined city located about 50 km north of the Domoko oasis in the eastern portion of the oasis complex of Khotan, in Chinese Turkestan. Today this area is completely uninhabited, but the ruined buildings and remains of huge trees show that in the 6th-8th centuries the Chira river, originating in the southern mountains, flowed past it and made possible the cultivation of fruit trees. The site consists of temples and dwellings, which are covered by high dunes. Sven Hedin discovered the ruins in 1896 during his perilous attempt to cross the Takla Makan desert between the Keriya and Khotan-Darya rivers; among several freestanding walls he found stucco sculptures and wooden vessels, which are now in the Ethnographic Museum, Stockholm. Systematic excavations were undertaken by Sir Mark Aurel Stein in 1902. He uncovered seventeen buildings and established the existence of a circular outer wall. In the interior of the temples he found wall paintings, stucco decorations, and painted wooden votive tablets, some of them with inscriptions, as well as a few manuscripts in Khotanese, Chinese, and Old Indian languages (now in the National Museum, New Delhi, and the British Library and India Office Library, London). Like Hedin, Ellsworth Huntington was able to collect a few sculptures from the ruins in 1906. A new archeological expedition was led by Emil Trinkler in 1928. He uncovered four buildings and several wall paintings and sculptures (Gropp, p. 25 fig. 2.67, pp. 62, 101, 268, 289), but no manuscripts; this material is now in the Überseemuseum in Bremen. Finally, in 1932 Erik Norin and Nils Ambolt, as codirectors of a Sino-Swedish expedition, collected a few manuscripts on the site (now in the Ethnographic Museum, Stockholm).
Stein designated the manuscript fragments that he found with the letter D, numbers from I to XVII (for the buildings in which they were found), and serial numbers (an initial 0 or 00 indicates objects bought or collected from local inhabitants, respectively). Several official documents dated in the years 768-69 came from the House of the Prefect of Li-hsieh (DV) and one monastery (DVII). The Hedin documents belong to the same period.
H. W. Bailey, Indo-Scythian Studies. Khotanese Texts IV. Saka Texts from Khotan in the Hedin Collection, Cambridge, 1961.
R. E. Emmerick, “A New Khotanese Document from China,” Stud. Ir. 13, 1984, pp. 195-98.
G. Gropp, Archäologische Funde aus Khotan, Chinesisch Ostturkestan. Die Trinklersammlung im Überseemuseum, Bremen, Monographien der Wittheit zu Bremen 11, Bremen, 1974.
Originally Published: December 15, 1993
Last Updated: November 14, 2011
This article is available in print.
Vol. VI, Fasc. 6, p. 645
Gerd Gropp, “DANDĀN ÖILÏQ (“ivory houses”),” Encyclopædia Iranica, VI/6, p. 645, available online at http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/dandan-ilq-ivory-houses (accessed on 30 December 2012).