There are many long stone blocks erected on the grasslands of Xinjiang, engraved with figures or animal patterns of different shapes and images. For the convenience of research, archaeologists call the stones engraved with figures on them “grassland stone figures”; those engraved with deer-shaped patterns are called “deer stones”.
According to field archeology and survey statistics, more than 200 grassland stone figures have been discovered in Xinjiang so far. These stone figures have different shapes, most of which are stele-like portraits, and their postures are divided into two categories: standing and sitting. Judging from the gender attributes of the stone figures, there are mainly male stone figures and a small number of female stone figures.
Most of the male stone figures are warriors. These warriors have obvious facial features, strong and sturdy bodies, and obvious waist buttons engraved on their waists. Many stone figures have swords hanging from their belts, and they hold weapons, cups, bowls and other utensils in their hands, showing the majestic appearance of grassland nomads. . Most of these stone figures stand on top of the round stone pile, facing the east, as if looking forward to and watching the rising of the sun every day.
Compared with the stone man, the distribution range of the deer stone is smaller, mostly located in the mountainous grasslands of northern Xinjiang. The patterns carved on it are quite abstract. Many deer beaks are depicted as slender bird beaks. The picture of the deer body and bird beak makes people imagine. The patterns on some deer stones are also abstracted into regular symbols, such as slashes, circles, sword blades, etc. According to the research of archaeologists, the slash symbolizes the human facial features and face, the circle symbolizes the necklace hanging on the neck, and the sword body symbolizes the lower body of the human body. The three patterns are superimposed into one body to form an abstract human body graphics.
The origin of the stone man
With the in-depth study of grassland nomadic civilization, archaeologists deduce that these grassland stone figures and deer stones are most likely left by grassland nomadic ancestors. Historically, powerful nomadic peoples such as the Xiongnu, Xianbei, Rouran, Turks, and Mongols have all galloped across the vast Tianshan grassland. They live in grass and choose water, and their activities are very extensive. The nomadic way of life has derived many primitive beliefs and customs. The appearance of these stone figures and deer stones is very likely related to this.
According to relevant research, most of the grassland stone people unearthed or discovered in Xinjiang are products of the Turkic era. The Turks were nomadic peoples active in the Tianshan and Mobei areas from the 6th to the 8th centuries. The term Turkic was first seen in the “Book of Zhou” edited by Linghu Defen in the Tang Dynasty. This book mainly records the history of the Northern Zhou Dynasty during the Southern and Northern Dynasties. In 552 AD, the Turkic leader Ashina Tumen defeated Rouran and established the Turkic Khanate, which created a glorious history of more than 200 years of Turkic history.
In recent years, archaeologists have discovered that Turkic people have the funeral custom of “building stones and building signs” after death. According to the “Book of Zhou Turkic Biography”, after the Turkic people were buried, they would “stand stones and build signs” in front of the tomb. “Sui Shu·Turkic Biography” has more detailed records. After the death of the Turkic people, “the table wood is the tomb, and the house is erected in it, and the shape of the deceased and the battle formation he went through during his life are drawn.” From this point of view, the Turkic people will portray the image of the deceased and the image of the deceased when he was fighting, and show the bravery and outstanding military exploits of the deceased through “standing stones and building signs”.
In addition, according to historical records, Turkic people also have the custom of setting up killing stones. The Turks are warlike and bloodthirsty, and they are proud of it. Their killing also has a specific goal, that is, the higher the status of the enemy, the greater the honor they will get after killing him. This is shown in the famous three Turkic monuments It has been reflected, for example, it is recorded on the Que Teqin Stele that “To commemorate my father Khan, Khan Kagasi was first erected as a killing stone”, and the Vija Khan Stele has a record of “I beheaded his warrior as a killing stone”. . This shows that only khans or warriors in the enemy camp are eligible to be erected as killing stones. The erected killing stone not only represents the number of enemies killed, but also most likely is the image of the enemy he killed. The posture of the stone figures facing the east may also be related to the Turkic concept of worshiping the sun. It is recorded in “Book of Zhou Turkic Biography”: “The tooth tent is opened to the east, and the cover is built to respect the sun.”
It can be inferred from the Turkic custom of “standing stones to build markers” and erecting killing stones that the characters carved on the standing stones may be the owner of the tomb, or the enemy killed by the owner of the tomb. The standing stone itself, on the one hand, can show the great achievements of the owner of the tomb; on the other hand, in the belief of the Turkic people, the stone has some kind of mysterious power. After death, the soul will be attached to the stone man, as long as the stone man does not fall, the soul will not disappear. In addition, many prairie stone men also wear “蹀躞躞纹”, which is a dressing fashion of the grassland people and fully reflects the cultural characteristics of the grassland people.
make it public
For a long time, the grassland stone man was not paid attention to by people until Xu Song, a Xuezheng in Hunan Province, was exiled to Yili during the Jiaqing period of the Qing Dynasty. Xu Song was a leader of the Qianjia School in the Qing Dynasty. He pursued the thought of being practical and practical. During his exile, he conducted a field survey of Xinjiang. Sword and cup” stone man, and recorded it in his travel notes “West Regions Waterways”. Because the image of the stone man is similar to Weng Zhong of the Shinto in the Central Plains Mausoleum, Xu Song called it “Shi Zhongweng”. After modern times, as western explorers went deep into the inland areas of China to carry out investigation and exploration activities, the grassland stone people gradually became known to the world.
Nowadays, when we turn over the map, we often see the place name “Sentas”. Typically, stone figures or deer stones have been found in places called “sentas”. The local chronicles of Qinghe County in northern Xinjiang record: “Sentas, in Kazakh, means portrait.” Not only in the Altay region, but also in Tacheng, Yili, Changji and other places have the place name “Sentas”. In the 1990s, two stone figures were discovered in the Sentas area of Jimunai County. There is also a lake near the stone figures, named “Sentas Lake”. According to local herdsmen, the two stone statues beside the lake, one high and one low, one east and one west, were erected to commemorate the leaders of the Turkic tribes.
With the gradual introduction of Islam into Xinjiang, the nomadic people active in the Tianshan Mountains began to abandon their primitive religion and convert to monotheism, and the unique customs such as grassland stone figures and deer stones gradually disappeared in the long river of history.