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Tash-Rabat is an unusual architectural structure, located on the Great silk road

In the Middle ages, the equipment of the caravan trade passing along the routes of the Great silk road routes lasting several days, was risky. Therefore, to ensure the security of merchants and their products on many trade routes in the Middle East were built caravanserai — facilities for reception and rest of the traders and pack animals, as well as temporary storage of goods. They were erected along caravan trade routes in specific, sometimes remote and desolate, away from human settlements, the places, is designed to accommodate traders within a few days after a long journey. And hear, where were the preachers of different religions, were constructed religious buildings, temples and monasteries. The architecture of these structures in the different regions of Inner Asia has both similarities and significant differences.

One of these unusual stone structures located in the river valley of Tash-Rabat, a tributary of Kara-Koyun, flowing along the ridges of the At-Bashy mountain range in the Central Tien Shan on the territory of the Kyrgyz Republic. In ancient times the valley of this river was a trade route connecting the Chuy and Fergana valleys to Kashgar.

The ruins of Tash-Rabat has long attracted the attention of residents of At-Bashy mountain plateau — Kyrgyz (herders and hunters), who saw this, built of stone at the building located on high altitude in a narrow mountain gorge, the building is very unusual and associated with him their ancient legends. In the late XIX — early XX century Tash-Rabat has visited, examined, and left its description, plans, sketches, many scientists and travelers. Among them was a Kazakh educator, who served in Russian military service, Chokan Valikhanov, an eminent specialist in ancient and medieval history of Central Asia V. V. Bartold, archaeologist A. N. Bernstam and many other researchers. They estimated the time of building, defined the purpose and cultural identity of this complex. Some scholars think Tash-Rabat caravan-Sarai of the late middle ages, others were inclined to think that this structure represents the ruins of a Nestorian Christian monastery. In the late 1970’s — early 1980-ies on econometrica conducted research at the expedition of Institute of history Academy of Sciences of the Kirghiz SSR. The results of their research were reflected in the book by S. Ya. Peregudova synthesized all the available information about this monument [1]. She identified Tash-Rabat as stationary cult iilay complex with a ceremonial hall and cells, constructed of Asian Christians-Nestorians in the X—XI centuries. In the 1980s, this valuable monument of historical and cultural heritage of Kyrgyzstan was restored by the Ministry of culture of the Kyrgyz Republic, after which it was used to show visitors from different countries.

View Tash-Rabat from the entrance gate

In the summer of 2007 during the festival, held in At-Bashy district by the Association “Dordoi” on the occasion of the opening of the Museum in the medieval fortress of Koshoi-Korgon, the author of these lines managed to visit Tash-Rabat gorge and explore this unique structure. Fully restored and renovated Tash-Rabat is an almost square layout of the building represents a medieval castle, completely blocked by a solid horizontal roof with raised in the Western part of the spherical dome. The main facade of the building is located on the East side. This is a high, strong stone wall with corner towers and a gate with the high portal and arch. External side along the East wall is a wide bench — Sufa and predhodna Playground, paved with stone slabs. The other three walls do not have nidera. no Windows. The building is thoroughly built into the mountainside, under which it was built. Its West wall rises above the surface of the mountain slope a little more than a meter. The side walls, down the slope of mountain terraces, combined with high low Western Eastern facade wall. All spaces within the exterior walls, common roof is covered with a spherical dome. Inside the building is from the gate located in the center of the Eastern wall, the Western wall runs to the Central corridor. He rests in a square hall, surmounted by a dome. On either side of the corridor and the hall are various rooms: a long rectangular and a small square room. Along the walls in some rooms there are ledges. The floor of the side rooms is located lower than the Central corridor. As noted in his book Peregudov S. Y., participated in the measurements, lifting plans and the excavation of this building, the exterior walls of buildings almost twice as thick as the internal walls are partitions. The floor in many areas was covered with a layer of ash with the remnants of charcoal. Inside were found many fragments of pottery and ceramic lamp — Chirag. Currently in one of the side rooms is in an inclined position rather large stone millstone with the square through hole in the center. On the surface of the inner side of the dome there are fragments of stylized vegetal ornamentation. Due to the lack of Windows in most of the areas quite dark even during the day, there are small holes around the perimeter of the dome and the ceiling of the building.

Around the building and on the slope of the mountainous ridge is the burial ground. Visible on the surface of a stone laying, a separate stone slabs and earthen mounds. On some graves show traces of recent excavation. Apparently, the local population continued to bury their dead and after the building ceased to function. There is evidence that in this cemetery to bury their dead tribesmen, the Dungans who migrated from Kashgar into the Russian Empire in the late nineteenth century.

A millstone in one of the rooms

Although the appearance of Tash-Rabat shows that it is built in the tradition of medieval Central Asian architecture, the singularity of its design has led to the fact that different researchers have evaluated the purpose of this structure. Most of them believed that it served as a caravanserai, because the building is located in the gorge, which runs on the mountain path leading from At-Bashi to Kashgar, which could pass caravans and the layout of the walls with towers and gates of the portal is typical of many mediaeval caravanserais in Central Asia. However, this building has no courtyard, where normally for a period of rest, the caravan unloaded and placed beasts of burden. So some scientists (including those mentioned Peregudova) believed Tash-Rabat is not a caravanserai, and a Nestorian monastery built in a remote mountain valley away from the Gentiles. However, no finds of objects of Christian cult, evidence in favor of this assumption, in the course of excavation was found. In the cemetery around Tash-Rabat was not graves with nestorianskiego. like those that survived in medieval Christian cemeteries in the Chui valley. Probably to successfully address such a contentious issue it is necessary to continue the study of this interesting monument.

After the reconstruction of Tash-Rabat continues to attract tourists from around the world. On the day of our stay, it was visited by a group from Switzerland. For monument, located in a remote mountainous area, where there is no beaten track and modern service, is an important demonstration of the possibilities for preservation and further study of Tash-Rabat.

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