The forthcoming trip to Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan is meant to be a continuation of our visit to Uzbekistan last year. We travelled as far west as Khiva which is not far away from the east coast of Caspian Sea, and this year we continue with our journey exploring the land west of Caspian Sea.
The three small countries, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan collectively known as Transcaucasia, are located south of the lofty Caucasus Mountains of Russia and north of the volcanic desserts at the border with Iran, and sandwiched by the Caspian Sea in the east and the Black Sea in the west. They are situated at the crossroads of Europe and Asia and have long been an important section of the Silk Road frequented by monks, warriors and merchants.
Georgians, Armenians and Azerbaijanis have their own indigenes ancient origins, tracing back to pre-historical times and each had its own golden age in history when their boundaries were expanded, trade flourished, and their literature and art reached great heights. However, their strategic geographical position combined with their exquisite beauty have attracted invaders from the ancient times to the modern day, including the Hittites, Assyrians, Scythians, Greeks, Romans and Persians in the ancient times to the Arabs, Turks and Mongols in the middle ages, and finally the Russians in the last two centuries. They became part of the USSR from 1921 to 1990. They regained their independence in 1991. Although they share borders with each other, each country has its own unique distinctive culture. Throughout history, they were influenced and enriched by the different cultures introduced by the powerful invaders, traces of which can be found in their languages, religions, cuisines, dresses and in particular, their architecture like churches, mosques, monasteries, castles, old towns preserved to this day, some of which are registered as World Heritage Sites by the UNESCO.
These include ruins of the Zvartnots Temple, considered pearl of the 7th Century architecture in Caucasus, Echmiadzin Cathedral, one of the oldest standing churches in Christendom, both in Armenia. Mtskheta, the ancient capital of Georgia with its architectural monuments, and the Bargrathi Cathedral and Gelati Temple are best examples of Georgian architecture at its height, just to name a few.
The three countries lie along the famous Silk Road which linked China with countries in Europe. Artashat, Tbilisi, Selim and Uplistsikhe were major stops in this important trade route and some caravanserai, built to accommodate travelers and merchants are preserved to this day.(Dr. Joseph Ting)
Dr. Joseph Sun Pao Ting was born in Guangzhou and raised in Hong Kong. He majored in Chinese Literature and Chinese History at HKU and graduated with a BA degree in 1974. He was conferred an MPhil in 1979 and a PhD in 1989, also from HKU.
Dr. Ting joined the Hong Kong Museum of Art as an Assistant Curator in 1979 and was appointed Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Museum of History in 1995. He retired in 2007 after serving for 28 years. He is currently an Honorary Assistant Professor in the HKU School of Chinese, and was an Honorary Research Fellow at the former Centre of Asian Studies.
He is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of History at the Chinese University of Hong Kong and a Member, inter alia, of the Antiquities Advisory Board, the Lord Wilson Heritage Trust and the Education Bureau of Hong Kong.
Dr. Ting is an Honorary Advisor to the Hong Kong Museum of Art, the Hong Kong Museum of History, the Hong Kong University Museum and Art Gallery, the Shenzhen Museum and the Guangdong Provincial Museum. He is an Honorary Fellow of the HKU and Hong Kong Institute of Education.