One of the most remarkable achievements of the global civilization is the Great Silk Road that connected East and West for the first time in the history of the humankind. The beginning of its functioning dates back to the second half of the 2nd century B.C. The name «Silk Road» was first introduced into academic vocabulary by a German scholar Freiherr von Richthofen in 1877. Not only the Great Silk Road helped to export silk and other goods, but it was also the origin of diverse spiritual values, religious ideas, artistic cultures and traditions.

The Ikuo Hirayama International Caravan-Sarai of Culture (ICSC) is an academic, training and educational centre engaged in promoting cultural heritage of Uzbekistan, Japan and other countries located along the path of the Great Silk Road. In 1999 a famous Japanese artist Ikuo Hirayama invited Tursunali Kuziev, Chairman of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan, to be his guest in the city of Kamakura (Japan) and shared his idea of creating a Caravan-Sarai of Culture. This idea was supported by Islam Karimov, the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan, who ensured the implementation of construction of the ICSC.

Hirishoma Stone of Peace

The Uzbek-Japanese academic and creative centre called Caravan-Sarai of Culture was inaugurated in March 2002; the ceremony was attended personally by Professor Hirayama, a well-known Japanese artist, patron of arts, traveller and explorer, public figure, the President of the Tokyo National University of Fine Arts and Music, the Good Will Ambassador of UNESCO and the leader of the official Japanese delegation for the studies of the Great Silk Road carried out jointly with research centres in the two countries.

Following the order of the Cabinet of Ministers of the Republic of Uzbekistan issued in 2004, the International Caravan-Sarai of Culture was given its official name and status.

The International Caravan-Sarai of Culture facilitates the revival of the Silk Road traditions and the development of an international dialogue of cultures on the basis of mutual respect, religious and ethnic tolerance.

Architectural solution for the ICSC — two buildings — symbolizes the synthesis and harmony of interconnection between tradition and contemporaneity, reminding of caravan-sarais that existed in the distant past.

One building houses offices of the administration, a conference room, a library containing over five thousand books, albums and magazines on the history of the Great Silk Road, archaeology, art history, ethnography, etc. donated by Ikuo Hirayama and the Embassy of Japan. Here one can also find a collection of traditional painting of different nations that was started by Korean masters of brush who donated their works performed in medieval manner: coloured ink on paper scrolls.

In the other building there is an exhibition hall that hosts international and republican exhibitions of fine and decorative/applied art, the viewing of video-art and environment, children’s drawing contests, and meetings with people of science and culture from East and West. The building also houses two museum halls presenting a collection called «Ceramics of the Great Silk Road» compiled of items found by the group of archaeologists and academic staff members of the ICSC together with archaeologists from other countries during excavations at historical memorial sites in Uzbekistan. Also located here are rooms for office studies and reconstruction of archaeological materials, as well as a laboratory and academic/creative workshop to provide training to restorers on the basis of methods and technologies brought by Japanese experts.

The most important objectives of the ICSC are:

  • To facilitate more thorough studies of the global culture, strengthening of international artistic and academic links and the revival of the Great Silk Road traditions;
  • To carry out archaeological and ethnographic expeditions together with foreign experts;
  • To establish and develop cooperation with international foundations, foreign research centres and institutes engaged in the Great Silk Road studies;
  • To form library and museum stock, prepare analytical and academic materials and articles based on studying data obtained during excavations;
  • To organize and conduct republican and international academic symposia, conferences, seminars and lectures.


From the collection of the International
Caravan-Sarai of Culture

Every year the ICSC museum of the Great Silk Road Ceramics is replenished with finds discovered by Uzbek and Japanese scientists who carry out their research work in different regions of the country traversed by the Great Silk Road. These joined studies are spearheaded by prominent scholars: Academician of the AAU Dr. Eduard Rtveladze, Professor of the Institute of Archaeology of Japan Dr. Kazuya Yamauchi, Lecturer of the Kyoto University Dr. Iwai Shumpei, Professor of the Soka University Dr. Kenzo Kawasaki.

The museum of the Great Silk Road Ceramics has collected ancient, medieval and contemporary items made of ceramics, glass and metal; there are coins and items made of marble, limestone and rock. A significant part of the exposition consists of finds from widely known townships such as Kampyrtepa dating from 4th-1st centuries B.C. to 1st-2nd centuries A.D., Dalverzintepa dating from 3rd-1st centuries B.C. to 1st-8th centuries A.D., Khudoitepa dating from 2nd century B.C. to 1st century A.D., Munchaktepa dating 10th-13th centuries A.D. (Surkhandaria region), and Kanka dating 10th-11th centuries A.D. (Tashkent region). The pride of the ICSC museum is a headdress decoration of a Buddhist statue found during excavations at the Kanka township (Tashkent region).

From the collection of the International
caravan-Sarai of Culture.

Embassies and masters from foreign countries presented the museum with items of pottery art of China and Iran. Academic and cultural activity of the ICSC focuses on carrying out academic research, publishing academic and popular scientific articles and collections, and issuing methodological handbooks in the field of art history, archaeology, restoration and conservation of national values. A lot has been done already in this area of work.

The ICSC regularly holds academic conferences. For instance, on November 25-27, 2005 the ICSC and the AAU with assistance from UNESCO representative office in Uzbekistan, the Foundation «Forum for Culture and Art of Uzbekistan» and the Ministry for Culture and Sports of Uzbekistan held an international conference «Restoration of Historical and Cultural Heritage in Central Asia: Basic Development Strategy». Prominent scholars from different countries made their presentations at the conference and conference materials were published.

An international academic/theoretical conference called «The Great Silk Road: Culture and Traditions, Past and Present» was held on 19-20 October 2006. Its objective was to study the Silk Road in a historical aspect, to revive and promote, to expand cultural dialogue of people from different countries of the world, and to excite public interest worldwide towards matters related to the renaissance of the Great Silk Road. The conference was attended by historians, archaeologists, restorers and experts from countries in Europe, Asia, from Australia, Russia and other countries. It has been proposed to publish an extended collection of academic presentations on this subject-matter.

From the collection of the International
Caravan-Sarai of Culture

On the 29th of March there was a gala ceremony to inaugurate a memorial «Hiroshima Stone for Peace» and to hand over the certificate of the Stone for Peace Association of Hiroshima. This deeply symbolic gift, which is delivered to the heads of state of foreign countries, has become another sign of recognition by Japanese and international community of Uzbekistan’s peaceful policy pursued by the country’s leadership. The Stone for Peace Association of Hiroshima traditionally presents this token of peace to the heads of state for their outstanding peace-keeping achievements. On the premises of the ICSC there is a Garden of Peace where trees have been planted by renowned statesmen and heads of diplomatic missions. This garden is a symbol of friendship and peace between all nations.

One can say with confidence that the Ikuo Hirayama International Caravan-Sarai of Culture of the Academy of Arts of Uzbekistan is the centre for consolidation of artistic intelligentsia and the public on the path of reviving the traditions of productive dialogue between cultures of the countries located along the Great Silk Road, helping to strengthen friendship of nations.

Muzaffar Sakhibjonov