The historical and literary Monuments of Central Asia are the repositories of civilization, culture and aesthetic tastes of their creators and their milieu over millennia. Though some existed in manuscript, a large portion survived dozens of centuries as part of the oral tradition. After printing press licenses were wrestled by the Central Asians from the Russian government during the 19th century, many were collected by the Central Asians and others, and published. The Monuments have proved to be durable. Primarily works of Central Asian thought, they belong also to civilization at large, representing the endeavors of human activity.
The present volume presents essays on eight Central Asian Monuments. Each essay discusses one Monument, placing it in historical perspective. Some works are very early products of Central Asian thought. A few, are quite new, that is, were produced in the 19th and the 20th centuries. They all, however, are repositories of thought and culture and all have had palpable repercussions. Their enduring quality is manifested in repeated references to them by present-day Central Asians in their own historical, literary, and even political writings. Indeed, this use of Monuments provided an additional reason for undertaking this collection. In a time when Central Asia's importance to the world affairs is again resurgent, it is necessary to understand the intellectual nucleus of Central Asians' mode of thinking. This is especially important, because an overwhelming majority of Central Asian writings do not appear in any other language than their own dialects. The appreciation of these Monuments, their messages and their influence over time contributes to the understanding of current issues precisely because they are directly linked in the minds of the Central Asians themselves. This is illustrated by the first essay, "Sun is also Fire," which examines the references to various Monuments in one contemporary "novella" from Uzbekistan.
The eight works examined in this volume necessarily represent only a sampling of monuments extant in Central Asia. For example, not included is the genre of the "forefathers' admonitions," any significant discussion of which would require volumes. Among the components of the latter genre are dastans, "ornate oral histories." There are a minimum of fifty "main" dastans, each at least several hundred pages long, exclusive of dozens of variants for each. A number of studies on this genre have been published over the years, in the original dialects as well as in translation, including English. Talat Tekin's A Grammar of Orkhon Turkic contains samples from one of the earliest known advice and counsel works, incorporating narrations by the past rulers themselves. Among them, the following translations and analyses should be mentioned: The Book of Dede Korkut, by Geoffrey L. Lewis; The Memorial Feast for Kokotoy Khan, by Arthur T. Hatto; Maadi Kara, by Ugo Marazzi; Alpamysh by H. B. Paksoy; and Chora Batir. Fragments of others may be found in Radloff. The foregoing represents only a small fraction; other accounts and admonitions such as Oghuz Han, edited by Z. V. Togan; Koroglu, Koblandi Batir; Kambar Batir; Manas are not yet available in English.
Another group is what may be termed "handbooks" or compendiums include Diwan Lugat-it Turk, Kutadgu Bilig, Muhakemat al- lughateyn. These three and others have been translated. On the other hand, most of the poetry written in Central Asia are still not accessible. The volume of Central Asian poetry is so great that the effort required may occupy several scholars a lifetime to successfully translate even one major poet. For instance, Navai's poetry alone would be a significant project, and in the past UNESCO attempted to undertake the task, but for want of trained scholars prepared to undertake the job, it has not progressed.
There are also histories written by Central Asians. Togan and Bartold provide good critical summaries of those indigenous works, very few of which have been translated. Y. Bregel is in the process of doing one. Bosworth, Sumer, Kafesoglu have also made use of manuscript souces of the type and provide bibliographies. Western souces include discussions on such works, at varying lengths, including the Cambridge History of India, two volumes of which necessarily include heavy doses of Central Asian affairs, as well as the Oxford History of India and the Cambridge History of Iran which provide insights from the Western and Southern edges. Denis Sinor, in his still unsurpassed Introduction a l'etude de l'Eurasie Centrale provides an extensive bibliography of hundreds of works devoted to the topic. Individual volumes on various aspects of Central Asian history were also added to this list since Sinor's comprehensive work. Some of the earlier important works were also listed in Sinor's Inner Asia: A Syllabus.
A quantity of volumes on the history of the Central Asians, focusing on dynasties, geographic locations or eras may be found in principal libraries. The most comprehensive is by W. Barthold Turkestan Down to the Mongol Invasion. As the title indicates, it covers the period up to the 13th century A.D. Z. V. Togan's Turkili Turkistan concentrates largely on the 19th and the 20th centuries. The sample period volumes on the history of the Central Asians include the 10th c. A.D. De administrando imperio by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (Byzantine emperor); 10th c. Hudud al-Alam; 12th c. Marwazi China, the Turks and India; 14th c. Ibn Battuta's Travels; 8th c. Chiu T'ang-shu, the 16th c. Baburnama; also of the 16th c. Secere-i Turk. There are also collections of documents, e.g.: Turkische Turfan Texte tr. by Bang and Gabain (1920s); Documentes sur les Tou-kiue (Turcs) Occidentaux; The Tarikh-i Rashidi. Certainly, there is no shortage of commentaries, observations on the more recent social, historical or political conditions of Central Asia. However, the present volume is not intended as a bibliography, since quite a few of the cited works are, or contain extensive listings of sources, but to introduce a number of original works of Central Asian origin.
In short, there are more categories of Central Asian monuments than there are students currently studying them around the world. The present volume, matching active scholars with Monuments, will perhaps stimulate further work on these works and their impact.