Culture, Art and Architecture
Timur Lang, Gur-e Amir, Fergana Valley, Timurid dynasty, green ceramics
For more than a millennium, Islamic traditions have had a major impact on the function, layout, and design of buildings in Central Asia’s cultural centers. Uzbekistan’s ancient cities are endowed with some of the world’s most striking examples of Islamic architecture. This is especially true of Samarqand, which became the capital of the Turkic conqueror Tamerlane (Timur Lang) in 1369. Most of what stands today dates from the period of the Timurid dynasty (founded by Tamerlane), from the 14th to the early 16th century, or from the Shaybanid era of the 16th century. Turquoise-colored domes, such as the dome of the Gur-e Amir (Tamerlane’s mausoleum in Samarqand), are the outstanding feature of Timurid-period architecture. Gracefully arched portals and towering minarets are other trademarks of Islamic architecture.
Islamic tradition prohibits the realistic representation of living things in art. This artistic heritage is evident in the splendid, colorful mosaics that ornament many of Uzbekistan’s architectural monuments. The glazed tilework found on many religious buildings, for example, usually forms abstract geometrical patterns. Some of Uzbekistan’s famous monuments, however, display highly stylized images of animals and other living things. Designs such as the tiled lion figures above the portal at Samarqand’s Shir Dar religious school are considered permissible because they are more symbolic than lifelike.
The folk arts, passed down for many generations, thrive today in Uzbekistan. Uzbeks practice ancient skills such as ornamental wall painting, wood carving, and embroidery. In the Fergana Valley, Uzbek craftworkers use traditional, centuries-old methods to weave silk in the vibrantly multicolored, geometric khon atlas (“king of satins”) pattern and to craft bright blue and green ceramics using local red clay and natural pigments.
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