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Latest Archeological and Cultural News of Iran and the Iranian World


Abarqu's Cypress-Tree After 4000-Years Still Gracefully Standing


25 April 2008



Abarqu_Cypress_Tree.jpg (89746 bytes)

  (Click to enlarge)


LONDON, (CAIS) -- A 4500-year-old cypress tree in Iran's southeastern province of Yazd is to be soon protected as one of the world's biggest living organisms. 

Department of Environment of Yazd Province hopes to have this colossal tree protected from being damaged or destroyed. 

The tree, gracefully standing in the city of Abarqu (ancient Abarkuh), located in the southwest of the Yazd Province is one of the region's seven historical and natural sites and is nominated to be added to the World Heritage list. 

Russian scientist Alexander Rouf has estimated the tree's age to be around 4000 years and with a height of 25 meters and a trunk 11.5 meters around, this massive tree definitely deserves preservation and a chance to shine on the list of world heritage.


The Tree is located within the Grand Mosque of Abarqu, which originally was a Zoroastrian Chahar Taqi (free-standing fire temple). The tree considered by locals as sacred and according to their folklore the tree was planted by Prophet Zarathushtra (Zoroaster). 

Yazd is home to the largest population of Zoroastrians in Iran.



Cypress Tree in Iranian Art and Culture

Among the symbols which the Iranians hold dear, none is as popular as the cypress tree. Innumerable qualities are attributed to this tree and its form. Whenever a Persian poet has tried to best describe the stature of his beloved one, he called her “cypress-like”, comparing her balanced poise, lithe motion and enchanting body to those of the cypress tree, and whenever he has spoken of truthfulness, uprightness and youth, he has taken the cypress tree as a model. 


Cypress_Tree_Persepolis_frieze.gif (133734 bytes)

  Cypress tree on a frieze at Persepolis (Click to enlarge)

Believers in free thought have adopted the cypress tree as a symbol of freedom, an essence without deceit or falseness, and interpreted its barrenness as a sign of its liberty. And mystics have noted that other trees – which at times have fresh leaves and at others appear withered and bare – embody both perfection and desolation, while the cypress tree is free from the latter. 


Painters and visual artists have also focused on to the cypress tree and adopted it as one of their favorite theme. Whenever a painter has tried to depict paradise or an idyllic realm, he has populated it with tall cypress trees, and architects, stucco-makers and tile-makers have amply utilized its form in their creations, and women have woven colorful cypress trees in their textiles or carpets. Adding the rows of cypress trees adorning the walls of Persepolis, depicted under the guard of Persian soldiers, to the cypress trees remaining from the post-Sasanian period, one realizes the eternality of the cypress tree in Iranian culture, and becomes even more eager to discover the secret of this eternality. In this quest, one comes across more historic events related to the cypress tree. 

One of these is related to the cypress tree of Kashmar, the felling of which gave birth to a great tragedy in Iranian culture and literature, inspiring many poets and writers. This cypress tree had been planted by Zoroaster. According to historic narratives, during his lifetime the prophet Zoroaster planted two cypress trees as good omens: one in Faryumaz (west of Sabzebar) and the other in Kashmar (south of Mashhad). Both were amazingly large. Upon hearing their description, the “Abbasid caliph Al-Mutavakkal” had ordered the cypress tree of Kashmar to be felled and its wood to be brought to him Samarra to be used in his  Ja’fariyah Palace construction.

According to Bayhaqi, cutting and transporting it from Kashmar to Ja’fariya cost 500,000 dirhams and 300 camels were used to carry its woods. Al-Mutavakkal however, never saw the Zoroaster’s cypress tree. When it was only one stage away from Ja’fariyah, Al-Mutavakkal was assassinated. Aboltayb, the carpenter and the carriers of the tree also met death in different ways. 


The cypress tree of Zoroaster was never forgotten by the Iranians. On the contrary, its memory grew ever stronger with the passage of time and poets and artists kept depicting it in their works. With the advent of the Safavid dynasty, and the ensuing reversion to Iranian national themes, the cypress tree of Zoroaster acquired further importance, but, owing to religious and political considerations, the name of Zoroaster was discarded and only its form was retained. 

Aware of the popularity of the cypress tree among the population, the Safavids took advantage of it to further strengthen the Shi’ite creed and introduced it in mourning ceremonies. A type of small metallic cypress tree, called ‘alam and incised with the names of God, Mohammad, Ali and their kin, was carried in from of mourning processions, and another type, which was made of wood, was called nakhl (palm tree). 


Relevant article: The Cypress of Kashmar and Zoroaster





Some information for this report was extracted from: Press.TV  [*]




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