Ancient Silk Road -- an Exhibition of Cultural Relics from Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region opened at the National Museum of Chinese History on Wednesday.
The exhibition, one of the highlights of the museum’s frontier culture series, displays 15 pieces of gold and silver, silk, hangings and carved articles from the 9th and 10th century, most of which are recent archaeological discoveries, and many of which are being exhibited outside Xinjiang for the first time.
Among the most attractive pieces on show are a set of prairie stone figures. Carved in granite, prairie stone figures are typical relics left by nomads of the Asian-European grassland. These figures were generally placed in front of graves, facing east, either alone or in groups. Most of the figures are warriors, however, recently 14 stone figures were found in Bu’erjin County, in the Altai region of northern Xinjiang, among which are the only two with female features found in recent years. Their faces are oval-shaped, with straight, high noses. Also of note are dried remains of three humans unearthed at Qiemo, on the southern edge of the Taklimakan Desert, believed to be around 3,000 years old. Xinjiang, with its bone-dry climate, is renown for the way ancient corpses tend to turn up, almost miraculously preserved. The three on display at the exhibition are of two male adults and an infant.
During the late 19th century and the early 20th century, numerous western explorers and archaeologists visited Xinjiang. Chinese scholars began their archaeological exploration from the 1930s, and numerous ancient relic sites and tombs have been unearthed along the Silk Road since the 1950s. The 145 selected pieces are among the most representative artifacts of Silk Road culture.
(Beijing Today January 20, 2003)