Friday, February 11, 2011

Ryan Pyle Blog: Secrets of the Silk Road


This was a news story that caught my eye last week, and I didn't have a chance to comment on it until now. So bear with me.

The Chinese government has a problem with history, especially their own; and especially in contested border regions. Which is why it should surprise no one that the Chinese government recently withheld two mummies and around 100 artifacts from an Exhibition in Philadelphia known as the "Secrets of the Silk Road". The folks in Philadelphia haven't come out and said exactly why the Chinese authorities have withheld important artifacts from the show, but this is simply for fear of repercussions.

One can gather, by the very short article in Reuters, which I've included below, that the Chinese got bent out of shape by something that was included or excluded in the exhibition. You see, the Chinese are bitter about their Silk Road past. Chinese history dictates that the Emperor sitting in Eastern China (be it Xi'an, Beijing or Nanjing) had control over the western edges of China; which in fact they never did. The Chinese are also livid about the "Tomb Raiders", mainly European explorers and treasure hunters, that beat the Chinese to the regions most impressive artifacts in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

As if you needed to add more bitterness to the situation, the Chinese government also continues to insist that mummies of bodies found in Xinjiang in Northwest China are actually Han Chinese; but nothing could be further from the truth. The mummies are mainly Uygur, Central Asia and have more Caucasian features then Han Chinese. The Chinese governments official stand on Silk Road history doesn't exactly match up and this often causes disagreements and in this case, in my opinion, the withholding of wonderful artifacts from the American public.

This is just another example of how skittish the Chinese propaganda machine is. As if the present isn't difficult enough to navigate, now we have to start arguing about the past. Luckily China has plenty of government officials without too much on their agenda to take up the fight.

Original Story LINK
Copyright: Reuters

Title: U.S. Silk Road show to open without Chinese artifacts

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters Life!) - A exhibition about the ancient Silk Road trade route connecting Europe and Asia will open without artifacts and mummies from China that would have been the centerpiece of the show, according to museum officials.

The University of the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology said Chinese officials had withdrawn about 100 artifacts and two mummies from the "Secrets of the Silk Road" exhibition, which opens on Saturday and will run until June 5.

The exhibit will include text, images, sound, maps, a recreated excavation site and photographs of the withdrawn items.

The show "has been modified ... at the request of Chinese officials," the museum said in a statement.

Pam Kosty, a spokeswoman for the museum, said the withdrawn items had been part of the show at its earlier stops in California and Texas, but would not be available in Philadelphia.

She declined to say why the Chinese officials had made the decision.

The Chinese embassy in Washington D.C. did not immediately return a telephone call seeking comment.


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