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Treasures from Xinjiang on display next month

A spectacular, large-scale exhibition – "The Silk Road: Treasures from Xinjiang" would be held next month at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum, a spokesman for the Leisure and Cultural Services Department (LCSD) announced today (November 22).

The spokesman said the exhibition was made possible with the strong support of the Xinjiang Cultural Heritage Bureau in loaning 115 sets of invaluable treasures collected from various museums, archaeological institutions and cultural departments in Xinjiang. Highlight exhibits will include rarely seen gold ornaments, bronze wares, wooden slips with Kharosthi script, textile products, funerary items of Zoroastrianism as well as relics of Manichaeism and Buddhism, offering audiences a glimpse of the diverse cultural developments of the Western Regions in the period from the Bronze Age to the 14th century.

The Chief Curator of the Heritage Museum, Mr Tom Ming Kay-chuen said most of the relices to be featured were very valuable and were important materials for historical and cultural studies. "Visitors will be able to see at close range the well-preserved ancient Xinjiang mummies, including "The Beauty of Loulan" unearthed in 1980 and "The Cherchen Man" unearthed in 1985, as well as a wooden corpse, which uncovers the mystery of the region's ancient burial practices," Mr Ming said.

"With its distinctive climatic conditions, Xinjiang is one of the regions where the underground heritage has been best preserved. The legacies of Xinjiang, in particular the ancient corpses, are seldom lent out for display, as venues must meet stringent requirements regarding temperature and humidity. With the support of the State and Administration of Cultural Heritage and the permission granted by the Department of Health, Hong Kong, the ancient corpses will be able to be shown in Hong Kong. The exhibition is not to be missed," Mr Ming said.

When talking about the treatment of the ancient corpses and the preparatory work for the exhibition, he stressed that the conservators of LCSD and the curators of Heritage Museum would thoroughly examine the ancient corpses to test for the presence of volatile organic compounds on the corpses in the Xinjiang Museum before having the items packed for transportation to Hong Kong.

"When the desiccated corpses are displayed in Hong Kong, we will not use any chemicals or preservatives as disinfectant. Instead, the corpses will be preserved by controlling the temperature and relative humidity level in their micro-environment.

"We have also ordered a number of quality air-tight showcases fitted with a micro-climate control device from Belgium for display of these items. The conservators can control the relative humidity inside the showcases in accordance with the material and type of the exhibits. The manufacturer is very experienced in fabricating quality showcases with strict specification," Mr Ming said.

Known as the "Western Regions" in ancient times, Xinjiang was once a communications hub between East and West, a melting pot where Chinese, Indian, Greek and Arabian cultures met and mixed. In the 2nd century BC, the imperial court of the Han dynasty sent Zhang Qian as an ambassador to visit the Western Regions, establishing China's link with that region and on to other places as far away as the coastal areas of the Mediterranean.

The Silk Road stood centre stage at that time in world history. Traversing Xinjiang, it was actively developed in the Han and Tang eras and soon became a communications network made up of several routes. Passing through various oasis statelets and across the vast expanse of the desert, it connected the routes of nomads and traders and facilitated exchanges among the major civilisations of the period. Bringing with them the products, skills, languages, customs and religious beliefs of their homelands, the traders, migrants and priests who travelled along the Silk Road helped create a rich and diverse cultural landscape in the Western Regions. It is this stunning heritage that this exhibition aims to showcase.

The exhibition will run from December 21 to March 19, 2006.

Ends/Tuesday, November 22, 2005
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