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Treasures of Silk Road on display at Heritage Museum

The public will be able to see 115 treasures of ancient Xinjiang at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum from tomorrow (December 21) until March 19 next year.

The rarely seen gold ornaments, bronze ware, wooden slips with Kharosthi script, textile products, Zoroastrian funerary items, relics of Manichaeism and Buddhism featured in "The Silk Road: Treasures from Xinjiang" exhibition date back to the prehistoric period until the 14th century.

Other highlights are the well-preserved Xinjiang mummies, a wooden model of a corpse and other burial objects, giving visitors a glimpse of the region's ancient burial practices.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the exhibition today (December 20), the Secretary for Home Affairs, Dr Patrick Ho Chi-ping, said that after the exhibition, "From Eastern Han to High Tang", jointly presented with the State Administration of Cultural Heritage earlier this year, the "Silk Road" exhibition was made possible with the strong support of the Xinjiang Cultural Heritage Bureau, reflecting a frequent cultural exchange between Mainland China and Hong Kong.

The relics on display were collected from various museums, archaeological institutions and cultural departments in Xinjiang and many were classified as grade-one relics. Dr Ho said the exhibition was one of the most important cultural events of the year.

"Though Hong Kong and Xinjiang are far apart, they share a significant role in cultural interaction. Known as the 'Western Region' in ancient times, Xinjiang was once a communication hub on the Silk Road, where the world's major civilisations met and mixed. Hong Kong, facing the South China Sea, was a centre for fleets to China following the opening of maritime trade between the East and West. Over the last century, Hong Kong played an important role in introducing Western civilisation to the East.

"To learn about the ancient cultural contacts between East and West, we must start with the relics from Xinjiang. To learn about the modern cultural exchanges, we can study the changes that have occurred in Hong Kong over the past 100 years. The Silk Road exhibition will give the public an insight into the cultural exchanges between Eastern and Western worlds," Dr Ho said.

The huge expanse of land west of Yumenguan (the Jade Pass) and Yangguan (the Yang Pass) is generally referred to as "Xiyu" in Chinese, meaning the "Western Regions". The core area is Central Asia, covering China's Xinjiang province. Today, the term has a two-pronged meaning: "Central Asia of ancient times" in broad terms, or "historical Xinjiang" more specifically.

Xinjiang has been the home to many ethnic groups since ancient times. Its geographical position makes it the natural point of convergence for East-West cultures. Relics like jade and cowries were found during archaeological excavations. Research indicates that in pre-historic times, there were close cultural ties and frequent communication between the eastern part of the Western Regions and the Chinese provinces of Gansu and Qinghai, and between its western part and today's Central Asia and southern Siberia.

Following the opening of the Silk Road at the beginning of the Han Dynasty (about 200 BC), the Central Plains regimes exercised effective administration over the Western Regions, which became an important link between the East and the West, creating extremely favourable conditions for the exchange of goods as well as faiths, arts and architecture.

Numerous artifacts stand testimony to this glorious period. Silk, lacquer ware, bronze mirrors from various parts of inland China, glassware and woollen textiles from Central Asia and the West were discovered in Loulan, Niya, Yingpan, and Astana.

Correspondence and documents in different ancient languages recorded these political, economic and cultural exchanges. Tombs of the Han and Tang periods (206 BC – AD 907) in various locations provide a valuable resource to study the burial customs and rituals of different cultural traditions, as well as the different ways of life between the Han Chinese people living in the Loulan, Gaochang areas, and the Hu people living in the desert oases. The religious wall paintings, statues and stone carvings from different locations also show the aesthetics and religious beliefs of the ancient people down the years.

All these political, economic and cultural exchanges and diasporas at different historical times led to unprecedented interactions, fusions as well as clashes of the different cultures - the Han Chinese, the Greek-Roman, the Buddhist and the Islamic cultures – which developed into the magnificent "Western Regions" culture as we know it today.

Through the relics on display and illustrated panel texts, the "Silk Road" exhibition gives an in-depth picture of the ancient Xinjiang cultures in five sections, namely Life in Xinjiang, Textiles, Ancient Writings, Religions, and Burial Customs.

An audio-guide to the exhibition is available in the gallery and a fully illustrated catalogue is available from the Heritage Museum's Gift Shop.

Located at 1 Man Lam Road in Sha Tin, the Heritage Museum opens from 10am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday, and from 10am to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays. On Christmas Eve and Chinese New Year's Eve, the museum will close at 5pm. It is closed on Tuesdays (except public holidays) and the first two days of Chinese New Year.

Admission to "The Silk Road" exhibition is $20 from Thursday to Monday, and $10 on Wednesdays. A half-price concession is available for senior citizens aged 60 or above, full-time students and people with disabilities.

A free shuttle bus operates between the Sha Tin KCR Station and the Heritage Museum from 1pm to 6pm on Saturdays and from 1pm to 7pm on Sundays and public holidays.

Car parking is available at the Heritage Museum. Those who prefer to use public transport can take the KCR to the Che Kung Temple Station, which is five minutes’ walk from the museum.

For enquiries, call 2180 8188. For details of the exhibition, visit the Heritage Museum's website at .

Ends/Tuesday, December 20, 2005

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