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Museum tells story of Silk Road convergence

By CAO ZINAN | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2018-12-12 09:02
Visitors at the Hepu Han Dynasty Museum look at artifacts including a bronze phoenix-shaped lamp, one the "Three Treasures" of Hepu county, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region. [Photo by CAO ZINAN/CHINA DAILY]

Since its establishment in the 1980s, the Hepu Han Dynasty Museum in Hepu county of the Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region has gathered more than 5,200 cultural relics of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 24) and the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220).

The museum houses the iconic bronze phoenix-shaped lamp from the Western Han, which is considered one of Hepu's "Three Treasures", together with Beihai pearls and mangrove trees.

The lamp is also environmentally friendly, though it comes from an era long before climate change. The smoke emitted by a "candle"-a pan with burning material that provided light-would funnel up through the long neck of the phoenix into its hollow stomach, where water absorbed the soot.

The museum records the glorious history of the Han Dynasty near Hepu.

Coastal Hepu county and its port played a role in trade on the Maritime Silk Road during the Western Han Dynasty. Part of its historic significance also lies in its geographic position at the junction of the overland and maritime sections of the Silk Road routes.

By displaying the treasures from thousands of years ago, the museum illustrates the significance of Hepu county to the development of the modern economy and culture of Guangxi, which became an autonomous region of China in 1958.

In April 2017, President Xi Jinping visited the museum, highlighting the importance of the area to the 21st Century Maritime Silk Road.

"Because of the limitations of marine navigation technology, small boats had to sail along the coast. That's why the Hepu port became the earliest one from which traders began their journey," said Wang Donglin, a docent at the museum.

As early as 111 BC, Emperor Wu of the Han Dynasty set up Hepu county to consolidate the frontier and promote foreign trade. The prosperity of the city was recorded in the Chinese historical record known as the Book of Han.

Currently, Hepu still serves as a key transportation hub and distribution center connecting parts of the country.

Over the years, facilitating the transportation of goods and communication between China and other countries has helped spur growth in Hepu's economy and social development," Wang said.

She said the Maritime Silk Road provided a route not only for trade but also for communication, friendship, cultural exchange and peace.

"Today, promotion of the Belt and Road Initiative-the Silk Road Economic Belt and 21st Century Maritime Silk Road-has enhanced Guangxi's status in the country's overall reform and opening-up," she said.

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