China / Regions

Shanxi Silk Road relics visit Beijing

By Fang Sha ( Updated: 2014-12-19 16:38

Beijing's National Museum of China played host recently to a national relics exhibition, "The Silk Road", which was in the spotlight even before it opened, with 490 items on display, seven of them priceless items from the city of Datong, Shanxi province, made of silver, bronze and in the form of glass cups, bowls and plates, dating back to the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-557).

These items were gifts from foreign countries to the Chinese emperor. Other items at the exhibition come from cultural centers or museums in 16 provinces. Datong, whose name was Pingcheng when it was the capital of the Northern Wei, is an important starting point on the famous Silk Road, the oldest international trade route for the Chinese, linking them to Central and Western Asia, and ultimately some European and African countries.

The city began its role in international trade as far back as the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220), and made a great contribution to Chinese politics, culture, and the economy, especially when it was the capital of the Northern Wei, as a capital of culture and trade. Envoys and business groups from different countries came to visit the city, and left a rich collection of relics, with many types of glassware, and silver and bronze ware still in good condition.

The objects on exhibit in Beijing are just a tiny part of Datong's full collection. But, what makes the city really proud, are the thousands of stone sculptures in the nearby Yungang Grottoes, whose postures, costumes and shapes are clues to western and eastern exchanges.

Sponsors of the exhibition are the Culture Ministry, State Cultural Heritage Administration, and the governments of Shaanxi, Gansu, Qinghai, and Henan provinces, and Ningxia, Xinjiang autonomous regions.

Edited by Roger Bradshaw

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