Penn Museum Xinjiang Exhibit Resumes | Xinjiang: Far West China

Penn Museum Xinjiang Exhibit Resumes

February 14 | 6 Comments

For the past month, sealed cases full of Xinjiang artifacts and two incredibly preserved mummies have been sitting in the back rooms of the Penn Museum unopened. Guarded by curiously unsigned documents and layers of bureaucratic red tape, it looked as if the museum exhibit “Secrets of the Silk Road” was doomed.

After weeks of negotiations between high-level officials in China and the U.S., however, an agreement has been made to allow the incredible exhibit to resume. According to a press release by the Penn Museum last Friday, the “Secrets of the Silk Road” will be on display in its entirety from Friday, February 18th through Tuesday, March 15. Although this will cut short the mummy display that was supposed to run an extra three months in length, the museum is trying to make up for it by extending their open hours.

**Read more about why this exhibit was stopped**

I received an unexpected and very kind email from Victor Mair last weekend, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at the University of Pennsylvania and a respected Xinjiang scholar. Based on what he wrote, it sounds like this has been quite an ordeal over the past few weeks. All of us on the outside just see the politically-correct press releases and the crazy rumors, but behind closed doors this has been quite the roller coaster ride.

Congrats to Professor Mair, Dr. Hodges, and everybody else at the Penn Museum for making this exhibit possible. I’m sure they know the real reason for this whole mess, and I’m quite certain it won’t be revealed to the public any time soon.

Are you going to be in Philadelphia over the next month? Whether or not you’ve been to Xinjiang, I encourage you to make a stop at the Penn Museum and enjoy the “Secrets of the Silk Road” exhibit.

A paper mache mummy in place of the Xinjiang mummy

These paper mache mummies which were displayed in place of the real ones, will finally be replaced.

<div class=”rightquote”>…a must-read for anyone considering a visit to China’s northwest… -<a href=”http://www.asianramblings.com”>Asian Ramblings</a></div>

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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  1. Is New York Times a trouble maker????????

    China’s Global Times accused New York Times of publishing an article on Nov 18 to challenge Chinese sovereignty over Xinjiang.

    China’s “anti-terrorism” expert, Pan Zhiping, attacks New York Times….

    http://bbs.pkuarch.org/viewthread.php?tid=8100

    环球时报特约记者尚斌报道 美国《纽约时报》近日竟刊发文章,荒谬地借用古代“楼兰美女”来炒作新疆不是中国领土的一部分。该文称,“楼兰美女”的体征表明她并不是中国人,而且她到达今天新疆的年代也远早于张骞出使西域的时间,试图以此证明新疆不是中国的领土。
    该文所说的“楼兰美女”指的是在中国新疆罗布泊出土的一具干尸,1980年由中国考古学家穆舜英发掘。它是迄今为止新疆出土古尸中年代最久远的一具,距今约3800年。
    这篇11月18日刊登在《纽约时报》上的文章题为“死人讲述中国不爱听的故事”。作者说,中国政府宣称“新疆是中国领土不可分割的一部分”。“但是,古干尸却似乎讲述了另一个不同的故事”。他说,从“楼兰美女”的体征上可以判断出,“她并不像有人认为的那样是中国人”,“最先在此定居的人来自西边——从中亚甚至更为遥远的干草原地区迁徙而来,而不是来自肥饶的平原和中国内地的河谷地区。”
    作者还称,中国官方在证明新疆是中国的领土时经常会提到张骞出使西域,“但是,这些干尸却表明,在张骞出使西域之前的几千年就有人进入这一地区了,而且几乎可以确定是来自西边的人”。作者说,“楼兰美女”距今3800年,而张骞出使西域的时间是中国的西汉时期,公元前2世纪。
    针对上述谬论,新疆社科院中亚研究所所长潘志平在接受《环球时报》记者采访时说,《纽约时报》这篇文章犯了“概念错误”。他说,民族和国家是两个根本不同的概念。西方人很容易认为中国人只是汉族人,实际上中国是一个统一的多民族国家,即使“楼兰美女”不是汉族人,她也可以是中国人。另外,早在公元前60 年,中国当时的西汉中央政府就在新疆地区设置了西域都护府,这是中国汉代在西域的最高行政机构。新疆自古以来就是中国的领土的标志是中国在此建立了地方政府,张骞只是作为使者出使西域,其出使行为并非是新疆属于中国领土的标志。
    历史学者张伟告诉《环球时报》记者说,领土的历史归属和现实归属也是不同的概念。按照国际法的惯例,领土的现实归属是指一个国家对某一地区进行持续有效的管理。西汉中央政府在公元前60年就在西域设置了都护府,在这之后的2000多年中,中国中央政府对新疆地区基本保持了持续而有效的管理。张伟说,《纽约时报》这篇文章将3800年前的楼兰女尸和中国政府对新疆地区2000多年持续有效的管理相提并论是缺乏逻辑的。如果该文主张成立,那么如今的美国应该归还给土著印第安人。

    [Reply]

    Josh on February 16th, 2011 at 8:56 am

    I hate to break it to the Global Times, but the New York Times isn’t the first publication to share such thoughts. More power to them if they want to make this a big deal out of a minor article that even I never saw (and I scour everything Xinjiang).

    Thanks for bringing this to our attention, though. I appreciate the comment.

    [Reply]

  2. I’m still a little confused about the whole situation. China has control over the artifacts, sent them to the museum, and then complained about them being displayed. Why didn’t they just not send the mummies?

    Besides, they’ve been on display in Urumqi for years. I still think that’s one of the best museums in China.

    [Reply]