A series of museums have been established in northwest China's Gansu Province to showcase rare cultural relics excavated along the ancient Silk Road.
After several years of construction, a primary multi-themed museum network highlighting Silk Road culture has eventually been set up, with more new museums to be opened soon, according to Su Guoqing, head of the Gansu Provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics, at a working conference in Lanzhou.
The network comprises nine museums featuring Dunhuang art, the Great Wall, ancient animal fossils, coin collections, pottery, and the customs of ethnic minority groups that live along the Silk Road in Gansu.
The project plan is to set up more than 15 such museums over the next five years in Gansu -- a former thoroughfare that linked China with Central and West Asia to the eastern shore of the Mediterranean between the second century BC and the eighth and ninth centuries AD.
Next only to Shaanxi and Henan provinces, Gansu has a vast collection of cultural relics, about 133,000 discovered cultural relic sites, and almost 80 museums exhibiting more than 410,000 pieces of archeological relics.
China has been working very hard to preserve cultural relics along the ancient Silk Road, which started in the Chinese ancient metropolis Chang'an (today's Xi'an) and ended in Rome, covering a total 6,440 kilometers across China and central Asia and served as the nexus between different civilizations in ancient Europe and Asia.
Over the last thousands of years, nomads, traders, priests, diplomats, soldiers and scholars have left their mark on the Silk Road, which not only functioned as a route for trade between the East and the West but also helped to develop communications in culture, economy, diplomacy and society between the two continents.
Experts have acknowledged that as much as 90 percent of the cultural relics along the Silk Road have been defaced or seriously damaged by the environment, including wind and rain erosion, desertification, and air pollution.
Inadequate maintenance and human activities, especially tourism, are also to be blamed for the damage.
Some 1,200 ancient relics sites -- mostly grottoes and earth houses and many under state protection -- are dotted along the 4,000-km Chinese section of the Silk Road.
Frescoes and unearthed stoneware, bronzeware and pottery from along the route are of high archaeological value.
China is considering investing 420 million yuan (nearly US$53 million) to protect key cultural relics along parts of the Silk Road in northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.
Details of the project are still under discussion but, if the plan is approved, it will be one of China's most vital undertakings this year to preserve its heritage.
(Xinhua News Agency February 14, 2006)