Lost civ­i­liza­tion un­folds

China Daily (Canada) - - ACROSS AMERICAS - By MAY ZHOU in Hous­ton mayzhou@chi­nadai­lyusa.com

To Dirk Tueren­hout, cu­ra­tor of an­thro­pol­ogy at the Hous­ton Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral Science, his fa­vorite piece at the ex­hi­bi­tion China’s Lost Civ­i­liza­tion: The Mys­tery of Sanx­ing­dui is the im­pres­sive 8-foot-5-inch stand­ing fig­ure.

“He was prob­a­bly hold­ing a big ele­phant tusk,” said Tueren­hout. “Then you won­der where this statute was placed. Was it for cer­e­mony or sac­ri­fice? Also, these ele­phant tusks un­cov­ered at Sanx­ing­dui were from Thai­land.

“Imag­ine that some­one de­cided to go to such a far­away place, and the ter­rain was hard to tra­verse, yet they brought 60 ele­phant tusks back to Sanx­ing­dui. It must have taken a very long time,” he said.

The ex­hi­bi­tion, show­cas­ing more than 100 ar­ti­facts, con­cluded on Sept 7 af­ter a five­month dis­play. It was or­ga­nized by the Bow­ers Mu­seum in Santa Ana, Cal­i­for­nia, the Hous­ton Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral Science and the Cul­tural Relics Bureau of Sichuan province.

“This is a very pop­u­lar and in­ter­est­ing ex­hi­bi­tion,” Tueren­hout said. “Peo­ple of­ten came to me un­so­licited and told me how much they loved this ex­hi­bi­tion.

“Peo­ple en­joyed look­ing at the pieces, lis­ten­ing to the mu­sic, and imag­ine an an­cient civ­i­liza­tion that’s truly a mys­tery.

Doris Har­ring­ton vis­ited the Sanx­ing­dui ex­hibit two days be­fore its clos­ing. She told China Daily that it was her sec­ond visit. “I find the cul­ture very fas­ci­nat­ing. I also love the art it­self. It’s from so long ago, yet the pieces were so well made, still in­tact and well pre­served,” she mar­veled.

Tueren­hout re­mem­bers Chi­nese Vice-Premier Liu Yan­dong’s visit to the mu­seum vividly. “She was the high­est-rank­ing lady of­fi­cial in China and she came to visit us. I thought that’s pretty cool, and she was gen­uinely in­ter­ested. Yao Ming came with her too; that was a unique ex­pe­ri­ence for us.

Liu had com­mented that “although ge­o­graph­i­cally far away, China and the US still share a lot in com­mon. As the old Chi­nese say­ing goes, it is bet­ter to see once than to hear a hun­dred times.”

Tueren­hout said that he un­der­stood Liu was also pre­par­ing for the up­com­ing visit of Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Xi Jin­ping. “I am sure his visit was pre­pared very well. Many years ago, Chi­nese Pres­i­dent Deng Xiaop­ing vis­ited Hous­ton and wore that big cow­boy hat; maybe we should send one hat to Washington and present it to Pres­i­dent Xi,” said Turen­hout.

Ac­cord­ing to Tueren­hout, over the past decade the Hous­ton mu­seum has hosted nu­mer­ous Chi­nese ex­hibits such as Ti­bet:Trea­sures­from theRoofoftheWorld;Un­cover theEx­traor­di­narySe­cret­sof theSilkRoad;Trea­sures­from Shang­hai:5,000Year­sofChi­nese Art and Cul­ture; and Se­cretWorld­oftheFor­bid­den City:Splen­dorsFromChina’s Im­pe­ri­alPalace,1644-1911.

“Dur­ing the For­bid­den City ex­hibit, we had Pres­i­dent Bush, the se­nior one, visit us. He was able to walk back then. He said, please give me a tour. I said, gladly, but since you lived in Bei­jing, maybe you could give me a tour,” re­called Tueren­hout.

“While look­ing at the ex­hibit, he was telling me about the gar­dens in For­bid­den City and how beau­ti­ful it was.”

Peo­ple of­ten came to me un­so­licited and told me how much they loved this ex­hi­bi­tion.”

MAY ZHOU / CHINA DAILY

Dirk Tueren­hout, cu­ra­tor of an­thro­pol­ogy at the Hous­ton Mu­seum of Nat­u­ral Science, talks on Sept 4 about the un­cov­ered city lay­out at the ex­ca­va­tion site of Sanx­ing­dui.

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