Trea­sure ex­hi­bi­tion un­earths shared his­tory and cul­ture

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - WORLD - By WANG KAIHAO wangkai­hao@chi­nadaily.com.cn

Civ­i­liza­tions on two ends of Asia be­gan a cul­tural di­a­logue not only across space, but also through time.

The Road­sofAra­bia:Ar­chae­o­log­i­calTrea­sure­sofSaudiAra­bia ex­hi­bi­tion, which gath­ers 466 sets of na­tional trea­sures from 15 mu­se­ums all over Saudi Ara­bia, opened in the Na­tional Mu­seum of China in Bei­jing on Tues­day and will run un­til March 19, 2017.

The ex­hi­bi­tion tour has been to nine top-level mu­se­ums in Europe and the United States be­fore com­ing to Bei­jing, its first sta­tion in East Asia, and has at­tracted a com­bined four mil­lion vis­i­tors world­wide.

“This is the big­gest num­ber since we started Ara­bian ex­hi­bi­tions (around the world) six years ago,” said pro­fes­sor Ali Ibrahim Al-Ghab­ban, gen­eral su­per­vi­sor of the King Ab­dul­lah Cul­tural Her­itage Care Project and cu­ra­tor of the on­go­ing ex­hi­bi­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Al-Ghab­ban, many ex­hibits in Bei­jing have shown new ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis­cov­er­ies in Saudi Ara­bia in re­cent years, and more than 60 ar­ti­facts have never been ex­hib­ited out of his coun­try.

“Few ar­chae­o­log­i­cal dis - cov­er­ies in re­cent years have trans­formed our un­der­stand­ing of a re­gion as the ob­jects on view in Roads of Ara­bia,” the cu­ra­tor said. “Mys­te­ri­ous stone in­scrip­tions, mon­u­men­tal hu­man stat­ues, and finely crafted bronze fig­ures high­light Ara­bia’s his­tory be­fore the rise of Is­lam in the sev­enth cen­tury.”

An­cient trad­ing and pil­grim­age routes com­pose two ma­jor lines con­nect­ing the ar­ti­facts, or­ga­nized by six sec­tions in the ex­hi­bi­tion, span­ning Saudi his­tory from the ear­li­est hu­man set­tle­ments through the Ne­olithic Age and the pre-Is­lamic sets era, up to the early 20th cen­tury.

Some im­por­tant yet lesser­known ar­chae­o­log­i­cal sites in Saudi Ara­bia, in­clud­ing the oasis sites of Al-Ula and Tayma, and the an­cient wealthy city of Qaryat al-Faw, are also on dis­play at the ex­hi­bi­tion through their cul­tural relics.

“The cul­tures are prob­a­bly mys­te­ri­ous for Chi­nese peo­ple,” Wang Jun, di­rec­tor of Art Ex­hi­bi­tions China, which co-or­ga­nized the ex­hi­bi­tion, ex­plained. “So, it’s a rare op­por­tu­nity for the public to have close con­tact with such pros­per­ous his­tory through vis­ual ar­ti­facts.”

His or­ga­ni­za­tion is China’s na­tional in­sti­tu­tion in charge of ex­hi­bi­tion ex­changes over­seas. More than 200 Chi­nese ex­hi­bi­tions have been taken abroad since its es­tab­lish­ment in 197 1, but Wang said they have put more em­pha­sis on bring­ing over­seas ex­hi­bi­tions to China.

“Chi­nese and Saudi Ara­bian cul­tures are com­ple­men­tary,” said Prince Sul­tan bin Sal­man bin Ab­du­laziz, chair­man of the board of the Saudi Com­mis­sion for Tourism & Na­tional Her­itage. “Many peo­ple know Saudi Ara­bia be­cause of its oil, but we want to show a dif­fer­ent as­pect.

“Be­yond eco­nomic in­flu­ence, Saudi Ara­bia also has a long his­tory and an open mind, which will eas­ily stir up res­o­nance in China,” the prince said. “Con­se­quently, it’s cru­cial to have such an ex­change of cul­ture between the two coun­tries.

“Preser ving his­tor y is to pro­tect our fu­ture, and the two coun­tries still have many spa­ces for co­op­er­a­tion in the cul­tural field.”

Ear­lier this month, China’s Min­istry of Cul­ture re­vealed plans to co­op­er­ate with Saudi Ara­bia in co-bid­ding to in­clude the Mar­itime Silk Road an­cient trade route onto the UNESCO World Her­itage list.

“Saudi Ara­bia was a key bond con­nect­ing China and the West along the an­cient Mar­itime Silk Road, and we have sites in Saudi Ara­bia which have al­ready been listed as UNESCO World Her­itage, like the Port of Jed­dah,” Al-Ghab­ban said, cit­ing 15th-cen­tury Chi­nese nav­i­ga­tor Zheng He’s visit to Jed­dah. High­lighted ar­ti­facts from the event

It’s a rare op­por­tu­nity for the public to have close con­tact with such pros­per­ous his­tory through vis­ual ar­ti­facts.” Wang Jun, di­rec­tor of Art Ex­hi­bi­tions China of na­tional trea­sures from 15 mu­se­ums all over Saudi Ara­bia are on show at the ex­hi­bi­tion

This slab of stand­ing sand­stone was prob­a­bly as­so­ci­ated with re­li­gious or burial prac­tices. It is among the ear­li­est known ob­jects from the Ara­bian Penin­sula. The ar­ti­fact was un­earthed in Qaryat al-Kaafa near Ha’il, and now be­longs to the Na­tional Mu­seum, Riyadh.

A male fig­urine made of lapis lazuli from the third mil­len­nium BC

Col­lected by the Na­tional Mu­seum in Riyadh, its pre­cious ma­te­rial is pro­duced in what is to­day known as Afghanistan and it fea­tures typ­i­cal Me­sopotamian style.

A gold fu­ner­ary mask from the first cen­tury AD

Un­earthed in Thaj, Tell alZayer in 1988 and housed in the Na­tional Mu­seum in Riyadh, this ar­ti­fact is be­lieved to have be­longed to a young girl from a high-level royal fam­ily.

Door of the Ka’ba from 1635-36 dur­ing the Ot­toman Em­pire

This gilt sil­ver ar­ti­fact on wood from Mecca is housed by the Na­tional Mu­seum in Riyadh. It shows state-of-the-art tech­niques from Turkey and was con­tin­u­ously used un­til 1947.

An­thro­po­mor­phic stele from the fourth mil­len­nium BC

An­cient Chi­nese porce­lain pieces, among which many are from the ninth to the 10th cen­tury

Th­ese ar­ti­facts un­earthed since the 1960s show the long­time trad­ing of tea, porce­lains, and silk pieces between the East and the West, and the eco­nomic bond of China and Saudi Ara­bia in an­cient times.

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“We are plan­ning ex­ca­va­tions with Chi­nese ar­chae­ol­o­gists in sev­eral an­cient ports. We’re ready to co­op­er­ate with China on the Mar­itime Silk Road project.”

He re­called that Chi­nese ob­jects from the Tang (618-907) and Song (960-1279) dy­nas­ties were found in Saudi Ara­bia even in the mid­dle of the desert. Some of them are also on dis­play in Bei­jing in the ex­hi­bi­tion.

“That proves com­mu­ni­ca­tion flour­ished in the past, as it does to­day,” the pro­fes­sor said.

Road­sofAra­bia: Ar­chae­o­log­i­calTrea­sure­sof SaudiAra­bia

Time:

9 am to 5 pm (closed on Mon­days), un­til March 19, 2017

Ad­dress:

South No 7 and No 8 ex­hi­bi­tion hall, Na­tional Mu­seum of China, 16 East Chang’an Av­enue

Price: En­try to the ex­hi­bi­tion costs 30 yuan ($4.30)

“And we also want to in­tro­duce more ex­hi­bi­tions and sem­i­nars on Chi­nese his­tory to Saudi Ara­bia to share Chi­nese ex­pe­ri­ences on cul­tural her­itage pro­tec­tion.”

Wang added: “The an­cient Mar­itime Silk Road was flour­ish­ing be­cause of com­mon de­vel­op­ment along the route, not only in China, but also in the Ara­bian Penin­sula. The event helps us to echo the Belt and Road Ini­tia­tive to bet­ter un­der­stand other civ­i­liza­tions to­day.”

JIANG DONG / CHINA DAILY

An ex­hi­bi­tion of Saudi Ara­bian na­tional trea­sures is be­ing held at the Na­tional Mu­seum of China in Bei­jing start­ing Tues­day.

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An an­thro­po­mor­phic stele from the fourth mil­len­nium BC; a gold fu­ner­ary mask from the first cen­tury AD; door of the Ka’ba from 1635-36, dur­ing the Ot­toman Em­pire.

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