Museum network highlights Silk Road cultural relics

LANZHOU, Feb. 13 (Xinhuanet) -- A series of museums have been established in northwest China's Gansu Province to showcase rare cultural relics excavated along the ancient Silk Road.

A primary multi-themed museum network highlighting the Silk Road culture has come into being after years of construction, with more new museums being built now, Su Guoqing, head of the Gansu Provincial Bureau of Cultural Relics, has said at a working conference here.

The network comprises nine museums featuring the Dunhuang art, the Great Wall, ancient animal fossils, coin collections, painted pottery, and the customs of ethnic minority groups residing along the section of the Silk Road in the province.

According to the project scheme, more than 15 such museums are expected to be set up in five years in Gansu -- a former thoroughfare on the road 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 the highest quantity of culture relics in China, with some 133,000 cultural relic sites spotted and nearly 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, traversed 6,440 kilometers throughout China and central Asia and served as the nexus between different civilizations in ancient Europe and Asia.

Over the last thousands of years, nomads, hordes, traders, priests, diplomats, soldiers and scholars left their footmarks on the Silk Road, which not only functioned as a route for trade between the East and the West but also helped weave a web for 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 environmental elements, including wind and rain erosion, desertification, air pollution.

Inadequate maintenance and human activities, especially tourism, are also blamed for the damage, experts said.

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, bronze ware and pottery from along the route are of high archaeological value.

China is mulling to invest 420 million yuan (nearly 53 million U.S. dollars) in five years to protect key cultural relics along parts of the Silk Road in the northwestern Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region.

Details of the project are still under discussion but it will be one of the most vital undertakings this year in China's efforts to preserve its heritage.