Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Cosmopolitan Metropolis along the Silk Road

Silk Road's  Golden Age

Chinese Luoyang was already a metropolis over a thousand years ago. In a new exhibition in the cavern of Skeppsholmen in Stockholm, visitors meet this multicultural city - but also get acquainted with the individuals who lived there.

During the Tang Dynasty elite women had a greater freedom. Female polo players show a change in attitude towards women during this time. Photo: World museums

Svenska Dagbladet 14 September 2015  by Eva Bäckstedt

Bo Juyi was a poet. Two of his three children died young. Nobody can escape being touched by his poems of grief at their death, especially when you see a chipped toy from his home, a small lion in ceramics. Especially when you consider that it is over a thousand years ago children played with it.

The lion is one of the more modest objects in the exhibition World museums show in the fall of the Navy's old caverns on Skeppsholmen.

"City on the Silk Road," named exhibition, which is the result of several years of collaboration with the heritage authorities in Henan province of China. The city where Bo Juyi lived was Luoyang, in his time Silk Road easternmost outpost, which had its golden age during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD).

But unlike the Swedish Birka, that flourished around the same time, Luoyang was already a major city, and thanks to the intense trade relations with foreign countries distinctly multicultural.

The exhibition, which includes about 150 archaeological finds are displayed including a series of figurines and other depictions of foreigners of different origins. One of the richest tombs excavated belonged to a Sogdian General - Sogdians were an Iranian people who had great influence over trade along the Silk Road.

In addition, the Luoyang majority population, probably in the imperial dynasty followed, impressions of various nomadic people, who were considered to be especially skilled when it came to animal husbandry. Here are several peerless renditions of camels, horses and stockmen. Also women's freer position in the nomadic society was something that put tracks in Luoyang during the Tang, at least within the elite. Several figurines depict riding ladies, women could even play polo.

In addition, Luoyang was the capital during China's only female emperor, Wu Zetian, a cunning mistress with hard hands. On a small gold tablet that was used in a ceremony in connection with her death, she asks the gods to emphasize her sins - but she does not ask for forgiveness.

Among the objects are easy to acquire favorites, just look at the expressive small sculptures of a couple of officers, the neighing horse with his attendants, and the three thick ceramic ladies.

But what really gives goose bumps is that so many of the objects in the "city on the Silk Road" can be linked to the political history, or directly to historical persons, as a toy lion from Bo Juyi's home.

That of course depends largely on the fact that China has a long written history. Not only the poet's more than a thousand years old poems are preserved and legible today, archaeologists also had access to contemporary information indicated in the neighborhood of his house.

And with the professional management, from excavation to exhibition, objects become so much more than just art products to admire. They also tell a dizzying detailed story about the lives of people in the past.

Is there something I'm missing in the lovely exhibition in the cavern, it is a depiction of the actual excavation work. It had also been nice with a few words about today's Luoyang, now a militarily important industrial city of just over 6.5 million inhabitants, if you are to believe Wikipedia.

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