Sunday, February 6, 2011
A museum in Philadelphia has been told it cannot display the 'Beauty of Xiaohe', a nearly-perfect preserved mummy from far western China with hair and eye lashes still intact, along with a host of other historical artefacts.
She may be 4,000 years old, but that hasn't stopped her from causing trouble between the US and China.
The museum announced on Wednesday that it was stripping the 'Secrets of the Silk Road' display of all objects that was due to open today at the request of Chinese officials.
No reason has been given for why the exhibition has suddenly been halted after four months travelling around the US but there was speculation that it may be linked to the mummy's Western appearance and Chinese sensitivities about what that implied for the region's history.
The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology declined to say which officials they were and the Chinese consulate was unavailable for comment because of the Chinese New Year holiday.
The Beauty of Xiaohe was the centre-piece of the exhibition along with a well-preserved mummy of a baby, along with vibrantly coloured burial trappings of a third mummy.
The artefacts come from the Tarim Basin in the autonomous Xinjiang Uyghur region of China and are of particular interest because of their Caucasian features. This proves that people migrated east from Europe, taking their customs and skills with them.
Victor Mair, a Penn professor of Chinese language and literature, has been researching and leading expeditions in the area for more than 20 years and helped develop the exhibit.
On Wednesday, Mair said in an e-mail that he could not discuss the dispute but that he hoped to continue negotiating with the Chinese after the New Year holiday.
At the end of January he said the display had taken years to make because China jealously guards its antiquities.
When the exhibit was in town, Chinese chaperones would be 'sightseeing' in the area.
Other artifacts include clothing, fabrics, wooden and bone implements, and even preserved foods such as a wonton, spring roll and fried dough.
A museum spokesman said the museum would instead put on a display of photographs of the artefacts.
Posted by Ryan RiyantoCybermales Updated at: 7:15 PM