Urumqi’s Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum
Date:1 October 2017
After some googling, we identified the museum we were looking for. It is the Xinjiang Autonomous Region Museum in the outskirt of the city. So, on Sunday morning we again walked to the bus stop to catch the bus to go the museum. There are many buses plying Xibei Road where the museum is located. The bus ride took about 30 minutes.
The museum, a grey building with a blue dome, constructed in the traditional Uyghur architecture is hard to miss. Entrance is free of charge. On the wall inside the building, there is a big world map showing the Silk Routes extending from Beijing in China to Arabia for the southern route. The northern route stretched from China to Europe.
The museum’s permanent exhibitions represent ethnic customs, history and culture of Xinjiang, and the ancient mummies of the Xinjiang. The museum also has held several themed exhibitions. We entered the exhibition hall on the right, the Xinjiang History Exhibition. In this section, relics such as ceramics, brocade, clay figures, coins, tablets, documents, weapons and utensils excavated and collected along the Silk Road are displayed. These exhibits provide an invaluable insight into the region’s history and culture.
In the second section called the Xinjiang People Customs Exhibition, the exhibits showcase the region’s ethnic minority customs. Life-size wax statues and relics reproduced scenes of the minority people’s daily life, their dressing and adornments, festivals, wedding, funeral, diet and religion. The twelve ethnic minorities in Xinjiang include the Uyghur, Kazakhstan, Hui, Kyrgyz, Mongolian, Xibo, Tajik, Uzbek, Daur, Manchu, Tartar and Russian. For Nik and myself, who seem to have little time to read up before a trip, this museum was a valuable source of information.
Visitors, both adults and children have been trickling in since we arrived, and by now they were in all sections. A group of school children were gathered at the centre of the ground floor for some activities. Nik and I proceeded to the upper floor to visit another section. In the Trade and Economy section, we found fine and beautiful fabrics such as silk and brocade.
For the last section where they display the mummies, only Nik went in while I was happy to linger outside. I have never been comfortable around mummies or corpses. According to Nik there are many well-preserved mummies here. The mummies, some are more than 3000 years old were found and excavated from the Tarim Basin. A well known one is called the Loulan Beauty because of her amazingly preserved stately facial features that remained quite beautiful even in death. These ancient dwellers of Xinjiang provide an insight for the study of anthropology, ethnology, history and also medical science.
Much has been said about our adventure on foot in the previous posting. Now, please allow me to share with you some of our food or dining experience on this trip. This is probably the first we actually had the chance to savour authentic local food at all the cities Nik and I visited. The reason being, the cities we chose this time have a fairly large Muslim population, and therefore halal foods are readily available. Although we need not google to find the nearest Muslim restaurant or go out of the way just to eat, we, on the other hand encountered a slightly different kind of problem. It arises when we would like to order our meals. The problem is, of course the language barrier.
All the way from Xi’an to Urumqi, and then to Almaty, and eventually to the cities of Uzbekistan, we find few people who could speak decent English. In some restaurants where the menu is bilingual or has pictures of the dishes, we consider ourselves lucky. At such places we only need to point to the picture to order a dish or meal. There were occasions where the menu is written in the local language and the waiters did not understand English at all. Nik and myself used sign language, gestures and even made animal sounds much to the amusement of the waiters and ourselves. And, Nik also snapped pictures of other diners when he wants to order a similar dish. Despite the communication problems, we got our food. It may not be what we really wanted, but we did not leave the restaurant hungry. Rest assured, on this trip we ate well and the food was really good.