Silk Road Stories, China
Exhibition Dates – May 7th-30th
In China the Silk Road has never been one road but a shifting network of roads that moved north and south reflecting shifts in local power. Most writers on the subject place Xian, the capital of Shaanxi Province, as the starting point of silk’s iconic journey westward. Emperor Qin, from whom China derives its name, had his capital very close to modern day Xian. In1974, when the emperor’s life-size army of thousands of terra cotta warriors was accidentally discovered by peasants drilling for water, it was hailed as the eighth wonder of the world.
Returning to Xian after an absence of eight years was an interesting experience. The drive from the airport to the city provided the usual reminder of a nation on the move. Highways, toll ways and elevated roads have mushroomed here, as they have all over China, obliterating all evidence of former topography. Yet it was the Blade Runner polluted skies that literally grabbed me by the throat…
…Scattered all around the sacred mountains were some of the most polluted cities in the world. First Taiyuan had the dubious distinction of most polluted place on earth; soon after it moved 200 km south to Linfen. Now Taiyuan has the highest incidence of death from lung cancer in China while Linfen’s position is being challenged by Urumqi, located 2600km from here at the western end of the Silk Road.
Somewhere, almost directly below in the smog, is a railway station and a line that goes all the way to Urumqi. It seems that coal has polluted the entire length of the Silk Road. Welcome to the soot road.”