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Subject: Mummies stir political row in China
Zhang Fei    11/19/2008 5:27:25 PM
The Chinese like to say that theirs is not an expansionary country, since most of the country's population consists of the yellow peoples. Which is nonsense on stilts, given that most of the Roman empire was composed of Caucasians, and had to be conquered a square foot at a time. Nonetheless, even if you accept the silly Chinese claim at face value, that the most of the yellow peoples of Northeast Asia somehow naturally belong in a single country, this natural cohesion was achieved with a minimum of violence, and all of China's present lands are also their ancestral lands (meaning the Chinese - within their definition of imperialism - are not imperialists), the problem is that these digs show that the previous occupants of these lands were not yellow skinned Mongoloids, but white-skinned Caucasians. Could the Chinese (gasp) have actually committed the sin of imperialism? (Of course they have - the history of China is the history of empire). (Quote) An exhibit in the museum in Urumqui gives the government's unambiguous take on the history of this border region: "Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of the territory of China," says one prominent sign. But walk upstairs and the ancient corpses on display seem to tell a different story. One called the Loulan Beauty lies on her back with her shoulder-length hair matted down her high cheekbones and long nose the most obvious signs that she is not what one thinks of as Chinese. The Loulan Beauty is one of more than 200 remarkably well-preserved mummies discovered in the western deserts here over the last few decades. The ancient bodies have become protagonists in a very contemporary political dispute over who should control the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. The Chinese authorities here face an intermittent separatist movement of nationalist Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who number nine million in Xinjiang. At the heart of the matter lie these questions: Who first settled this inhospitable part of western China? And for how long has the oil-rich region been part of the Chinese empire? Uighur nationalists have gleaned evidence from mummies, whose corpses span thousands of years, to support historical claims to the region. Foreign scholars say that at the very least, the Tarim mummies seem to indicate the very first people to settle the area came from the west - down from the steppes of Central Asia and even farther afield - and not from the plains and river valleys of Chinese interior. The oldest, like the Loulan Beauty, date back 3,800 years. The mummies show that humans entered the region almost certainly from the west. As a result the government has been unwilling to give broad access to foreign scientists to conduct genetic tests on the mummies. (Unquote)
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Zhang Fei       11/19/2008 5:52:15 PM
The archaeology is slow, dirty work. It proceeds a grain of dust at at a time and typically involves a spoon and a brush, not the bullwhip and six- shooter Indiana Jones used to collect prescious treasures from the tomb.

Once in a while, however, there truly is a dash of Hollywood-style adventure, as Berkeley archaeologist Jeannine Davis-Kimball discovered during the summer of 1997. On a research expedition to western China, Davis-Kimball and two colleagues found themselves wrapped up in a remarkable ancient mystery spiked with modern day political intrigue.

They were investigating the mummies of the Takla Makan Desert, corpses so well preserved under the arid sands that the trace of a tear still can be seen streaking the face of a child buried 4,000 years ago.

The condition of the mummies, excavated at various sites since the early 1900s, surprised the scientists who first found them. But far more startling was the realization that these bodies, buried millennia ago in western China, are Caucasian.

They have blond, brown and red hair, prominent noses and deep- set eyes. Some are nearly six feet tall. Buried along with them were textiles woven in plaid patterns strikingly similar to those of ancient European fabrics. Tests on one mummy linked it to a European genetic group

This caused a clamor in scientific circles. Conventional wisdom has long been that Western people didn't arrive in China until the establishment of the Silk Road, about 2,000 years ago. Chinese scholars have claimed, and Western scholars have agreed, that Chinese culture evolved in isolation, apart from the influence of Europe

The Caucasian mummies of the Takla Makan proved otherwise, indicating that Europeans forged eastward thousands of years before anyone thought and built a thriving agricultural society in what's now China's Xinjiang Province

Davis-Kimball and her team, with support from the PBS program "Nova," went to Xinjiang to find out just who the mummy people were, and what became of them.

But they soon discovered that not everyone wants that information made known. Proof that Caucasians were living in the region 4,000 years ago clearly refutes China's claim of historical sovereignty there -- and, more important, challenges its hold on the oil-rich province of Xinjiang.

"There's oil down there," Davis-Kimball says. "That's the reason it has to be part of China."

The people native to this area of central Asia are a Turkic ethnic group called Uighurs (WE-gurs). They trace their ties to the region back to around 800 A.D., when their Turkic ancestors moved there and, anthropologists believe, mixed with a people known as the Tocharians.

The Tocharians, who were Buddhists, are thought to have built and ruled a string of cities along the central Asian stretch of the Silk Road. Study of Tocharian manuscripts has revealed that they used a language closely related to Celtic and Germanic tongues; their paintings reveal them to have been a fair-haired, blue-eyed people.

These distinctive characteristics have caused many scholars to link them with the mummy people, who predated them.

Here's where the story gets political. The Uighur majority in Xinjiang now chafes under Chinese rule. There were Uighur uprisings in 1990 and '97, which were summarily crushed by the Chinese Army. To strengthen its hand in the region, the Chinese government has flooded Xinjiang with some 6 million ethnic Han Chinese.

Though the region contains one-third of China's oil reserves, 95 percent of the Uighur population lives in poverty. The Uighurs protest that China has polluted their homeland with industrial toxics and radiation (this is where China couducts its nuclear tests).

China has responded harshly to the dissent. Amnesty International reports that "a pattern of human rights violations has emerged in Xinjiang since 1989."
China supports it claim to Xinjiang with a myth promulgated since Mao took control of the region in the '40s: that China developed in isolation and that this area has always been part of China -- even though the name Xinjiang means "new territory."

Uighurs have seized upon the mummy pople as proof that their homeland is historically distinct from China. When Davis-Kimball went to Xinjiang she stepped into what is lterally a battle over the area's history, with a mummies at the center.

"They were Caucasoid," David-Kimball says. "This is a no-no for Beijing."

Such a "no-no" that the government has long been loath to allow foreign researchers into the region. Though the mummies were discovered at the beginning of this century, it has been hard to get access to them for the pas
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Nanheyangrouchuan       11/20/2008 1:15:25 AM
A pretty old story. Beijing sent a team out to E. Turkestan to excavate ancient sites and pull out Han Chinese bodies and stuff written in ancient Chinese.  Instead, they pulled out Caucasian bodies and both Persian and Turkish text.  So according to Beijing's logic, E. Turkestan, western Sichuan province and much of occupied southern Mongolia have been an inseparable part of Turkey and Iran since ancient times.
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lurker       11/20/2008 5:19:38 AM
I guess its not who the land used to belong to that that counts (no one really believes they will give it back right?), but that its proof that the Chinese were imperialist, and destroys the ridiculous notion that "oh we're not imperialist, that land is ours".
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