Just when I think the roller coaster of Bullsh*t started to leveling off to an even pace, I get one here and there that just makes me feel like I’m drowning in a new pile to my head.
For her advanced years, she looks remarkable. Despite nearing the ripe old age of 4,000, long eyelashes still frame her half-open eyes and hair tumbles down to her remarkably well-preserved shoulders.
But the opportunity for new audiences in the United States to view the “Beauty of Xiaohe” – a near perfectly preserved mummy from an inhospitable part of western China – has been dealt a blow after it was pulled from an exhibition following a sudden call from the Chinese authorities on the eve of opening. The reason for pulling the mummy and other artefacts from the show remained unclear yesterday (Chinese officials were on New Year holiday) but there were suggestions that the realities of modern Chinese politics may have had a part to play.
The mummy was recovered from China’s Tarim Basin, in Xinjiang province. But her Caucasian features raised the prospect that the region’s inhabitants were European settlers.
It raises the question about who first settled in Xinjiang and for how long the oil-rich region has been part of China. The questions are important – most notably for the Chinese authorities who face an intermittent separatist movement of nationalist Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who number nine million in Xinjiang.
The government-approved story of China’s first contact with the West dates back to 200BC when China’s emperor Wu Di wanted to establish an alliance with the West against the marauding Huns, then based in Mongolia. However, the discovery of the mummies suggests that Caucasians were settled in a part of China thousands of years before Wu Di: the notion that they arrived in Xinjiang before the first East Asians is truly explosive.
Xinjiang is dominated by the Uighurs, who resent what they see as intrusion by the Han Chinese. The tensions which have spilled over into violent clashes in recent years.
Whatever the reason for the Chinese decision, it has caused great disappointment at the Pennsylvania museum where the “Secrets of the Silk Road” were due to go on show after successful exhibitions in California and Texas without major reproductions.
“It’s going to be the rebirth of this museum,” Victor Mair, a professor of Chinese language and literature, told the Associated Press last month. “It’s going to put it back on the map.”
Professor Mair declined to comment on the current controversy.
Cobbled together as this above piece of “journalism” is nothing but speculations on “motives”.
Along with other similar delusional theories as “Obama is Muslim”, or “Obama doesn’t have a US birth certificate”.
*Now I like a good conspiracy theory as the next guy, but the key word is “good”. A conspiracy theory should make sense logically, based on some established patterns.
Here, the facts are conveniently tilted to make the speculations themselves. Some are even left out altogether.
(1) The mummy was already displayed in California and Texas. It would hardly be an attempt to suppress the information when they already allowed the display in 2 US states. Not to mention the fact that the same mummy has been on display in China since before 1998, I have seen it in person in the Shanghai museum, AND it was shown with explanation that the body was female, had RED hair, fair skin, and was not Asian, and found in Xinjiang. (So what is the imaginary theory of information suppression here advocated by the Independent journalist?)
“but there were suggestions that the realities of modern Chinese politics may have had a part to play.”
No, Mr. Clifford Coonan of the Independent. That suggestion is all in your head. Others have merely been repeating what you suggested first.
(2) “The government-approved story of China’s first contact with the West dates back to 200BC when China’s emperor Wu Di wanted to establish an alliance with the West against the marauding Huns, then based in Mongolia. However, the discovery of the mummies suggests that Caucasians were settled in a part of China thousands of years before Wu Di: the notion that they arrived in Xinjiang before the first East Asians is truly explosive.”
That’s total bunk.
Han Wu Di first established MILITARY outposts in Xinjiang, but he was not the first to contact the West. More than 500 years prior, AND recorded in Chinese history, official or otherwise, a King of Chou dynasty set out for one full year of military expedition to the West, and established contacts with border kingdoms, nearly bankrupting his Kingdom in the process.
And the Mummy is acknowledged to be from a people with migratory patterns, as there were no large permanent burial sites found, and they were found with primitive tools fashioned quickly for migratory purposes, similar to Native American migratory tribes. (Also HINT HINT: They MIGRATED FROM EUROPE, leaving no trace of themselves there!) There is NOTHING suggesting that the mummies were “Caucasians SETTLED in a part of China thousands of years before Wu Di.”
No, Mr. Clifford Coonan of the Independent. You are making doodles and piling it high with God knows what ridiculous propaganda conjured up to satisfy your lack of childhood cartoon hours.
Yes, I am upset by this sort of obvious lunacy disguised as “journalism”.
Most people don’t realize Han as an ethnicity is actually VERY mixed. Those specific mummies for sure weren’t from a proto-Han tribe, but if the tribe’s genes had been passed down, there is a good chance that the bulk of their progenies are actually among Hans.
They roamed some 1500 to 1800 years prior to the founding of the Han Dynasty. Had the tribe still been around the same place when Han was at its peak, i.e. had not been wiped out like most of the tribes at one point or the other living in that area, there was a good chance that they might belong to one of the sub-tribes grouped under Xiongnu, and settled eastward inside Han.
Hey, but didn’t they look Europeans? Here come 2 factors: time and numbers. There were 2 major Xiongnu settlements inside Han, each with population in the hundreds of thousands. The total settlement population could be close to 1 million — but at its peak, there were 50 million people in Han. On top of it, many of the Xiongnu sub-tribes looked quite Han-like. So the European-looking features were at such a numerical disadvantage, and enough generations later, the European features were totally diluted.
People have been moving around, since we became homo sapiens. The migratory pattern wasn’t only eastward, and there was also westward (and southward, northward for that matter). Asian-looking tribes had moved into Europe also, and likewise, today their progenies don’t much Asian at all.
The history moved on, after Han, there were the Three-Kingdom period, and then Jin (晋). After the collapse of Jin, there were countless wars and the population had decreased quite significantly. Many tribes moved from north and west settled in the Chinese heartland. Between 319 and 351 AD there was actually a short-lived dynasty call Hou Zhao (后赵), founded by a Caucasian-looking tribe called 羯族 — Imagine what those newspaper men would be writing, had a few 1700 year old Hou Zhao mummies been founded in Hebei today.
And it’s only the pre-Tang history…
Wow, the comments section on that site is sickening… Apparently, this one mummy alone is definitive proof that all of Chinese society was descended from White Europeans. Or for some more discerning ones, everything GOOD about Chinese society descended from White Europeans, and everything bad was because of Asian blood.
It seems their logic followed this basic pattern: claim that this mummy proves that Asian civilization/technology/culture descended from Caucasians. If I demand proof, simply claim that I’m close-minded. If I say they’re being racist, call me an anti-white racist. If I was a white person myself, call me a race traitor (or something close). Really, this would bother me all that much if it weren’t for the fact that there were so many comments of this nature, and so many “likes” for said comments. You have no idea how disheartening it is to see so many people so willfully ignorant and racist. (and I admit, I didn’t read through all the comments, but I’m sure many I didn’t read or merely skimmed are far worse than the examples I gave). I suppose I’m just venting here, for which I apologize. It’s probably a bit ironic that of all the political issues that really do matter, it’s this article that sets me off, yet at the same time, the fact that there’s so much hate against the Chinese in this one article – which should be such a small issue – is EXACTLY why I’m so ticked.
(A little side, I found a funny comment saying how the Chinese don’t deserve credit for gunpowder not because they weren’t the first for inventing it (that didn’t matter either way), but because they didn’t use it for military purposes!)
On a side note, there were a few comments that I actually found interesting. Some of the commenters who declared themselves White made the comment of how sick they were of seeing so much of their history be based on how poorly they treated other ethnicities. More specifically, they hated being branded racist or associated with racists simply for being White. I actually sympathize with that very much – who wants to be judged just on the ethnicity/nationality alone? The whole point of expressing ourselves is to try and get others to understand us in our entirety, right? Many of us hate being branded based on shallow judgments alone… But too often, I see those same people retaliate to the extreme: ‘Well, my people may have done wrong to your people, but your people are far worse, and here are examples dating back to the dawn of mankind!’ I can see how people want a sense of ‘justice’, but only pointing out (and exaggerating) negatives leads to no constructive dialogue whatsoever. In relation to this article, it seems many in the comments section were projecting their own faults directly onto the Chinese – it would be funny if it wasn’t so disturbing.
Constructive dialogue requires that all parties involved be willing to put in time to listen to others. Unfortunately, our technology and extreme individualistic culture seems to promote stubborn refusal to listen to anyone but themselves. If the airwaves or internet is filled with a massive surge in hateful/ignorant nonsense, it becomes impossible for constructive dialog to shine through (which may be why so few reasonable people are willing to post on the Independent). Careful self-reflection is but a foolish thing of the past it seems.
I’m pretty angry as I type this, so I hope I don’t sound too hateful or even racist, and I certainly don’t claim to be perfect myself. Simple fact is that for such a trivial matter over history long past, there are people who would still try to dominate the issue with lies, half-truths and a massive barrage of vitriol… and it bugs me. Alot.
The Western media is totally manufacturing misinformation to continue to polarize the general population against anything “China” or “Chinese.” The more polarized the population, the more egregious the media can become. This is one of their strategies to stem their declining readership. It is a vicious cycle.
Perhaps more true than ever, one should heed what Chomsky wrote in his “Manufacturing Consent.” The book may sound like there is a grand conspiracy by the media, but I don’t think that even needs to be established. This vicious cycle is all that necessary to explain the media’s behavior.
Charles Liu says
This is an old story. Alan Alda hosted an episode of Scientific America in 2006 on the mummy. Back then the explination was it is a Celtic nomad that wondered far into central Asia and burried in a shallow grave, only to be presevd by the environment.
This story is not hidden or censored in China, just baidu “新疆 木乃伊” and read all the description os it’s european feature and DNA tests. Does this really have an effect in China’s established sovereignty? Only according to some unnamed uyghur activist. Not very convincing.
Charles Liu says
Also, this is not some suprise non-Asian population in ancient Chinese history. The Huns were mentioned in Shang dynasty bone glyphs. A friend believes the fair skinned, light eye people in Hunan province were descendants of Atala the Hun.
r v says
Clifford Coonan is a whack job. He 1st starting writing the same BS theory back in 2006 about the Xinjiang Mummies. At the time, he called them “Celtic” in origin, when none of the experts said such thing.
And Dr. Mair is a bit of a whack job as well.
So, he’s the consultant for the Penn Museum exhibit. But he’s a Chinese language professor who occasionally amateur as an archeologist. In the 1990’s, when the mummies were 1st discovered in China, they were put on display in Xinjiang Museum, and Mair was supposedly credited for “rediscovering” the mummies while touring the Museum.
(Seriously, AP actually wrote Mair “rediscovered” the mummies from the Chinese museum!! How do you rediscover something from the Museum display floor??! Do I get to wander into the Library of Congress and say I rediscovered the Declaration of Independence on display??!)
What it was: Mair was obsessed with finding the origin of the Mummies, because they looked non-Asian. He was authorized to collect some 52 tissue samples from the Museum, but was barred from taking them out of China for genetic testing. Mair attributed this to politics (his personal opinion). Chinese genetic testing was taking too long for him.
But Mair was a credit hog, an amateur archeologist with no credentials in the field. Why should China trust him with these tissues? Why should any sane Chinese archeologists?
Some samples were supposedly smuggled out to Mair, and he had them tested in 1995 by an Italian geneticist (supposedly). But hmmm… Search around, and one will find NO publications mentioning the results of that supposed 1995 testing. (And frankly, smuggling ancient anquitities is a crime, so is receiving stolen goods).
The Chinese side did conduct genetic testing with cooperations of scientists from other countries. Findings were published in 2004 by a Chinese university and in 2005 by another group. And testings continue.
*Now my personal theory, based on the evidence of Mair’s interactions with the Chinese archeologists and the Chinese government, is that the Pennsylvania Exhibit was shut down because Mair was involved as a “consultant”.
The California and Texas exhibit were fine. But when the Chinese government found out Mair was involved (Mair gave interviews to AP just prior to the Mummies arrival in Pennsylvania), they shut down the exhibit.
*Personally I would too. Mair was acting like he personally dug these mummies out of the Xinjiang desert, when in fact, he’s an amateur with little credibility and few concrete results. Many of his theories on the Mummies were later self-contradicted, such as he 1st claimed that prior to arrival of Han around 200BC, ONLY Caucasoid were in Xinjiang. He later claimed that the region was in fact a “melting pot of different races”.
Now call me crazy, but the tipping point seems to be pointed at Mair, and his amateurish attempts to generate publicity for himself and politicizing the issue. (Mair is the person most quoted as tying the Mummies to some political motives in China to suppress research and information).
Call me also crazy, but Pennsylvania will not likely see any Chinese exhibits as long as Dr. Mair is involved. Yes, he is on the black-list, not because of Chinese politics, but because Dr. Mair was an obsessive whack job, who tried to hog into a field that he was not wanted or needed. (I mean seriously, He is a Chinese language professor. Go study tablets and scrolls. 4000 year old mummies with no writings is not something a language expert can help with).
“But her Caucasian features raised the prospect that the region’s inhabitants were European settlers.
However, the discovery of the mummies suggests that Caucasians were settled in a part of China thousands of years before Wu Di: the notion that they arrived in Xinjiang before the first East Asians is truly explosive.
Xinjiang is dominated by the Uighurs, who resent what they see as intrusion by the Han Chinese. The tensions which have spilled over into violent clashes in recent years.”
The dumbest thing is the implication that there is some connection between this mummy and modern Uighur people, as if Uighurs are Caucasian or come from Europe. Before migrating into Xinjiang they lived further north in Asia, not in Europe. And they didn’t migrate into Xinjiang 4000 years ago. If this mummy is a 4000-year old Caucasian migrant from Europe, then what does it have to do with the Uighur people or modern day Han/Uighur tensions?
Since the native Americans, the Eskimos and American Indians, have the same genes as Chinese, should China claim sovereignty. Of course, no.
If you’re trying to elucidate hidden harmonies, then the partisan British tabloids are probably the wrong place to look. And discrepancies in and disagreement about the archeological record means that whatever the heck you all are debating above will not be resolved. Maybe it’s better to figure out the hidden harmonies behind why Penn ended up with a “Dada Wonderland,” instead of mummies?
How about checking out NPR’s reporting: http://n.pr/hPifkQ. That’s a blog post summarizing the radio spot.
They chalk it up more to a miscommunication between the bureaucracy of Penn and the bureaucracy of China.
You should try to be fair, because what we see is that NPR, Independent or whatever echo each other when it comes to international issues, tabloid or not. Sure, NPR is more popular and to the Western audience more professional and “objective.” I agree with that on domestic coverage.
Here is an example of what’s wrong with NPR’s coverage on international issues:
We don’t have the bandwidth to tackle every single instances of wrong narrative in every single Western media report.
r v says
“They chalk it up more to a miscommunication between the bureaucracy of Penn and the bureaucracy of China.”
That might be a good theory, but not many people are buying it. Chalk it up to propaganda machines at the Independent and Mr. Clifford Coonan and Dr. Mair.
r v says
Today, the Chinese government approved the Mummy Exhibit to go ahead in Pennsylvania.
Whether Dr. Mair is involved now in the exhibit? We will see.
Mr. Clifford Coonan of the Independent is silent.
I think this is proof that Western criticism extends far beyond politics and economics. They are not political and economic competitors, but racial and cultural enemies. Do not ever make the mistake of giving them the benefit of the doubt.