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Traveling the Silk Road, Ancient Pathway to the Modern World

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“The Silk Road”, the very name conjures romantic visions of intricately woven silk, camel caravans, night markets, the air filled with the scent of exotic spices and the sound of music from ancient Chinese instruments.

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This wonderful exhibit at the Natural History Museum in Los Angeles, allows visitors a chance to experience the Silk Road as it was 1,000 years ago. Stretching 4,600 miles from eastern China through Central Asia to the Middle East, crossing scorching desert sands and freezing snowy mountain passes, the Silk Road opened the world to new ideas and products.

Following the Silk Road trade route the entire distance from Xian, the capitol of China, to Baghdad, and the heart of the Islamic world you’ll meet merchants, scholars, soldiers and pilgrims.

Visitors will explore bazaars filled with gems and crafts; a silk-making workshop with live silkworms; ancient scrolls filled with the secrets of technology and religion beliefs; the inside of a cargo ship; and astronomy tools that helped mariners navigate the seas.

The journey begins at Xi’an, China’s Tang Dynasty capitol and the largest city in the world! This metropolis is home to nearly a million people and another million live just outside the city walls. Imperial buildings, temples and markets line the streets. Bedecked with colorful silk curtains this section offers visitors a look into how silk was made. There is a massive replica of a Tang-era loom and a musical interactive display of cymbals, drums, flutes and other instruments

In the lush Turfan section, situated beneath a grape-covered arbor, visitors enter a night market. Wandering through this enticing re-creation, visitors discover stalls overflowing with all the goods — sapphires, silks, jades and rubies, leopard furs and peacock feathers, and fruits and spices that would have captivated travelers over a thousand years ago during the city's heyday.

After months spent under a blazing sun the caravans reach Turfan, a lush oasis offering refuge from the harsh Taklimakan Desert. Ingenious irrigation systems bring cool water from nearby mountains bring refreshing drink to travelers and camels. Farmers here grow an incredible array of fruits and vegetables which will be traded along the Silk Road reaching kitchens thousands of miles away. This part of the adventure is situated under a grape-covered arbor, where shoppers can wander through a recreation of a night market overflowing with precious stones, silks, leopard furs, peacock feathers and fruits and spices.

The next stop on the route is the fabled city of Samarkand, the city of merchants. Whatever you are looking for chances one of the Sogdian merchants can deliver it. This is the heart of the ambitious Sogdians network of commerce that extends to India, China and Persia. Whatever you are looking for chances are one of these shrewd traders will be able to deliver it.

After 6 months of travel traders and merchants finally reach Baghdad which at this time was at the height of its golden age as a hub of learning and commerce. The centerpiece of this section is a working model of a water clock designed by Islamic engineers 800 years ago. The model is made of glass to reveal its inner workings, and the family-friendly interactive gives visitors of all ages a chance to determine the hour by marking the position of “stars” using a working model of an ancient Islamic astrolabe.

The exhibit will be on display until April 13, 2014

http://www.nhm.org/site/explore-exhibits/special-exhibits/traveling-the-silk-road

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