The history of people living and working in Xinjiang is not very long. The earliest discovered footprint dates back a mere ten thousand years. This region did not enter the Bronze Age until about three or four thousand years ago, and the life of the local people remained primitive for a long time. Contemporaries in the Mediterranean coast, Mesopotamia, the India Peninsula and the Yellow River basin all enjoyed a relatively high level of civilization. Even the Mobei forest and grass area had become prosperous. In Xinjiang, the spark of civilization was yet un-lit.
But, just before the onset of the Middle Ages, miracles happened. Various civilizations, from far and near, including the Central Plains civilization from the east, the Mediterranean and Gulf civilizations from the west, the Indian civilization from the south and the Grasslands civilization from the north, sprang up in the West, providing a basis for cultural interaction.
Ever since, Xinjiang has been a historic crossroad of world civilizations.
From today's perspective, the broad lands of Asia look like a natural stage, which not only provided Xinjiang with a special place from which to develop, but also kick-started its ancient culture — the renowned Silk Road civilization.
Typical arid geography, numerous nationalities, multiple cultures, and simple folk, this is the stereotyped makeup of Xinjiang. Whatever you seek there, you will surely discover something special among the local people, the history, and even beneath the vast yellow sands.
With regard to human beings, we have so far mainly focused on Race — through the concept of biology, and Nations — through the concept of society. Xinjiang is a test-bed for both. It has been called the 'corridor of historical civilizations' and the 'crossroad at which eastern and western cultures meet'. Novel topics and clues for speculation are to be found everywhere in Xinjiang, from changes among ancient ethnic groups to the assembly of patterns of modern nations, from peculiar tomb burials to well-preserved dry remains, from mysterious images inscribed in rock to stone men found in grasslands.
It is doubtless because of this that Ji Xianlin, an outstanding Chinese scholar in academic circles, confirme that only four ancient civilizations, including China, India, Greece and the Islamic world, have far reaching significance in the origins of world culture — and that only one culture features a conflux of all four, namely China's Dunhuang and Xinjiang.
Thus American scholar Lewis Henry Morgan boldly made his guess that the key to this civilization mine is likely lying under the Tarim Basin. If we discover this key, and don't burn it as fuel, the mine door will be opened and many riddles of civilization's origins hopefully solved.
These are surely not empty statements.
Xinjiang boasts a civilization of its own, as well as the key to the civilization wonders of the world. Unfortunately, that key has been lost.
The break-up of the Silk Road, the strong Boreas and the sand invasion each brought to an end the Silk Road era. The flags of entire civilizations were blown away and the fruits of civilizations buried under sand. Everything regressed to how it used to be —or so it seemed.
However, if it were not for chance discoveries, many people would still have retained knowledge about the Western Region through the book: Journey to the West, a famous Chinese fable novel.
Thanks to hundreds of years of constantly important findings, the civilization of the Silk Road is once again on display. Since the Taoist priest Wang discovered secret caves containing scriptures in Dunhuang, and Swedish explorer Sven Hedin discovered the ancient Chinese garrison town of Loulan, astounding findings have followed. Further missions and discoveries never stop, even today. The sites of an additional thirty-six ancient states of the Western Regions still remain to be discovered.
Fortunately, certain items that been buried for thousands of years, are still, somehow, remarkably well preserved. No matter whether it's the scriptures from graves, the statues of pretty Loulan girls, the Astana Tombs, sealed ancient bamboo slips, frescos from the Kezer Grottoes, the stapes of Rawak Temple, or the Niya site, often referred to as the Pompeii of the East, they remain intact.
The Silk Road civilization lives on.
The lost is regained. Is it a planned coincidence from heaven?
There doesn't need to be a cultural conflict to get rid of obstacles to development. Different, yet equally strong cultures, encountered each other with tolerance in this region, thousands of years ago. People enjoyed the products of various prosperous cultures, including brocade and high heeled shoes from Persia, lacquer, pottery and silk from central China, Eastern teas and Western glass, as well as southern spices and northern furs. People dressed differently, with varying kinds of headwear and hairstyles, each with a specific meaning and pattern. These peoples respected each other, and learned from each other. In this way, Persian styles and Chinese sentiments, Indian thoughts and Greek arts all got along very well with each other. It's wonderful to see that cultural diversity was well preserved here, and helped these cultures develop.
The Ruins of Jiaohe Ancient City
Such open civilizations are admired. Historical and archaeological research shows that these cities along the Silk Road were developed from mixed cultures. Different traditions were interlaced, the essence of both Eastern and Western cultures were absorbed. Languages, personalities, thoughts, arts and lifestyles all coexisted and reflected an abundant and diverse world view.
Groups that lived in the region benefited a great deal from the open nature of the Silk Road civilization and its diverse culture. The Ade tribe took control of the central part of the Silk Road a thousand years ago. This important position of power made it possible for them to gather precious products from the regions of China, India, Greece and Italy. Persian people even considered the Ade's to be living an idyllic life. There are no inferior civilizations but different ones.
The key to understanding past civilizations is not easy to find, but even minor clues of the key help in our quest.