Covering an exhibiting area of 7800 sqm, the architecture style of Xinjiang Provincial Museum is a combination of Uygur and Russian, and which was constructed in 1953. A green-tiled dome tops 18m above the main hall and enormous mural relieves decorate the walls, domes, and entrance. The exhibiting article of this museum center lies in two sources that are archaeological treasures from the Silk Road and the local cultural relics.
The first section mainly focus on the Silk Road, over 50,000 cultural relics excavated on the ancient Silk Road, which including the silk, pottery and porcelain, terra-cotta figures, weapons, scriptures and so on.
The second section show some mummies discovered in the vast desert. Among over 10 mummies, one named 'sleeping beauty' is the most famous one. Buried underground for about 3,800 years, it keeps unbroken, ranking as the earliest and best preserved mummified body in China. In addition, the museum also shows various articles of ethnic groups, including clothing, household utensils, handicrafts, hunting accoutrements and musical instruments as well as the Uygur house and different styles of yurts, giving a vivid introduction of the customs and cultures of different ethnic groups.
The museum is a Must-see for every visitor to Urumqi. It demonstrates very clearly how important the region has been throughout history. Xinjiang, and especially the important crossroads at Urumqi, has seen the movement of peoples and ideas over at least 4000 years and these have left traces that are utterly fascinating.
Of course, the name that most people associate with the region is that of the Silk Roads . It was these that first brought the Chinese to the attention of Europeans. Few realise that movement, sometimes on a grand scale, had taken place in both directions prior to that.
Ancient history is made most interesting in the form of mummies. These are not artificial attempts to extend the physical bodies of worthy people beyond death as found in Egypt but natural preservations resulting from the extremely arid conditions. The best mummies are even thought to have been freeze-dried after a winter mortality. The most famous of these mummies has been dubbed 'the Beauty of Loulan' because of her exceptionally fine appearance and the location of her discovery.
Another area of interest is the collection of written records. Since paper was a later invention many of the pieces on display are written on wood, sometimes bound up into 'books'. Various languages were employed including Tocharian, Sogdian and Uyghur.
Various statues show the rich cultural legacy of both the Chinese and the various 'barbarian' tribes that they had dealings with.
The museum also has wonderful collections to show the current state of play; items relating to the ethnic groups which inhabit Xinjiang in modern times.
3-dimensional models and a whole host of maps make the geography of the area very clear. The Tian Shan (Heavenly Mountains) and the Tarim Basin (of which the Taklamakan Desert is only part) show up as major features - but it is not barriers which are of most interest but the various easy-options around and across. A serious study of these would take days.