Monday, October 31, 2011

The story of silk

What's this? A picture of a Roman senator wearing a robe made from Chinese silk. Imagine the talk in the senate in ancient Rome, not of the state of affairs in the Empire but of the robe made from this mysterious fiber from the Far East. From then on the buzz became of how to get hold of more so that every nobile and/or rich person would be clothed in this new fiber called silk.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Peter Schiff visits OWS

Peter Schiff says...'I'm the 1%, lets talk'. Its about 19 minutes long but well worth listening, its very very interesting.

All Saints' day

Halloween or the day of the dead is very popular in Central and South America. For that reason and because we have a huge population that comes from Central America, it's become a significant celebration. The markets are full of paraphernalia for remembering the dead. But I celebrate the saints, all the saints who having labored and now have entered their rest. I remember their example.

Chinese robes

Do you see traces of Missoni here? I wonder where he got his inspiration from? Instead of having the stripes straight he made them into a zigzag pattern. I have similar style robes worn by the Ottoman Sultans. I wonder where they got the idea?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

The mummies of the Tarim Basin

 As I wrote before, the Heavenly mountain range divides Xinjiang into two, the lush Northern part and the South which is a large swathe of desert. The olden inhabitants just bury their dead in the desert and after thousands of years, some has been discovered, in very well preserved states of mummification. The Pharaohs in Egypt has been chemically mummified but not these in the desert of the Tarim Basin. They were just wrapped up and buried. One of them which archaeologists called 'LouLan' was carefully studied, they did a digital reconstruction of her and found that she was an Indo-Eurasian looking woman and very attractive. She was a beauty and the name given her stuck, she became known as 'LouLan beauty.' The Australian couple, having seen a documentary about the discovery of 'LouLan beauty' decided to come to Urumqi to see her. This was what they and we found, 'LouLan beauty' was not where she was supposed to be. She's traveling, on loan to a museum in Shenzhen in the South.
 LouLan beauty would be in repose here except she's traveling. She wasn't home at the time of our visit.
 The corpse of a Chinese General, they covered his genital area out of respect.

The mummies were in this terrific state of preservatio, hair and skin being intact. Their woolen blanket was like it was thousands of years ago, the color is still intact. One can still see the tattoos on the face of the old lady in the red blanket. This is truly amazing.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Urumqi museum

 We waited a few hours before we could get in. There were visiting Chinese dignitaries in there and they forbade entry into the museum until these goons left. To me, politicians will always be goons especially those despotic ones from third world countries though our own are not very different these days. The great thing about this delay was we met a few people from other parts of the world, 2 Turkish men who were in Urumqi for a conference, a local Uighur guide, a couple from Australia and 2 women from New Zealand. The Australian, 'don't miss the biggest piece of jade'... we almost did, it was at the entrance, a 2 ton piece of black jade. They found an English speaking guide and invited us to join them which we did. It wasn't a big museum, it showcased mostly the lives of the different minorities in Xinjiang.

They make the most fantastic tapestries and carpets, absolutely beautiful and stunning. The most important exhibit in this museum are the Tarim basin mummies.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Meanwhile at the market in Urumqi

As usual, these tours are subsidised by merchants. Part of the tour experience is the shopping. For this tour we were taken to a jade factory where there were jade of every color and ornamentation being offered for sale. They took their time and most of our tour group bought jade of some form or other. The rest of us were outside tasting whatever delicacies the market had to offer. We had these skewers of some vegetarian stuff for .50 yuan a piece. They were cooked in a hot and spicy broth and really tasty. We ate a lot and finally the bus took off after a long jade buying spree. The mini van (bus) broke down when we were almost at our hotel. The driver was cussing. We left him and a few of us who were staying at the same hotel took the bus back.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Try this on for size

 There  was a rack of costumes that we as visitors could try on and be a Kazakh and have our picture taken. Of course we have this brave Chinese lady who did just that. I told her to spread the skirt both ways and hence this picture.
We could have our picture taken with the real Kazakhs as well. The fun part of this trip was the added bonus of interacting with other minorities of China and Chinese people from other parts of China who form part of our group. We were the only two foreigners. When I was at the travel agent signing up for this tour, the guy asked me to sign my name, I did.... annechung.. he saw it wasn't in Chinese...he muttered under his breath....foreigner! I don't remember how to write my name in Chinese, I did learn as a child but that was a long time ago. We were at the Urumqi museum chatting with a local Chinese guy... Sophie speaks, reads and writes Chinese...once in a while she'll turn to me to explain the conversation in English. The local guy looked at me....funny...what's wrong with her (me). He couldn't understand that I'm in all appearances a Chinese but with no skill or knowledge of the language.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A real yurt

 The baby's crib..
 Lovely woven blankets and tapesteries..
 The roof in summer.

We had the opportunity to view a real yurt, one that is actually lived in and not a show piece. It is very interesting and comfortable. The Kazakhs being nomadic lives in yurts as do the Mongolians, those who are still nomadic. A lot of Mongolians have decided to live in concrete buildings in the capital of Mongolia, Ulan Battor. The outside is lined by sheep's skin and is waterproof and is also able to withstand the snow. The fire is lit inside the yurt and there is always an opening in the roof. It was fun to view a real live in yurt up close.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The earthquake in Eastern Turkey

While this was not the work of an earthquake but the work of a lightning strike, still I pray that the gorgeous churches I saw last June will still be intact for posterity. I have the same sympathy for the people affected by this devastating earthquake. Living in California, I know the devastation of earthquakes. The ground shakes all the time and I live near the ocean and after seeing the Tsunami in Japan, I'm a little scared. Of late all the buildings in California have been earthquake proofed, all has been reinforced. I remember sitting on the potty once when there was an earthquake. That wasn't fun. Over the years we've lived through many earthquakes.

Waiting to perform

There were a few groups of Kazakhs waiting to perform for the many troops of visitors coming into the park every day. In spite of the staged shows, it was still the highlight of the daylong trip to the Heavenly mountains.While Uighurs are easily found in town centres, it is different for seeing Kazakhs. They still live their nomadic lives in the Heavenly mountains. It was a real treat to have met some Kazakhs. In the hotel where we stayed I met a man from Turkmenistan and we met a few men from Tajikistan at Urumqi airport. These are people from the 'stans'.

Sunday, October 23, 2011


The Kazakhs in China, as well as the Uighurs, speak Mandarin with an accent. Under Stalin, a lot of Kazakhs left Kazakhstan to live in China. After the break up of the Soviet Union, some have returned to Kazakhstan but some remained as Chinese citizens. In this far Western region of China we find other minority ethnic groups, the Mongols, the Russians, the Uzbeks, the Uighurs, the Tajiks and others. This Kazakh lady or they prefer to be called Xinjiang maiden speaks Mandarin with an adorable accent. They prefer to be known as from Xinjiang rather than from China. More so they prefer to be known as being from Turkestan (some call this place Chinese Turkestan) but of course the Chinese government doesn't allow it to be known as Turkestan at all. It's still a very delicate balance. Though the Kazakhs have no claim to this area, the Uighurs do.