All roads do not lead to Rome. Starting this weekend, you can discover, or re-discover, an ancient thoroughfare that existed between 600 CE – 1200 CE, courtesy of The American Museum of Natural History. CUarts received an invite to a special blogger’s preview on Friday, and we wanted to share with you our adventure.
“Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World,” leads you on a journey from Asia to the Middle East. All that’s required is your passport, provided by the exhibit, and your thrill of the trek. Along the way, you’ll stamp your passport at the destinations of four ancient cities: Xi’an, Turfan, Samarkand, Baghdad. There’s even a photo opportunity for you and one of the three camels loaded for the trek. They’re a little stiff, but I think you would be as well after a six month/4,000 mile walk.
In Xian, you’ll encounter live silkworms and learn how Chinese cultivated these precious worms for the cocoons. Also on display is a Tang Era silk loom. It makes for a nice juxtaposition to see these pinky-sized worms next to a loom so large. Is there a hint of empire here? It’s hard not to imagine what other large things were built on the backs of those much smaller. Sight is not the only sense, however, that’s stimulated along the road. As you approach the periphery of Xi’an, you’ll encounter several period music instruments in an exhibit that allows you to create your own orchestrations with the pipa, moon lute, erhu, sheng and cymbals.The colorful notes from your symphony are evenly matched by the colorful market of Turfan, a night market of spices, textiles, furs, and foods. Musk, patchouli, rosewater….all of these scents are intermingled with the sounds of merchants selling their wares. Are you more a glassblower or papermaker? Samarkand will call to you with its exhibitions and displays. Baghdad beckons at the end, a rich city of scholarship and learning. Worth a good half-hour is the multi-media table, where you can trace religious movements, population growth, trade routes and other data. If you’d rather gaze at the sky, however, there is an astrolabe for you to gaze into the ancient sky. It may even whet your appetite for the planetarium, just a stone’s throw away.
With your passport and imagination, you can experience life along the Silk Road. Let us know what you discover.
Explore our photo gallery here.
Traveling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World
Open daily – $9-$16 (not including museum admission)
American Museum of Natural History, Central Park West at 79th
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