An endless road: UNESCO Silk Roads Project turns 30 years old


Outside the museum, a fine drizzle began to veil the West Lake. Inside the museum, experts from Hangzhou, Beijing, Xi’an, Quanzhou, Paris, and Bangkok met with each other and chatted freely either face to face or via Zoom.

On July 20, to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the UNESCO Silk Roads Project and launch a digital archive for a series of five expeditions in the framework of the "Integral Study of the Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue" between 1990-1995, China National Silk Museum invited international and national experts who have participated in and studied the Silk Roads Project to get together and share their experiences and knowledge on this subject.

Webinar to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the UNESCO Silk Roads Project and launch the Digital Archive of the Silk Roads Project, Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province

The Silk Road, in ancient times, connected the East and West in aspects of economy, culture, politics, and religion. 30 years after the launch of the UNESCO Silk Roads Project, the Silk Road connected the East and West again.

"30 years ago, as a young scholar of the UNESCO Silk Roads Project, I walked into a conference room of a hotel under the Greater Wild Goose Pagoda in Xi’an, where the expedition of the 'Integral Study of the Silk Roads: Roads of Dialogue' was launched,” said Li Xiguang, a professor from Tsinghua University. He was invited to be a youth scholar and responsible for documenting the expeditions.

The Desert Route Expedition from Xi'an to Kashgar (1990), Xi’an Tangcheng Hotel (photo via Lin Haicun)

Mr. Li, along with his team members, has covered fifty thousand miles, written down hundreds of thousands of words, and published more than 200 articles during the expeditions from 1990 to 1992. The three years have seen the expedition team completing the Desert Route Expedition from Xi'an to Kashgar (1990), the Maritime Route Expedition from Venice to Osaka (1990/1991), the Steppes Route Expedition in Central Asia (1991), and the Nomads’ Route Expedition across Mongolia (1992).

The expedition team rode the waves in the surfy East Sea, inspired each other in the chilly Takla Makan Desert nights, shared a day’s experience in the cold weather of the Hangay Uul, tried hard to keep balance in SUVs riding in the west Pamirs, and strived to step forward in the hot deserts in central Asia.

Although the team has covered a lot of places, the Silk Road is an endless road. Just as Shen Yubiao suggested, for hundreds of years, the spirit of the Silk Road, namely, peace and cooperation, openness and inclusiveness, mutual learning and mutual benefit, has been passed down through generations and fully carried forward in many countries and international organizations, of which UNESCO is a pioneer.

Besides, the Silk Road has left rich legacies in material technology as well as spiritual culture, which still shine brightly in the modern world. Dr. Mechtild Rössler firmly believed that the cultural heritage of the Silk Road can serve as a common foundation and starting point for future international cooperation, and contribution to peace and other progressive causes for all of mankind.

Nowadays, in the face of COVID-19, the spirit of the Silk Road is playing a more important role than ever in uniting people around the world and fighting against the pandemic globally.

(Written by Zou Guan'er)

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