Afghan cultural relics end two-year stint traveling around Chinese mainland
Several extremely precious Afghan cultural relics completed their tour in the Chinese mainland on October 9 after visiting many different places in the country starting from March 2017. Next, these treasures will meet the audiences in China's Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) from November 6 to February 10.
The treasures, which represent civilizations ranging from the Bronze Age to the Kushan Dynasty and the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.), have been displayed in over a dozen countries and regions including Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Britain. The cultural relics went on a global tour after surviving numerous wars in Afghanistan, thanks to the efforts of the National Museum of Afghanistan's team of curators and restorers.
The National Museum of Afghanistan used to be one of the most important museums in central Asia, with a collection of over 100,000 items dating back several millennia. But most of the treasures were ransacked during the country's civil war in the early 1990s. In 2001, a militant Islamic group known as the Taliban destroyed artifacts dating from the 3rd century, including two towering Buddhist statues in Bamyan Province and scores of smaller ones excavated from monasteries and preserved at the museum. More than 2,750 relics deemed offensive to the Taliban were destroyed.
Shirazuddin Sifi, a member of the museum's restoration department, said the museum was struck by rocket fire and largely destroyed during the war.
"One day, about 160 rockets were fired from the western side of the museum. The museum and its surrounding areas were all attacked. One of the rockets hit a nearby bus station and killed many people. Then we decided to transfer the treasures in the museum to safe places," said Sifi.
He said the museum has been recovering from destruction over the past few years. Sifi and his colleagues have restored 30 percent of the relics damaged by the Taliban.
Restoring Afghanistan's Buddhist artifacts that were destroyed by the Taliban 18 years ago is like working on a 1,500-year-old jigsaw puzzle, say conservators working on the latest restoration project.
About 35,000 newly-excavated relics in the country have been stored in the museum since 2003, and 15,000 more works of art have been recovered from abroad.
Many of the surviving national treasures were sent on a global exhibition tour in 2006. The exhibition moved to the Chinese mainland in 2017.
"The purpose of a world exhibition tour is to show the real Afghanistan, the real history and the rich culture of Afghanistan. This is the goodwill released by the Afghan people to the people of the rest of the world," said Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, curator of the National Museum of Afghanistan.
(Cover: Pieces of statues damaged in war are being restored at the National Museum of Afghanistan. /Reuters Photo)