The ‘Xi’an mode’ enlivens cultural relics

By YANG TAO / 02-09-2023 / Chinese Social Sciences Today

FILE PHOTO: The City Wall International Marathon in Xi’an, which has been held for more than 20 years

Cultural relics and cultural heritage, which convey the genes and blood of the Chinese nation, are non-renewable and irreplaceable civilizational resources. As the ancient capital of thirteen dynasties and the starting point of the ancient Silk Road, Xi’an (formerly Chang’an), the capital of Shaanxi Province, is rich in cultural relics and heritage. 

Cultural relics and heritage in Xi’an rank among the best nationwide both in quantity and value. According to cultural relics data released by Shaanxi, Xi’an had 58 key cultural relics under state-level protection, 107 cultural relics under provincial-level protection, two world cultural heritage comprising 7 sites, and 132 registered museums (memorials). 

In recent years, Xi’an has innovated ideas on the protection and utilization of its cultural relics and heritage. It blazed the way to promote the creative transformation of these relics and heritage, in a manner now considered the distinctive Xi’an mode. 

By the end of 2020, Xi’an hadclearly prioritized 38 key tasks covering 14 sectors of cultural relics protection. Since the implementation of the plans, Xi’an has strengthened the archaeological investigation of a series of typical prehistoric sites such as the Yangguanzhai, Jiangzhai, and Taiping Sites, and carried out scientific research on important cultural relics excavated from the Great Integration of Different Nationalities period. These include the Great Tomb in Shaolingyuan of the Sixteen States period, the Tomb of Anjia of Northern Zhou Dynasty, and the Lu Chou’s Tomb of Western Wei Dynasty. These efforts have yielded many academic achievements of important social and cultural values. In-depth archaeological explorations and excavations of these relics and historic sites bear witness to the splendid history of exchanges and integration between the people of all ethnic groups of the Chinese nation.

As a natural demarcation of Northern China and Southern China, the Qinling Mountains possess extremely rich and diverse animal and plant resources, and countless historical sites. When inspecting Shaanxi Province, General Secretary of CPC Central Committee Xi Jinping emphasized that the Qinling Mountains are the ancestral veins of the Chinese nation and are an important symbol of Chinese culture. To protect its ecological environment is thus of great and far-reaching significance to the realization of sustainable development. In recent years, Xi’an has continuously strengthened the ecological protection of the Qinling Mountains with greater vigor. It has detailed 27 tasks covering five aspects regarding Qinling Mountains protection. In addition to the value of ecological civilization, the city also bolstered research on historical, cultural values and revolutionary values embodied in the Qinling Mountains.

As an economic, cultural and trade center on the ancient Silk Road, Xi’an has witnessed exchanges and mutual learnings between Chinese and foreign civilizations for thousands of years. The city wall is the eyewitnesser and historian. Xi’an has consecutively held the “City Wall International Marathon” for more than 20 years, contributing to the mutual understanding of people around the world and bringing this silent history book to life. During his inspection in Shaanxi, Xi emphasized that the International Marathon should insist on attracting more people from around the world to the city wall. 

In recent years, more than 50 exhibitions of the Terracotta Warriors and other cultural resources have been held with distinctive themes in 26 countries and regions. This makes cultural relics and heritage “diplomatic envoys” that promote exchanges of humanity between China and other countries. At the opening ceremony of the First Belt and Road Forum that was held in 2017 for International Cooperation, Xi illustrated and recalled the history of the Silk Road by using gilt copper silkworms (housed in Shaanxi History Museum) which date back to the Western Han Dynasty as a testimony—2000 years ago, Chinese ancestors departed from ancient Chang’an, trekking across vast steppes and deserts, to open the transcontinental passage connecting Asia, Europe and Africa, known today as the Silk Road.

Currently, changes in the world, times and history are unfolding in a way that has rarely been seen in the past, and all kinds of ideological and cultural exchanges, integration and confrontations are becoming more frequent. In this context, the “Xi’an mode” thus holds great promise as the “golden card” of fine traditional Chinese culture in boosting the exchanges and mutual learning between Chinese and foreign civilizations. 

Yang Tao is an associate professor from the School of English Language at Xi’an International Studies University.