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Preface

    The Inner Mongolian steppe is located to the north of China proper, also known as the Central Plains. This magical and captivating land provided the historical setting for the development of numerous nomadic peoples. At the dawn of the Neolithic Age some 8,000 years ago, the Hsing-lung-wa Culture emerged in the eastern part of this landlocked region, where people based their livelihood chiefly on primitive agriculture, fishing and hunting. Approximately 3,500 years ago, however, the climate began to change, gradually turning Inner Mongolia into an area of vast grasslands and thus forging the emergence of a number of tribes with a lifestyle that was nomadic in nature.

    The early nomadic tribes active on the steppe were truly complex and diverse. They were identified by dwellers of the agricultural culture in the south with such names as Kuei-fang, Hsien-yun, Jung-ti and Hsiung-nu. Excavated ornaments with patterns of fierce birds and animals suggest the nature of these northern tribes. After the decline of the Hsiung-nu domination, a host of other nomadic groups rose to prominence in China's northern frontier. Presented in this exhibition are artifacts of the tribes known as Wu-huan, Hsien-pei, Turks, Khitans, Jurchens and Mongols, who were but a few of the peoples on the Mongolian steppe. Some of the tribes entered the Central Plains and set up imperial rule. Other groups held power over both the steppe and the agricultural regions of the south. Generally speaking, though, cultural exchange in Inner Mongolia over the last two thousand years or so has been a constant and common force regardless of whether the region was ruled by the Han Chinese or by the northern tribes.

    More often than not, the history of such cultural exchange is told through the archeological finds themselves, which demonstrate the characteristics of the various periods and cultures involved. Featuring a number of exquisite pieces of historical significance, the exhibition "Nomadic Waves and Cultural Exchange on the Mongolian Steppe" is geared towards the development of these unique cultures of the northern tribes and towards the crystallization of the nomadic ingenuity that has added depth and brilliance to the history of the peoples of China.

 

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