YINCHUAN, Dec. 14 (Xinhua) -- At an exhibition in northwest China's Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region, an ancient Roman gold coin and a silver coin from Persia were among the most eye-catching exhibits, giving visitors a glimpse into the cultural and commercial exchanges between China and Central Asia over the past 2,000 years.
The two coins were once brought into China through trade by the Sogdian, a Central Asian ethnic group that actively engaged in such exchanges along the ancient Silk Road since the third century.
The Sogdian began to immigrate to China in large numbers during the Sui and Tang dynasties (581-907) and they mainly dealt with silk exports of China to Central Asia while selling glass and metal products from Central Asia to China.
"The two coins were unearthed from Sui and Tang tombs in southern Ningxia's Guyuan City along with other relics and they suggest active commercial activities of Sogdian people in the region at that time," said Wang Yi, head of the exhibition department of Ningxia Museum, where the exhibition was held.
At an international seminar on the protection and research of cultural relics in the regional capital Yinchuan, Matteo Compareti, an Italian historian and expert on Sogdian history, presented his thesis on Sogdian tombs discovered in several places in northern China.
"The unearthing of Sogdian funeral monuments in China over the past 25 years has greatly improved our understanding and increased our knowledge about the Sogdian as well as their arts, culture and religions in the settlements they built along the Silk Road," said Compareti, who is also a visiting professor at Capital Normal University in Beijing.
The Guyuan Museum in Guyuan City features a permanent display of a replica stone tomb door adorned with carvings of two Sogdian dancers. Each side of the door depicts a Sogdian man dancing and whirling on a small circular carpet.
The mesmerizing dance was a famous dance style back in the Tang Dynasty featuring spinning movements and was very popular in the imperial court. Originating from Central Asia, it was introduced to China through the Silk Road. Its essence is still evident in the dances of Xinjiang and some other northwestern Chinese regions.
"From the latest archaeological discoveries, we can see that two branches of the Sogdian came to settle in Ningxia, with the He family settling in Yanchi County in northeast Ningxia, and the Shi family in Yuanzhou District of Guyuan City," said Su Xiaomei, a historian working at the Guyuan Museum.
An epitaph unearthed in Guyuan reveals a family tree of the Shi family, illustrating their integration into local culture in China as their names had transformed from the exotic style to more localized ones for ordinary Chinese such as "Shi Xiaozhong" and "Shi Xiaoyi." ■