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A cultural crossroads across time

By Wang Ru | China Daily | Updated: 2024-02-22 07:46

Xinan Yi Zhi (Chronicles of the Yi Ethnic Group in Southwest China), a Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) book about the society of the ancient Yi ethnic group on show. CHINA DAILY

Precious pages

Many of the books on display are extremely special, and some are on the list of national-level precious ancient books issued by the Ministry of Culture and Tourism.

One example on display is part of a copy of Pearl in the Palm printed in the early 20th century.

It's a bilingual glossary of the Chinese and Tangut languages written by a scholar of the Western Xia Dynasty (1038-1227), a powerful regime that ruled Northwest China until it was conquered by Genghis Khan. It has become the key to decoding the Western Xia's written characters, which faded from use with the end of the dynasty.

"The book was written in 1190 and is one of the oldest bilingual textbooks in China," says Sun Bojun, a researcher at the Institute of Ethnology and Anthropology of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

"The writer says in the preface that learning the languages of other ethnic groups was an important way for people of the Central Plains to cooperate with non-Han people, and learning Chinese was an important way for other ethnic groups to learn about the culture of China's Central Plains, which could help them to develop," says Sun.

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