Ancient Mummies Tell a Tale China Doesn’t Care to Listen To





URUMQI, China — An exhibit on the first floor of the museum here gives the government’s unambiguous take on the history of this border region: “Xinjiang has been an inalienable part of the territory of China,” says one prominent sign.

But walk upstairs to the second floor, and the ancient corpses on display seem to tell a different story.

One called the Loulan Beauty lies on her back with her shoulder-length hair matted down, her lips pursed in death, her high cheekbones and long nose the most obvious signs that she is not what one thinks of as Chinese.

The Loulan Beauty is one of more than 200 remarkably well-preserved mummies discovered in the western deserts here over the last few decades. The ancient bodies have become protagonists in a very contemporary political dispute over who should control the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region...

At the heart of the matter lie these questions: Who first settled this inhospitable part of western China? And for how long has the oil-rich region been part of the Chinese empire?

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