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SYMBOLISM Archaeologists believe the hundreds of 13-foot poles at the Small River Cemetery in a desert in Xinjiang Province, China, were mostly phallic symbols. By NICHOLAS WADE
NY Times Published: March 15, 2010

In the middle of a terrifying desert north of Tibet, Chinese archaeologists have excavated an extraordinary cemetery. Its inhabitants died almost 4,000 years ago, yet their bodies have been well preserved by the dry air. The cemetery lies in what is now China’s northwest autonomous region of Xinjiang, yet the people have European features, with brown hair and long noses. Their remains, though lying in one of the world’s largest deserts, are buried in upside-down boats. And where tombstones might stand, declaring pious hope for some god’s mercy in the afterlife, their cemetery sports instead a vigorous forest of phallic symbols, signaling an intense interest in the pleasures or utility of procreation.

The long-vanished people have no name, because their origin and identity are still unknown. But many clues are now emerging about their ancestry, their way of life and even the language they spoke.

Their graveyard, known as Small River Cemetery No. 5, lies near a dried-up riverbed in the Tarim Basin, a region encircled by forbidding mountain ranges. Most of the basin is occupied by the Taklimakan Desert, a wilderness so inhospitable that later travelers along the Silk Road would edge along its northern or southern borders. In modern times the region has been occupied by Turkish-speaking Uighurs, joined in the last 50 years by Han settlers from China. Ethnic tensions have recently arisen between the two groups, with riots in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang. A large number of ancient mummies, really desiccated corpses, have emerged from the sands, only to become pawns between the Uighurs and the Han.

The 200 or so mummies have a distinctively Western appearance, and the Uighurs, even though they did not arrive in the region until the 10th century, have cited them to claim that the autonomous region was always theirs. Some of the mummies, including a well-preserved woman known as the Beauty of Loulan, were analyzed by Li Jin, a well-known geneticist at Fudan University, who said in 2007 that their DNA contained markers indicating an East Asian and even South Asian origin.

The mummies in the Small River Cemetery are, so far, the oldest discovered in the Tarim Basin. Carbon tests done at Beijing University show that the oldest part dates to 3,980 years ago. A team of Chinese geneticists has analyzed the mummies' DNA.

Despite the political tensions over the mummies origin, the Chinese said in a report published last month in the journal BMC Biology that the people were of mixed ancestry, having both European and some Siberian genetic markers, and probably came from outside China. The team was led by Hui Zhou of Jilin University in Changchun, with Dr. Jin as a co-author.

All the men who were analyzed had a Y chromosome that is now mostly found in Eastern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia, but rarely in China. The mitochondrial DNA, which passes down the female line, consisted of a lineage from Siberia and two that are common in Europe. Since both the Y chromosome and the mitochondrial DNA lineages are ancient, Dr. Zhou and his team conclude the European and Siberian populations probably intermarried before entering the Tarim Basin some 4,000 years ago.

The Small River Cemetery was rediscovered in 1934 by the Swedish archaeologist Folke Bergman and then forgotten for 66 years until relocated through GPS navigation by a Chinese expedition. Archaeologists began excavating it from 2003 to 2005. Their reports have been translated and summarized by Victor H. Mair, a professor of Chinese at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert in the prehistory of the Tarim Basin.

As the Chinese archaeologists dug through the five layers of burials, Dr. Mair recounted, they came across almost 200 poles, each 13 feet tall. Many had flat blades, painted black and red, like the oars from some great galley that had foundered beneath the waves of sand.

At the foot of each pole there were indeed boats, laid upside down and covered with cowhide. The bodies inside the boats were still wearing the clothes they had been buried in. They had felt caps with feathers tucked in the brim, uncannily resembling Tyrolean mountain hats. They wore large woolen capes with tassels and leather boots. A Bronze Age salesclerk from Victoria’s Secret seems to have supplied the clothes beneath — barely adequate woolen loin cloths for the men, and skirts made of string strands for the women.

Within each boat coffin were grave goods, including beautifully woven grass baskets, skillfully carved masks and bundles of ephedra, an herb that may have been used in rituals or as a medicine.

In the women’s coffins, the Chinese archaeologists encountered one or more life-size wooden phalluses laid on the body or by its side. Looking again at the shaping of the 13-foot poles that rise from the prow of each woman’s boat, the archaeologists concluded that the poles were in fact gigantic phallic symbols. The men’s boats, on the other hand, all lay beneath the poles with bladelike tops. These were not the oars they had seemed at first sight, the Chinese archaeologists concluded, but rather symbolic vulvas that matched the opposite sex symbols above the women’s boats. “The whole of the cemetery was blanketed with blatant sexual symbolism,” Dr. Mair wrote. In his view, the “obsession with procreation” reflected the importance the community attached to fertility. --chapter2---- Arthur Wolf, an anthropologist at Stanford University and an expert on fertility in East Asia, said that the poles perhaps mark social status, a common theme of tombs and grave goods. "It seems that what most people want to take with them is their status, if it is anything to brag about," he said.

Dr. Mair said the Chinese archaeologists interpretation of the poles as phallic symbols was “a believable analysis.” The buried people’s evident veneration of procreation could mean they were interested in both the pleasure of sex and its utility, given that it is difficult to separate the two. But they seem to have had particular respect for fertility, Dr. Mair said, because several women were buried in double-layered coffins with special grave goods.

Living in harsh surroundings, “infant mortality must have been high, so the need for procreation, particularly in light of their isolated situation, would have been great,” Dr. Mair said. Another possible risk to fertility could have arisen if the population had become in-bred. “Those women who were able to produce and rear children to adulthood would have been particularly revered,” Dr. Mair said. Several items in the Small River Cemetery burials resemble artifacts or customs familiar in Europe, Dr. Mair noted. Boat burials were common among the Vikings. String skirts and phallic symbols have been found in Bronze Age burials of Northern Europe. There are no known settlements near the cemetery, so the people probably lived elsewhere and reached the cemetery by boat. No woodworking tools have been found at the site, supporting the idea that the poles were carved off site. The Tarim Basin was already quite dry when the Small River people entered it 4,000 years ago. They probably lived at the edge of survival until the lakes and rivers on which they depended finally dried up around A.D. 400. Burials with felt hats and woven baskets were common in the region until some 2,000 years ago.

The language spoken by the people of the Small River Cemetery is unknown, but Dr. Mair believes it could have been Tokharian, an ancient member of the Indo-European family of languages. Manuscripts written in Tokharian have been discovered in the Tarim Basin, where the language was spoken from about A.D. 500 to 900. Despite its presence in the east, Tokharian seems more closely related to the centum languages of Europe than to the satem languages of India and Iran. The division is based on the words for hundred in Latin (centum) and in Sanskrit (satam).

The Small River Cemetery people lived more than 2,000 years before the earliest evidence for Tokharian, but there is “a clear continuity of culture,” Dr. Mair said, in the form of people being buried with felt hats, a tradition that continued until the first few centuries A.D. An exhibition of the Tarim Basin mummies opens March 27 at the Bowers Museum in Santa Ana, Calif. — the first time that the mummies will be seen outside Asia. An earlier version of this article incorrectly described Xinjiang

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Xinjiang
Xinjiang Archaeologist Site
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Rupert Murdoch in China -- Dealings in China: It’s Business, and It’s Personal -- lolimax

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Murdoch - Dealings in China: It's Business, and It's Personal

By JOSEPH KAHN
quoted from: NewYork Times
Published: June 26, 2007

BEIJING, June 25 " Many big companies have sought to break into the Chinese market over the past two decades, but few of them have been as ardent and unrelenting as Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.

Mr. Murdoch has flattered Communist Party leaders and done business with their children. His Fox News network helped China's leading state broadcaster develop a news Web site. He joined hands with the Communist Youth League, a power base in the ruling party, in a risky television venture, his China managers and advisers say.

Mr. Murdoch's third wife, Wendi, is a mainland Chinese who once worked for his Hong Kong-based satellite broadcaster, Star TV. Her role in managing investments and honing elite connections in China has underscored uncertainties within the Murdoch family about how the family-controlled News Corporation will be run after Mr. Murdoch, 76, retires or dies.

Regulatory barriers and management missteps have thwarted Mr. Murdoch's hopes of big profits in China. He has said his local business hit a "brick wall" after a bid to corral prime-time broadcasting rights fell apart in 2005, costing him tens of millions of dollars.

But as he seeks to buy Dow Jones, the parent company of The Wall Street Journal, his track record in China has attracted attention less because of profits and losses than for what it shows about his management style.

Mr. Murdoch cooperates closely with China�s censors and state broadcasters, several people who worked for him in China say. He cultivates political ties that he hopes will insulate his business ventures from regulatory interference, these people say.

In speeches and interviews, Mr. Murdoch often supports the policies of Chinese leaders and attacks their critics. A group of China-based reporters for The Journal accused him in a letter to Dow Jones shareholders of "sacrificing journalistic integrity to satisfy personal and political aims," a charge the News Corporation denies.

His courtship has made him the Chinese leadership's favorite foreign media baron. He has dined with former President Jiang Zemin in the Zhongnanhai leadership compound in Beijing and repeatedly met other members of the ruling Politburo in Beijing, New York and London. Television channels affiliated with Mr. Murdoch beam more programming into China than any other foreign media group.

�The reality is that the Chinese government is not going to let anything radical happen in media,� says Gary Davey, an Australian who once ran Star TV for Mr. Murdoch. �But we got a lot farther than anyone else did.�

News Corporation officials in Beijing and Hong Kong declined to comment for this article. After The New York Times began a two-part series on Monday about how Mr. Murdoch operates his company, the News Corporation issued a statement:
�News Corp. has consistently cooperated with The New York Times in its coverage of the company. However, the agenda for this unprecedented series is so blatantly designed to further the Times�s commercial self interests � by undermining a direct competitor poised to become an even more formidable competitor � that it would be reckless of us to participate in their malicious assault. Ironically, The Times, by using its news pages to advance its own corporate business agenda, is doing the precise thing they accuse us of doing without any evidence.�

China has never been a make-or-break proposition for the News Corporation, since its operations here represent a small part of the company, which is valued at $68 billion. But Mr. Murdoch pushed for nearly 15 years to create a satellite television network that would cover every major market in the world, including China.

He coveted the $50 billion in ad spending that flows mainly to China�s state-owned news media whose products, even after years of improvements, still reflect propaganda directives as well as consumer demand.

The News Corporation�s competitors in television and film, the Walt Disney Company, Viacom and Time Warner, also had to accommodate Chinese demands as the price of admission to the local market.

But Mr. Murdoch gave more, his associates said.

"The Chinese discovered that Rupert was a real emperor who controlled everything himself," said H. S. Liu, who oversaw government relations for the News Corporation in China. "His rivals had big, cautious bureaucracies that could not always deliver."

China has long meant more than business to the Murdoch clan. Mr. Murdoch�s father, Keith, wrote about China as a war correspondent in the 1930s. As a newspaper proprietor in Australia, he collected Ming dynasty porcelain. "He was knocked over by the place," recalled Bruce Dover, a former China manager for Mr. Murdoch, "and by her." Within two years, Mr. Murdoch had left his second wife, Anna Mann, and married Ms. Deng.

Star TV overhauled its programming to suit Chinese tastes. In 1994 it dropped BBC News, which had frequently angered Chinese officials with its reports on mainland affairs.

Mr. Murdoch said the decision was made for business reasons, not political reasons. Mr. Davey, who then ran Star TV, agreed that cost was a primary consideration.

If Star was a potential threat to the one-party state, it was also a new opportunity. Chinese officials disliked Western news media coverage o