Published - Treasures of Ancient Asia @ MBS

Designed by renowned architect Moshe Safdie, the Marina Bay Sands’ ArtScience Museum is reminiscent of a lotus flower with 10 delicate petals opening upwards. This welcoming flower will finally bloom in February with the launch of two blockbuster exhibitions: ‘Genghis Khan: The Exhibition,’ fresh from showing at the Tech Museum of Innovation in San Jose, Silicon Valley, and ‘Travelling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World,’ last seen at the American Museum of Natural History in New York.

More than eight centuries after he lived, the legendary Mongol warrior Genghis Khan can still evoke fear and awe by the mere mention of his name. At the end of the 12th century, Tem├╝jin, the young leader of a destitute nomad clan slowly overcame all rivals to subdue and unite several small warring tribes. By 1206, he had become acknowledged by his people as Genghis Khan (which means universal ruler in Mongolian). His leadership abilities helped transform the nomadic tribes into a fearsome conquering army, thanks to superior war strategies, strict discipline and a highly mobile cavalry of archers – The Mongols were the only army to successful mount a winter invasion of Russia when they moved with great speed on the frozen rivers to surprise their enemy.

To attack walled cities, the shrewd military tactician developed new arms to deal with siege warfare, creating for example catapults that could be moved easily and built rapidly on the field of battle. Furthermore, recognizing the importance of military intelligence, he also developed a powerful network of spies so that he would always be aware of the movements of his enemies.

‘Genghis Khan: The Exhibition" will recreate battle scenes through sights, sounds and even smells of exotic ancient Mongolia and display hundreds of 13th century artifacts that made the Mongol army one of history's feared and successful, along with a royal mummy and reproductions of a massive traction trebuchet and a siege crossbow.

It will also offer a glimpse into the daily life of nomads on the grasslands of Central Asia through the reconstruction of a furnished life-size ger, a traditional Mongolian dwelling, which visitors can walk through, and it will also showcase the Mongolian equestrian culture which gave the Mongol horse-based cavalry unprecedented advantages in battle.

One of the most important impacts of Genghis Kan's ever expanding Mongol Empire was the restoration of order along the Silk Road, a loose network of trade routes which had become too dangerous to be used by merchants to travel. Trade flourished again and continued to do so for many years. In 1271, nearly 40 years after Genghis Khan’s death, Marco Polo would be able to travel the full length of the Silk Road to reach the seat of the Kublai Khan at Dadu, present day Beijing.

Named for the treasured fabric that attracted traders from all over the world, the Silk Road stretched from China through the cities of Central Asia and the Middle East up to Europe. Few people travelled its entire distance, but merchandise often did thanks to caravans of camels and horses which slowly made their way from one settlement to another. Yet, it was not merely a conduit for material goods, but also a highway for the exchange of scientific knowledge, technological advances, art and religious beliefs.

“Travelling the Silk Road: Ancient Pathway to the Modern World” will transport visitors back in time. Here visitors can glimpse insights into the old Chinese capital of Xi’an and its large silk manufacturing; the night market of Turfan, a verdant central Asian oasis between the Goby and Taklimakan Deserts, replete with the sights of precious raw materials and the smells of spices and heady fragrances of patchouli oil and jasmine – plentiful produce was made possible by a sophisticated system of underground irrigation tunnels, one of which will be modelled; Samarkand, a centre for fine papermaking and luxury metal work, located in what is now Uzbekistan, and Baghdad, then a leading intellectual centre and the heart of the Islamic world. Read the whole story in PRESTIGE Singapore in January.