Ancient History

Anyone looking for an educational trip half a world away may want to consider dropping by the Henderson County Public Library on Monday, January 5 and allow award-winning photojournalist Tom Nebbia to shepherd them across the ancient Silk Road of China.

Nebbia was a staff photographer for National Geographic magazine from 1958 to 1965 and contributed to the publication for another 20 years after that. In 1980 he was among the first Western photographers allowed by the Chinese government to travel the historic Asian trade route responsible for the transportation and migration of luxury goods, culture and religion between China and the growing European world.

“To me, it is one of the great wonders of the world and I have seen quite a bit,” he says of the experience of taking photos of people living along the 5,000 mile path expanded by the Han Dynasty. “The historical Silk Road is very different than the people who inhabit it today. When you look at some of the faces, many look more European than Chinese and a lot of people probably don’t know that.”

Nebbia says in addition to providing historical context about his trip, his presentation is part of the ongoing free Travel Club series will also offer some insight into an often forgotten oddity of the Asian world.

“Most people are familiar with the mummies of Egypt, but during the presentation I have photos of the mummies of China,” Nebbia explains. “The people who died along the Silk Road were mummified because of the arid land there. I was allowed to photograph the mummies underground in the Tarim Basin. That’s a really remote area and I felt like explorer Marco Polo himself when I was there.”

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