FOBOS: Weather in Kyzyl/Tuva
Kyzyl Weather

The Silk Road
at the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival,
June/July 2002

The "Silk Road" Leads to the 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival
June 26-30, July 3-7
National Mall, Washington, DC

The 36th annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival will explore the cross-cultural influences among the lands of the ancient and fabled Silk Road, from Japan to Italy. The 2002 Festival, "The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust," will be held outdoors on the National Mall between 7th and 14th streets Wednesday, June 26 through Sunday, June 30 and Wednesday, July 3 through Sunday, July 7. Admission is free. It is the first time that the entire Smithsonian Folklife Festival has been devoted to a single theme.

With trade routes that crisscrossed Asia and Europe-- from the Pacific Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea--the historic Silk Road linked diverse cultures and peoples and promoted the unprecedented exchange of ideas, art, music, science, commerce, inventions and innovations, many of which influenced life in the United States. The Festival will be an international exhibition of Silk Road traditions with some 350 musicians, artisans, cooks and storytellers from the United States and more than 20 other countries telling the complex story of the Silk Road, its peoples and cultures, and the intercultural exchange it inspired.

The Festival will be laid out along the National Mall with magnificent pavilions that evoke the look and feel of Silk Road architecture. Visitors will follow the Silk Road from Nara, Japan (the pavilion closest to the U.S. Capitol) to Venice, Italy (the pavilion closest to the Washington Monument). On the way, they will pass through Xi'an, China; Samarkand, Uzbekistan; and Istanbul, Turkey.

The Festival is produced in partnership with The Silk Road Project, a global initiative founded and led by renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma in coordination with a distinguished team of scholars, musicians and artists from around the world. The purpose of the Silk Road Project is to illuminate the Silk Road's historical contribution to the cross cultural diffusion of arts, technologies and musical traditions, identify the voices that best represent its cultural legacy today and support innovative collaborations among outstanding artists from the lands of the Silk Road and the West.

"The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust" will highlight ways in which the many cultures of Europe and Asia were brought closer together through creative commercial and cultural exchanges that continue today and extend to life in the United States. Artists from the following countries will participate in the Festival: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, China, India, Italy, Iran, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Mongolia, Nepal, Pakistan, Russia, South Korea, Syria, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, the United States and Uzbekistan. Participants will emphasize the development of many living traditions, from noodle making to tea drinking, from stringed instruments to porcelain, and from silk textiles to carpet weaving.

Festival visitors will see demonstrations of martial arts, silk making, textile weaving, pottery painting, glass blowing, kite flying, calligraphy, puppetry and more. They will also be able to listen to and talk with traditional artists who still live along this legendary route and create products that draw on tradition but are influenced by the emerging global economy.

The Festival site is designed and produced in cooperation with Rajeev Sethi Sceneographers and the Asian Heritage Foundation.

Pasta, Passports and Polo

Food is one of the innovations that traveled along the Silk Road and was adapted by different countries. Noodles are known in almost every country along the Silk Road. Where did pasta originate? Food historians say probably in Persia. Flat bread known as pita in Armenia became puri in India. Chinese dumplings and stir-fry rice are similar to Italian ravioli and risotto. Cooks from several countries, including Azerbaijan, Afghanistan, India, Italy and Uzbekistan, now living in the United States, will demonstrate their countries' foodways for visitors. Concessions at the Festival will include foods from Japan, China, Central Asia and Italy.

Special passports for young visitors will be available at Passport Stations around the Festival. The passports will feature a foldout map and fun facts. Passport-holders will learn, for instance, that German geologist and economic historian Baron Ferdinand von Richtofen coined the term "Silk Road" in 1877. Children may have their passports stamped when they visit each pavilion and will receive a reward at the end of their Silk Road journey.

A Washington-area club will play polo on the Festival's grounds. Polo is a direct descendent of the ancient game buzkashi, a rough and tumble sport which originated in Central Asia more than 2,000 years ago. Instead of a ball, players used a sheep or goat carcass.

Festival hours are from 11 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., with special celebrations, performances and concerts continuing until 9 p.m. The Ralph Rinzler Memorial Concert, held June 29 from 5:30 to 9 p.m., will honor folklorist Henry Glassie and feature musicians from Turkey, Bangladesh and Japan.

The Festival's Internet address is . During the Festival, call (202) 633-9884 to hear a recorded description of daily events. For general Smithsonian information, call (202) 357-2700 (voice) or (202) 357-1729 (TTY). For information about the Silk Road Project, visit

"The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust" is produced in partnership with The Silk Road Project, Inc. The Aga Khan Trust for Culture is the Lead Funder and Key Creative Partner. Ford Motor Company and Siemens are the Global Corporate Partners. Sony Classical is the Founding Supporter.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is supported by federal appropriations and Smithsonian trust funds. Additional sponsors include Exxon Mobil, the U.S. Department of State and The Recording Industries Music Performance Trust Funds. Additional donors include the Trust for Mutual Understanding and Arthur Pacheco.

The Smithsonian Folklife Festival, inaugurated in 1967, celebrates folk culture with people from across the United States and around the world. The Festival typically includes daily programs of music, song and dance, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling, workshops and narrative sessions for discussing cultural issues. The Festival attracts about 1 million visitors a year. It is produced by the Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage and co-sponsored by the National Park Service.

For more information, see: 

Richard S. Kennedy, Ph.D.
Deputy Director
Smithsonian Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage
750 9th Street, NW, Suite 4100
Smithsonian Institution
Washington, DC 20560-0953
ph.: (202) 275-1137
fax: (202) 275-1120

One of the contributing organisers provides this additional information about Tuvan participation in the Festival:

David Harrison is curating a presentation of Tuvan crafts. We've invited Marat Damdyn and Larisa Norbu to demonstrate stone carving, and Aleksei Kagai-ool to demonstrate instrument making and also participate in a throat-singing workshop. Since there have been so many Tuvan music groups that have toured the States, we didn't think that bringing musicians was the highest priority. Instead, we've chosen to introduce a three-person group from Khakasia called Sabjilar, which I think is very talented.

In addition to the khaichis from Khakasia, there will be a xoomeij from western Mongolia, and a group of Tibetan monks from the Drepung Monastery. Mark van Tongeren will be conducting workshops in comparative throat-singing, putting together Tuvan, Khakas, Mongolian, and Tibetan styles and techniques. We've just released a double CD on the Smithsonian Folkways label called "The Silk Road: A Musical Caravan" which has some nice recordings of Khakas and Mongolian music, among others.