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Time Magazine:Stealing Beauty

来源:Time Magazine    作者:Hannah Beech    2003-10-27
  

The citizens of Xiaoli Village move lazily, with a languor born of chronic underemployment. They are farmers by tradition, but exorbitant taxes have leached any profitability out of their profession. So on most hot days, the local peasants sit on concrete stoops, pant legs hiked up to their thighs, fanning themselves with the latest propaganda broadsheet from Beijing and waiting for dusk to fall. For it is only at night that Xiaoli comes alive.

Underneath this sad little village in Henan province is the rich legacy of five millenniums of Chinese history. The nearby city of Luoyang was the capital of at least nine dynasties, and the fields of today’s peasants are littered with imperial tombs. Many still hold impossibly valuable works of art buried centuries ago. Breaking into these tombs and stealing the national treasures they hold are illegal, of course. But the lure is too great for many, especially because one major haul, sold to a smuggler, can equal a year’s farming income. “For kids here, tomb raiding is just like going to the bar,” says Little Su, a Xiaoli doctor who put himself through medical school with the spoils of treasure hunts beneath the fields around his home. “If you’re bored one night, someone will say, ‘Hey, let’s go find a tomb.’” The rewards of these amateur and often dangerous nocturnal expeditions are evident in Little Su’s wardrobe–he has long since traded in baggy peasant garb for snazzy Playboy shirts and gleaming loafers–and in the incongruous mishmash of mud-brick shacks and shiny white-tiled houses with satellite dishes lining the streets of Xiaoli. “You can tell who raided the best tombs just by looking at their houses,” says Little Su. The richest citizens even have big-screen TVs and video-game machines. Little Su’s favorite game? Tomb Raider.

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