Riddles of Inca land

11:51, September 24, 2010      

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  The ethnic Uru people, living on artificial floating islets, are the biggest draw in Titicaca lake, Peru. (Source: China Daily/Richard Meng)


  Across a long swath of smoke-filled jungle in South America, a magical country rises above the horizon. The amazing array of scenes it presents includes a mountainous fairy-tale city enveloped in thick white fog, puzzling giant sketches etched on the earth, a series of wicker islets bobbling in a whimsical lake and Apollo-worshiping locals offering sacrifices to a rising sun. Welcome to an ancient Incan kingdom - Peru.


  Nicknamed "Rainless City", Lima, on the bank of Rio Rimac, about 13 km away from the Pacific, has an annual rainfall of 10-20 mm. Though extremely humid, the rain clouds are cordoned off from the city by the Andean mountains.

  Lima has a large distribution of churches, government offices, plazas and civilian residences from the Spanish colonial era. But to get a feel of the ancient Inca empire, Museo Oro del Peru is the most obvious destination. The museum houses a collection of several thousand cultural relics from the Inca reign, an overwhelming majority of which are utility items made of solid gold.

  One of the world's largest private museums until 1966, Museo Oro was purchased from the famous financier and diplomat Miguel Mujica Gallo by the Peruvian government. Located in the Monterrico district of downtown Lima, its awe-inspiring facade and heavy-duty security at the gate might seem somewhat forbidding.

  Inside, over 8,000 cultural relics and treasures are on display. All exhibits - ranging from gold and silver ware, mummies, clothes, sculptures and ceramics spanning a period from 5th century BC to 5th century AD carry a high archaeological and artistic value. A golden statue of Incan deity Naylam - one of the most valuable national treasures in Peru - and 16th-century Spanish army general Francisco Pizarro's sword, are the two most-prized items. The latter was smelted back in 1530.

  Former Chinese premier Li Peng had paid a visit to the Museo Oro in 1995, and left an inscription and a few gifts that now form part of the collection.

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