“The Silk Road” is a 19th-century name for the ancient trade routes that connected China, India, Persia, and Rome that brings together in modern minds many of the myths and some of the realities of long-distance trade and intercultural contact in the ancient world. We are often encouraged to think of globalization as a contemporary phenomenon, but in fact, cultural processes and effects that we now associate with globalization were relatively commonplace in the ancient world, as trade goods (including silk), religions, and other forms of culture interacted and transformed each other from China to Rome. In this seminar, we will examine the interactions of religions (e.g., Buddhism, Christianity, Islam, Manichaeism), empire and emperors (e.g., the Greeks and Alexander, Rome, Ashoka and the Mauryas in India, the Han and Tang Dynasties in China), and trade goods (e.g. silk, spices, glass, wine, horses, people) along these trade routes as Asian and Western cultures interacted with and influenced each other. We will examine historical and archaeological records from sites along the trade routes (e.g., Dunhuang, Khotan, Dura-Europos) maps, travel and pilgrimage narratives (e.g., the Chinese Buddhist pilgrims such as Faxian and Xuanzang; the Muslim travelers such as Ibn Battuta and Al-Biruni, and other materials.
Readings will include:
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