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The Silk Road, a network of land and sea trading routes stretching from the Mediterranean to East Asia, served as a conduit for dynamic interactions and cross-cultural exchanges in the era before globalization. As a great cultural highway, the Silk Road stimulated the movement of peoples, the trade of luxury goods, and the transmission of technologies, ideas, and artistic motifs. This seminar examines the materials and material things traveling along the Silk Road from the fall of the Han Dynasty to the rise of the Mongol Empire (ca. 300 too 1400 CE). We focus, in particular, on the movement and use of three key materials: silk, glass, and paper.
Topics include the transmission of silk-weaving technologies between China and Central Asia, glass bead production on the Korean peninsula, and the role of Japan’s Shosoin Treasury in the construction of kingship. The emphasis will be on the material culture and sites from China, Korea, and Japan, with forays to India, Afghanistan, Turkey, and beyond. Students learn to critically analyze issues related to cultural interactions and gain familiarity with critical approaches to materiality and material culture studies. As a class, we will also develop a collaborative map as a resource to remember historical developments as well as key dates, objects, materials, and individuals in this course. Evaluation will be based on class participation, response papers, the collaborative mapping project, and a final paper. No prior knowledge of Asian art history is required or assumed.
Grading: yes pass/fail option,
no fifth course option
Class participation, group presentation, 4 object or reading response papers (2-3 pages), collaborative mapping project and presentation (5-7 minutes long), 12-15-page final research paper (written in stages over the semester including a 15-minute presentation)
Any 100-level Art History course or permission of instructor
Art History majors
ARTH pre-1800 Courses