ARTH 407
Materials and Material Culture along the Eastern Silk Road Fall 2021
Division I

Class Details

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 in China to the rise of the Mongol Empire (ca. 300 to 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. You will 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 timeline as a resource to remember historical developments as well as key dates, objects, materials, and individuals. No prior knowledge of Asian art history is required or assumed.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 12
Expected: 8
Class#: 1875
Grading: yes pass/fail option, no fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: attendance, class participation and discussion, 5 response papers (2-3 pages), Silk Road City presentation, 12-15 page final paper + presentation
Prerequisites: must have taken at least 1 art history course
Enrollment Preferences: Art History majors or seniors, but open to all
Distributions: Division I
Attributes: ARTH pre-1800 Courses

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