An interdisciplinary introduction to the history of the Silk Road with a focus on the cultural and material exchanges between the peoples and cultures it connected over the period 500 BCE to 1500 CE.
This course introduces the history of the Silk Road — a complex network of trade routes that connected China and Rome over land and sea — and examines the cultural and material exchanges between the peoples and cultures it connected. The course covers the period 500 BCE to 1500 CE, during which forces wielded by many peoples (e.g., Chinese, Greeks, Persians, Arabs, Turks, and Mongolians) shaped the geopolitical landscape of Asia. It explores the roles played by the Silk Road in forming and transforming the cultural, ethnic, and religious identities of these peoples and their perceptions of one another. It highlights such themes as conspicuous consumption, cultural diversity, religious pluralism, and nomadic migration, as well as the financial, judicial, religious, and social institutions that were the fruits of these extended exchanges. The course begins and ends with an analysis of conceptualizations of the “Silk Road” against the backdrop of the “Great Game” that played out in the late 19th and early 20th centuries among various colonial powers as well as its legacy to this day.
This course takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of different cultures and peoples who were active players in shaping the history of the Silk Road. The source materials (including archaeological finds) and topics covered in this course do not overlap with those of any existing courses offered by this or other departments and programs.
This course satisfies the following Core Curriculum Goals:
WCr & WCd
s1. Communicate complex ideas effectively, in standard written English, to a general audience
t. Communicate effectively in modes appropriate to a discipline or area of inquiry
u. Evaluate and critically assess sources and use the conventions of attribution and citation correctly
v. Analyze and synthesize information and ideas from multiple sources to generate new insights
This course satisfies the following Asian Languages and Cultures Departmental Learning Goals for East Asian majors and minors:
will be able to demonstrate substantial knowledge of East Asian literature and culture and pursue advanced study and/or employment in a capacity requiring such cultural knowledge. Minors
will be able to analyze and interpret texts and relate relevant issues to other areas in the humanities.
See full statement of Asian Languages and Cultures Departmental Learning Goals at:
Class Participation & Presentation 30%
Map Quizzes 10%
Weekly Primary Source Analyses 20%
Paper I 20%
Paper II 20%
Class Participation & Presentation:
Class participation is mandatory. Any student who misses more than FOUR classes will automatically fail the course. Should you miss a class, please use the Absence Self-Reporting system (https://sims.rutgers.edu/ssra/) to indicate the date and reason for your absence.
Class participation does not mean just attendance.
It encompasses 1) attendance at lectures; 2) observation of classroom decorum (no chatting, texting, eating, gaming, or surfing the internet); 3) timely completion of reading assignments; and 4) active participation in discussions. Students must bring readings assigned for that day to class.
Students are to lead the seminar discussion in turn and present the assigned materials. Each student is expected to make TWO
presentations throughout the semester. Everyone is required to come prepared for discussion whether or not s/he is presenting.
Students are expected to develop a firm knowledge of the general geography of Asia. There will be several map quizzes throughout the semester. The best way to prepare for them is to pay close attention to the maps included in assigned readings. I will also distribute a worksheet for practicing before each quiz.
All written assignments will be evaluated based on accurate factual presentation of the topic, the level of critical interpretation/reflection, and clear and logical development of the argument and thesis.
A. WEEKLY PRIMARY SOURCE ANALYSES
The weekly analytical reflection will consist of a close reading of one of the assigned primary sources. Students must demonstrate that they have read the specific document carefully, that they are able to connect it with other assigned readings, and that they can articulate intelligently what they understand to be the key questions raised and/or addressed by it. An analytical reflection should not be a simple summary of the content. Each reflection must be between 250 and 300 words, typed, single-spaced, and include the title of the text analyzed and a word count. Each student must submit ONE analytical reflection per week. The ten highest grades will be used when calculating the course grade. All weekly primary source analyses are due on Tuesday.
B. TERM PAPERS
Students are expected to complete TWO term papers in this course. The paper will be an analytical essay centering on a question drawn from the assigned readings. The paper aims to help students become critical readers and to practice their skills as textual scholars. Students must directly engage with the sources and use them to support their arguments. Each paper will be between 1200-1500 words in length, typed, double-spaced, numbered, include a word count, and have proper attribution and citation of sources throughout.
All citations must be done according to the Chicago Manual of Style,
for detailed information see: http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html.
Late submission will not be accepted without prior (meaning at least 24 hours) approval. So be sure to backup all your written works for this course.
Students are expected to uphold the highest standards of academic integrity at all times. Violations include cheating, fabrication, plagiarism, denying others access to information or material, and facilitating violations of academic integrity. If you ever have questions about academic integrity in the course, please talk to me or send me an email immediately with your concerns. See full statement of current Academic Integrity Policy at: http://academicintegrity.rutgers.edu/files/documents/AI_Policy_9_01_2011.pdf
Students with disabilities
It is the policy of Rutgers to make reasonable academic accommodations for qualified individuals with disabilities. If you have a disability and wish to request accommodations to complete your course requirements, please contact the Office of Disability Services and ask to speak with a Coordinator (848-445-6800 or firstname.lastname@example.org) about accommodations.
Course Materials Required for ALL students:
There are two types of course materials, books to be purchased and individual articles and book chapters available for download at the course website. Students must bring a hard copy of the readings assigned for the particular class.
Office Hours: TBA
(Reading must be completed by the date indicated)
Richard C. Foltz. Religions of the Silk Road: Premodern Patterns of Globalization. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010. (Henceforth Religions)
Valerie Hansen. The Silk Road: A New History. Oxford University Press, 2012. (Henceforth Sites)
Xinru Liu. The Silk Roads: A Brief History with Documents. Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2012. (Henceforth Documents)
Xinru Liu. The Silk Road in World History, Oxford University Press, 2010. (Henceforth History)
Susan Whitfield. Life Along the Silk Road. John Murry, 1999. (Henceforth Life)
Other assigned scholarly articles, book chapters, and primary sources are available on the course website via Sakai.
* = the item is on Sakai and required for all students
Week 1: Introduction: The People, The Geology, and the Great Game
, Ch. 1: The Silk Road and Its Travelers
*Liu, Connections Across Eurasia,
*Franck and Brownstone, Ch. 11: Cities in the Sand, pp. 263-280
Boulnois, Silk Road
, Ch. 2: The Land of Silk
Week 2: The Emergence of the Silk Road on the Eastern End
pp. 1-7; pieces #1-3 and 13
Ch. 1: China Looks West
Ch.1: The Kingdom of Kroraina
Boulnois, Silk Road
, Ch. 3: Adventures of a Diploma-Explorer and Ch. 4: A Kingdom of Horses
Week 3: The Emergence of the Silk Road on the Western End
pp. 7-10; pieces #4-8
Ch. 2: Rome Looks East
, Ch. 2: Religion and Trade in Ancient Eurasia
Boulnois, Silk Road
, Ch. 6: The Geographer in Antiquity and Women’s Extravagance and Ch. 7: Dangers in the Erythraean Sea
Week 4: Buddhism and the Silk Road
Map Quiz 1
, Ch. 3: Buddhism and the Silk Road
*The World Religions Reader, Document Sets: 5.1, 5.2 (pieces # 1 and 5), 5.3, 5.4
Week 5: The Lands and Peoples In-between
Pieces # 9, 12, 14
Ch. 3: The Kushan Empire and Buddhism
Ch.2: Kucha and the Caves of Kizil
*Afghanistan: Hidden Treasure from the National Museum, Kabul (Website)
Week 6: Empire, Trade, and Religion (I): The Byzantium and Sassanid Empires
Pieces #19, 20, and 21
Ch. 4: The Golden Age Emerges
Week 7: Empire, Trade, and Religion (II): New Relationship Between Empire and Religion
Map Quiz 2
, Ch. 4: Nestorians and Manichaeans on the Silk Road
Ch. 4: Zoroastrianism, Christianity, and Buddhism
*Anthology of World Scriptures, Ch. 9: Zoroastrianism
* Klimkeit, Gnosis on the Silk Road, “Hymns on Cosmogony and Eschatoloty”
Week 8: Empire, Trade, and Religion (III): The Turks and The Sogdians
Paper I due on Friday @ 11:59 PM
Documents, Pieces #18
Sites, Chs. 3: Turfan and 4: Samarkand and Sogdiana
Life, Introduction and the Merchant’s Tale
*Golden, Central Asian in World History, Ch. 3: The Turks and Their Successors
Boulnois, Silk Road
, Ch. 12: Byzantium, Persia, the Turks and the Sogdians
Week 9: The Great Tang Empire (I)
Pieces #17, 22, 23
Ch. 5: Chang’an
The Horseman’s Tale, the Princess’s Tale, and the Courtesan’s Tale
*Sen, “The Travel Records of Chinese Pilgrims Faxian, Xuanzang, and Yijing”
*Faxian (Fa-Hsien): A Record of the Buddhistic Kingdoms (394-414 CE)
*Xuanzang: Record of the Western Regions
Week 10: The Great Tang Empire (II)
Ch. 6: Dunhuang Caves
The Nun’s Tale, The Widow’s Tale, The Official’s Tale, and The Artist’s Tale
*Dunhuang: Caves of Faith (website)
*The Silk Road Exhibition (website)
Week 11: The Arab Conquests of the Silk Road
Documents, Pieces #16
History, Ch. 5: Transformation of the Eurasian Silk Market
Sites, Ch. 7: Khotan
Life, The Solider’s Tale and The Monk’s Tale, and the Epilogue
*Golden, Central Asian in World History, Ch. 4: The Coming of Islam
*Islamic Central Asia: Historical Sources, Part 1.A: Central Asia and Arab Conquests
Week 12: Islam and the Silk Road
Map Quiz 3
Documents, Pieces #25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30 and 31
Religions, Ch. 5: The Islamization of the Silk Road
*Golden, Central Asian in World History, Ch. 5: Crescent Over Steppe
Ch. 5: Trade and Communication Under the Muslim System and Ch. 6: Oceans and Seas, 900-1300,” pp. 187-218.
Week 13: The Mongol Conquests
Ch. 6: The Mongols and the Twilight of the Silk Road
, Ch. 6: Ecumenical Mischief
*Islamic Central Asia: Historical Sources, Part 3.A: Temujin and the Rise of Mongol Empire
Week 14: The Mongols and the Silk Road
Boulnois, Silk Road
, Ch. 15: Oriente Poliano
Marco Polo, The Travels of Marco Polo,
in Foundations of Anthropological Theory
, pp. 73-84
*Pegolotti's Merchant Handbook
*Islamic Central Asia: Historical Sources, piece# 27
Week 15: The Silk Road in Twilight
Map Quiz 4
Paper II due on Friday @ 11:59 PM
Religions, Ch. 7: A Melting Pot No More
*Golden, Central Asian in World History, Ch. 7: The Later Chinggisids
*Islamic Central Asia: Historical Sources, Part 4.A: Timur’s Rise and Rule
*Rassabi, “The ‘Decline’ of the Central Asian Caravan Trade”
Boulnois, Silk Road
, Ch. 19: Explores
, Archaeologists and Reporters and Ch. 20: Tourism and Pipeline
Sample Map Quiz (24 pts total)
Please put the number of each designated location on the map at the appropriate place. The total points available for this quiz is 24. You have 10 minutes.