Past Events

Friday-Saturday, May 4-5, 2018
Across the High Seas: Cross-Cultural Encounters in the Indian Ocean Littoral
180 Doe Library

Maritime Event Image

In the public imagination, the Silk Roads has become a catchall phrase to describe the overland and maritime exchange networks crisscrossing Eurasia, from the first Millennium BCE through (at least) the medieval period.

Although distinct patterns of long-distance exchange are attested to as early as the Bronze Age when, for example, lapis lazuli was exported by land and sea from the Indus Valley to the Near East, textual and archaeological research points to the turn of the Common Era as the period when the first institutionalized networks of maritime trade connecting what is now Europe to Africa and Asia were developed, concomitant with existing overland routes. These networks were defined by increased levels of interaction alongside the exchange of goods and ideas.

As scholars continue to explore and uncover particularities of the Eurasian networks, evidence suggests there is a need to reconfigure the monolithically imagined Silk Roads into smaller fragmented webs of economic, political and cultural exchanges, to locate those networks in time and space, and to study them as functioning both independently and interdependently.

This conference will highlight recent archaeological and historical research on some of the networks that operated across and around the Indian Ocean, and focus on the spatial configurations specific to maritime trade and the transformations of cultural and material artifacts as a result of those exchanges.

You can download the program here

May 4 | 9:30am - 12:00pm
Spaces, Places, and Things: Spatiality in early Indian Ocean exchange
Eivind Heldaas Seland, University of Bergen

Berenike's Role in the Ancient Maritime Silk Road Based on Results of Recent Excavations
Steven Sidebotham, University of Delaware

Ancient Ties between China and East Africa
Chapurukha Kusimba, American University

May 4 | 2:00pm - 4:30pm
Networks of Trade in the Indian Ocean: Spatial analysis in exchanged goods and cultural appropriation
Ariane de Saxcé, CNRS

Roman Glass in Asia: Where, When and Why
James Lankton, UCL

Indian Ocean Trade through Buddhist Iconographies
Osmund Bopearachchi, CNRS/UC Berkeley

May 5 | 9:30am - 12:30pm
Voyage and shipbuilding during the Maritime Silk Route's period
Jun Kimura, Tokai University

Reconstructing Demographics, Social Hierarchies and Ethnicity in Early Second-Millennium AD Port-Cities in the Malacca Straits Region
Derek Heng, Northern Arizona University

Theorizing Maritime Space through Premodern Sino-Islamic Connections
Hyunhee Park, John Jay College of Criminal Justice

Thursday, March 8, 2018, 5pm
Migrants, Monks, and Monasteries: Toward a History of South China Sea Buddhism
Jack Meng-Tat Chia, University of California, Berkeley/National University of Singapore
180 Doe Memorial Library

The event is co-sponsored by the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies and the Center for Buddhist Studies

Migrants, Monks, and Monasteries event image

Chinese migration since the nineteenth century have led to the spread of Buddhism to maritime Southeast Asia. Recently, scholars of Buddhism and historians of Chinese religions have begun to consider the connected history of Buddhism in China and Southeast Asia, using Buddhist records, epigraphic sources, as well as oral history interviews. In this talk, I explore the transregional Buddhist networks connecting Southeast China and the Chinese diaspora from the nineteenth century to 1949. I discuss how new patterns of Buddhist mobility contributed to the circulation of people, ideas, and resources across the South China Sea. I show that, on the one hand, Buddhist monks and religious knowledge moved along these networks from China to Southeast Asia, while money from wealthy overseas Chinese was channeled along the networks for temple building in China; on the other hand, Buddhist monks relied on the networks to support China's war effort and facilitate relocation to Southeast Asia during the Sino-Japanese War.

Jack Meng-Tat Chia is a Senior Tutor in the Department of History at the National University of Singapore and currently a Postdoctoral Scholar at the Center for Buddhist Studies, University of California, Berkeley. Born and raised in Singapore, he received his MA in East Asian Studies from Harvard University, and his PhD in History from Cornell University. He is currently working on his book manuscript, entitled Diaspora's Dharma: Buddhism and Modernity across the South China Sea. This book seeks to contribute to our understanding of the connected history of Buddhism in China and Southeast Asia.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018, 5pm
Reconfiguration of Ceramic Production and Trade in China at the Threshold of Global Trade:
An Archaeological Perspective

Min Li, University of California, Los Angeles
180 Doe Memorial Library

Reconfiguration of Ceramic Production and Trade in China at the Threshold of Global Trade: An Archaeological Perspective image

Taking archaeological ceramics from production, transportation, and consumption sites during the 13th to 17th century, this paper examines the changing configuration of ceramic production and trade on Chinese coast during the critical transition from the Asiatic Trade Network to the beginning of early global trade. I will explore how potter communities in China linked to emerging maritime commercial enterprise adapt to the new demands and circumstances generated by early global trade and the expansion of Iberian colonial Enterprise by making innovations to their centuries old technological traditions. It will also explore the diverse ways that trade ceramics were incorporated into the local material culture as unfamiliar designs were brought to the potter communities in China and Chinese exports were brought to unfamiliar places along the global trade network.

Li, Min (Ph.D, University of Michigan, 2008) is an associate professor of East Asian archaeology with a joint appointment at Department of Anthropology and Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at UCLA. His archaeological research spans from state formation in early China to early modern global trade network. He is also co-director of the landscape archaeology project in the Bronze Age city of Qufu, China. His first book Social Memory and State Formation in Early China is currently in production with Cambridge University Press and is scheduled to be released in March, 2018. He is working on his second book on the origin and dynamics of the Shang state in Bronze Age China.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017, 5pm
Trans-Regionalism and Economic Co-Dependency across the South China Sea
Derek Thiam Soon Heng, Northern Arizona University
180 Doe Memorial Library

South China Sea event image

Throughout history, the South China Sea has been a maritime zone that saw primary economies of its littoral zones exercise influence over smaller, outlying economies by binding the latter into co-dependent relationships with the former. This may be witnessed in such areas as the currency systems adopted by the smaller economies, alignment of foreign and trade policies with those of the larger economies, and in the ways in which the trade of products from one economy to another was developed from being uni-directional and non-crucial, to being one where the economies became mutually dependent. This trans-regional economic phenomenon may be witnessed between China and the Malay Region during the tenth to fourteenth centuries. This paper seeks to explore the multi-facetted nature of the economic interaction between these two regional economies, and how a vertically integrated economic zone developed across the South China Sea over the course of the early second millennium AD between these two economic regions.

Derek Heng is Professor and Chair of History at Northern Arizona University. He specializes in the pre-modern trans-regional history of Maritime Southeast Asia and the South China Sea, utilising textual and archaeological data to study the interactions between Southeast Asia and China, and their impact on the state formation process in coastal Southeast Asia.

Friday, November 3, 2017, 5pm
2017 Annual Tang Lecture in Silk Road Studies
The Mongols and the Changing Patterns of Indian Ocean Connections
Tansen Sen, Professor, NYU Shanghai
Toll Room, Alumni House

Co-sponsored by the Mongolia Initiative

Annual Tang Lecture in Silk Road Studies image

In the thirteenth century, the expansion of Mongol forces under Genghis Khan and his descendants resulted in the formation of a vast Eurasian empire stretching from the Korean peninsula to central Europe. Despite the eventual fragmentation of this Mongol empire into four contending khanates, the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries witnessed unprecedented interactions between polities and societies across the Eurasian realm. Past studies highlighting these exchanges have primarily focused on the overland connections. This paper will demonstrate that the formation of the Mongol empire also had a significant impact on the Indian Ocean world. It will argue that new patterns of maritime exchanges emerged as a consequence of the connections between the Yuan empire in China, South Asia, and the Ilkhanate in Iran. These new patterns are discernible with regard to the use of naval power, diplomacy, commercial linkages, and cultural diffusion. The Ming voyages lead by the eunuch admiral Zheng He in the early fifteenth century and even the initial Portuguese expansion into the Indian Ocean, the paper will contend, followed some of the key patterns of maritime exchanges that developed during the Mongol period.

Tansen Sen is Director of the Center for Global Asia, Professor of History, NYU Shanghai; Global Network Professor, NYU. He received his MA from Peking University and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania.

Event Contact: tangsilkroadcenter@berkeley.edu, 510.642.0333

Friday, October 20, 2017, 2pm
Blown across the Sea: Glass along the Maritime Silk Road
Sanjyot Mehendale, Chair, Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, UC Berkeley
141 McCone Hall

Blown across the Sea:  Glass along the Maritime Silk Road image

This lecture will highlight the results of underwater surveys of a 2000-year-old shipwreck uncovered off the coast of the small fishing village of Godavaya, Sri Lanka. The ship's cargo of glass ingots, among other objects, will be the starting point of a discussion on the movement of glass raw materials and finished objects along the intertwined maritime and overland trading networks commonly referred to as the Silk Road. In particular, the talk will focus on the implications of this evidence for archaeological analysis of early patterns of globalization.

Sanjyot Mehendale is Chair of the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, at UC Berkeley. An archaeologist specializing in cross-cultural connections of early Common Era Eurasia, she teaches on Central Asia in the Department of Near Eastern Studies.

Event Contact: tangsilkroadcenter@berkeley.edu, 510.642.0333

Thursday, September 21, 2017, 5pm
Maritime Diffusion of Buddhist Philosophical Thought and Art
Osmund Bopearachchi, Adjunct Professor, UC Berkeley
Maude Fife Room, 315 Wheeler Hall
Co-sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Studies

Tissa Maha Dagoba

Tissa Maha Dagoba

Trade is understood mainly as the transfer and exchange of commodities to make profits, and this was also the driving force of economic activities in ancient time. However, as revealed by epigraphic and literary evidence, among the earliest donors and important patrons of Buddhist establishments in South and South-East Asia were caravan merchants and wealthy seafaring traders. The spread of Buddhism from South Asia to Southeast Asia is also closely connected with the growth of a trading network that facilitated the movement of Buddhist merchants, traveling monks and teachers. The resources needed to build gigantic religious monuments in South and South-East Asia would thus have come from both the royal patronage as well as from the devout mercantile classes. Their wealth was based on the flourishing inland and international trade centers located in the ports along the coast and navigable river.

Osmund Bopearachchi is Adjunct Professor of Central and South Asian Art, Archaeology, and Numismatics, University of California, Berkeley, and Emeritus Director of Research of the French National Centre for Scientific Research (C.N.R.S.-E.N.S. Paris) . A numismatist, historian, and archaeologist, he has published ten books, edited six books, and written over 150 articles.

Event Contact: tangsilkroadcenter@berkeley.edu, 510.642.0333

Tuesday, September 12, 2017, 7pm
Beads, Trade, and the Emergence of Complexity in Ancient Southeast Asia
Alison Carter, University of Oregon
Dwinelle 370
Organized by the Archaeological Institute of America Sponsored by the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies and the Institute of East Asian Studies

Bead Event Image

Around 500 B.C. people in South Asia (primarily India and Sri Lanka) began interacting with people in Southeast Asia. Some of the earliest indicators of this contact are stone and glass beads that were imported from South Asia and widely traded across Southeast Asia. These beads were important symbols of prestige and power. In this presentation, Dr. Carter discusses her study of beads from 12 archaeological sites in Cambodia and Thailand and illuminates for us what can be learned from those beads about early trade networks, various means of exchange, as well as who may have been facilitating such trading and wearing the beads.

Dr. Alison Carter is an anthropological archaeologist with an interest in the political economy and evolution of complex societies in Southeast Asia. Other research interests include the archaeology of East and South Asia, materials analysis and LA-ICP­-MS, craft technology and specialization, household archaeology, ritual and religion, trade and exchange, and bead studies.

Event Contact: tangsilkroadcenter@berkeley.edu, 510.642.0333