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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