Past Events

Wednesday, March 13, 2019, 5pm
Calculation and Cosmography:
Formal Continuities in Buddhist Art along the Gansu Corridor,
from Dunhuang to Labrang Monastery

Jon Soriano, UC Berkeley
180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

image for Soriano talk

While the art history of the overland silk road seems distinguished by its continual flux, as disparate visual regimes flowed in and out over the centuries, the art in question is also marked by strong formal continuities specific to its regions, as well as certain adaptations to global paradigms. This talk adopts Kublerian concepts of 'shape' and 'sequence' to identify a formal series instantiated by a range of Buddhist objects and sites, a series structured by an underlying drive toward exactitude. Objects in this series are concatenated from recent fieldwork at a variety of sites along the silk road in western China, primarily around Gansu and Qinghai Provinces. These sites include early and later Dunhuang caves, the 18th century architecture at Labrang Monastery, and various places in between. Positing such a continuity may help shape a larger concept of Buddhist art history.

Jon Soriano is a PhD Candidate in the History of Art department at UC Berkeley, working with his advisor Pat Berger on a dissertation regarding the material culture of the Kālacakra tantra between the Gelugpa Gaden Phodrang and the Qing court. Jon has master's degrees in Asian Studies and Ethnology, and has worked for the National Palace Museum in Taipei and the Berkeley Art Museum. He is the current recipient of the Dallan and Karen Leong Clancy Fund for Silk Road Studies, as well as funding from the Dunhuang Foundation.

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 5 pm
Mongol ‘Translations’ of a Nepalese Stupa:
Architectural Replicas and the Cult of
Bodnāthe Stūpa/Jarung khashar in Mongolia

Isabelle Charleux, CNRS, Paris
180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

Image of Stupa

The cult of the Nepalese stupa of Bodnath (Tib. and Mo. Jarung Khashor) was very popular in 19th and early 20th century Mongolia and especially in Buryatia, as testifies the translation into Mongolian of a famous guidebook to Bodnath, a corpus of Mongolian oral narratives, the many thang-kas and amulets depicting the Bodnath Stupa along with a Tibetan prayer, and the existence of architectural replicas in Mongolia, probably to create surrogate pilgrimages to Bodnath. I will focus on these architectural replicas and try to explain how the Nepalese architecture was ‘translated’ to Mongolia, and try to understand whether the differences between the original and the replicas are due to local techniques and materials, to the impossibility of studying the original, or to the distortions induced by their mode of transmission. Has the original building been reinterpreted to the point of transforming its meaning? Is the replica of an architecture accompanied by the replica of possible cultic practices associated with it?

Isabelle Charleux is director of research at the CNRS (National Centre for Scientific Research, Paris) and deputy director of the GSRL (Group Societies, Religions, Laicities, National Centre for Scientific Research – Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes-PSL, Paris). Her research interests focus on Mongol material culture and religion. She published Nomads on Pilgrimage. Mongols on Wutaishan (China), 1800-1940 (Brill, 2015) and Temples et monastères de Mongolie-Intérieure (Paris, 2006), as well as scholarly articles on various topics such as miraculous icons in in Mongolia, Inner Mongolian mural paintings, and visual representation of past and present figures of authority in the Mongol world.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Studies and the Mongolian Initiative.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019, 5pm
From the Upper Indus to the East Coast of China:
On the Origin of the Pictorial Representation of the Lotus Sūtra

Haiyan Hu-von Hinüber, Peking University
180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

Image for January 20, 2019 Talk

In Chinese Buddhist art, there is an image of two sitting Buddhas, Śākyamuni and Prabhūtaratna, which can be traced back to the Saddharmapuṇḍarīkasūtra. Because (until 2012) no image of the “Two Sitting Buddhas” had been found outside China, it has been assumed that the depiction of this pair of Buddhas is of Chinese origins. Drawing on four images that have been discovered since 2012, this talk will argue that the depiction of the “Two Sitting Buddhas” originated in the ancient Indian cultural area and then spread along the Silk Road to China.

Trained in Indology and Buddhist Studies in China (Peking University, MA) and Germany (Göttingen, PhD), Haiyan Hu-von Hinüber has held professorial appointments, teaching and serving as research scholar at the universities of Freiburg, Copenhagen, Vienna and Erfurt. She has also been visiting scholar in France, Japan and China, and she has served as Professor-at-large at the Faculty of Historical and Cultural Studies, Shandong-University (China). Recently she has served as senior researcher at Shenzhen-University (China), and currently she is attached in the same capacity to the Center of Buddhist Studies, Peking University.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Studies.

Monday, December 3, 2018, 5 pm
The History and Science of Paper in Manuscripts of Central Asia
Agnieszka Helman-Ważny, University of Hamburg & University of Warsaw
180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

The History and Science of Paper in Manuscripts of Central Asia image

Manuscripts from the Silk Road have been used as a key source in the study of religions, literature, and the cultural history of Central Asia. However, they have hardly ever been viewed as artifacts in their own right. As one of the most important physical features of a manuscript, paper serves as a means to distinguish one type of manuscript from another, and can help to determine the origin of a manuscript. This lecture, based on selected collections of paper and manuscripts found in the caves of Western Nepal, Tibet and Central Asia, surveys a variety of analytical techniques in comparison to codicological methods traditionally applied to manuscript studies. By broadening the scope of methods and ways of thinking, we may gain greater precision of temporal and regional attribution of excavated artifacts.

Agnieszka Helman-Ważny (Centre for the Study of Manuscript Cultures, University of Hamburg, and the Department of Books and Media History, Faculty of Journalism, Information and Book Studies, University of Warsaw) is a paper scientist and the author or co-author of four books and over forty scholarly articles.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Studies.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018, 5pm
Buddhist Textiles Along the Silk Road
Mariachiara Gasparini, University of California Riverside
180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

Buddhist Textiles Along the Silk Road event image

In the field of Buddhist Studies textual sources provide a fundamental ground to analyze and compare philosophical and religious contexts developed in various geographic areas of the larger Asian continent. However, as a non-verbal form of communication, textile material evidence and visual representation may offer a different intercultural perspective that clarifies Buddhist rituals, and monastic and laic lifestyles along the Silk Road. Developed from a larger ontological and interdisciplinary study that will be published in 2019, this paper presents a few case studies from the Turfan Textile Collection in the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin, and the Dunhuang Textile Collections in the British Museum and the Victoria and Albert Museum in London.

Mariachiara Gasparini received her Ph.D. in Transcultural Studies: Global Art History from Heidelberg University, Germany. Her research focuses on Central Asian textiles, material culture, wall painting, artist's praxis, and Sino-Iranian and Turko-Mongol interactions. She is currently Visiting Assistant Professor of Asian Art at the University of California Riverside. Her book Transcending Patterns: Silk Road Cultural and Artistic Interactions through Central Asian Textiles (7th-14th century) is forthcoming (Hawai'i 2019).

Sunday, October 7, 2018, 3pm
Delhi to Damascus
Sandeep Das and the HUM Ensemble
Hertz Hall
UC Berkeley

Sandeep Das and the HUM Ensemble image

Tabla virtuoso and Grammy Award-winning member of the Silkroad Ensemble, Sandeep Das celebrates the vibrant cultural heritage shared by India and Syria in his latest project with the thrilling HUM Ensemble. Driving strummed strings, pulsating drums, hypnotic bowed drones, and soaring raga and maqam melodies rooted in Sufi poetry come together to connect ancient civilizations with modern virtuosity in Delhi to Damascus. Das is joined by Syrian oud master Issam Rafea, Indian vocalist and sarangi player Suhail Yusuf Khan, and sitar player Rajib Karmakar to explore centuries of classical and folk music that emerged along the winding trade road from Jaisalmer in India to Damascus in Syria.

The performance will be preceded by a lecture demonstration, at 2:00 pm. In this special pre-performance event, presented in association with the Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, the artists will discuss musical traditions shared across cultures. The demonstration is free to ticket holders.

More information available here.

Tickets start at $54 and are available here.

Friday, September 28, 2018, 6pm
2018 Tang Lecture
Illustrations of the Parinirvāṇa Cycle in Kucha
Monika Zin, University of Leipzig, Germany
Toll Room, Alumni House
University of California, Berkeley

Illustrations of the Parinirvāṇa Cycle in Kucha talk image

At least 100 caves in Kucha contain (or once contained) murals depicting scenes connected with the Buddha's death. The paintings are typically located in the rear part of the caves, in corridors behind the Buddha in the main niche. The illustrations begin with the episodes from the Buddha's last journey and end with the first council in Rājagṛha. It is solely through comparative analysis of the representations that it becomes possible to discern their programme. Through this programme, we discover the local beliefs these illustrations mirror, and the literary sources they illustrate. Interestingly, the arrangement of the murals in the corridors often follows the principles of symmetry, and not the chronology of the narrative, as if to create a “holy space” rather than to illustrate a chronology of events.

An expert on Indian and Central Asian Art, and Indian drama, Monika Zin began her academic career at the Jagiellon University in Cracow, Poland, in Theater Studies and Polish Language and Literature (M.A. in 1981). This was followed by a doctorate in Indology and Indian Art and post-doctoral studies (habilitation) in Indology at the LMU in Munich. In 2000, she joined the Department for Indology at the LMU Munich as an Associate Professor and also held a position as a Lecturer in Buddhist Art and Literature in the Department for Indology and Central Asian Sciences at the University of Leipzig from 2005 to 2008. From 2010-2014, she was a Visiting Professor in the Department of Art History at the FU Berlin. She is currently a professor at the University of Leipzig working on a project entitled “Buddhist Murals of Kucha on the Northern Silk Road.”

Co-sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Studies.

Thursday, September 27, 2018, 5pm
Thangkas, Texts, and the Silk Route
Ann Shaftel, Dalhousie University
180 Doe Memorial Library
UC Berkeley

Thangkas, Texts, and the Silk Route talk image

In a richly illustrated presentation on the challenges of applying conservation science to Buddhist sacred thangkas and texts, Ann Shaftel will include a discussion of the relationship between thangkas and texts, and the evolving function of thangkas in Buddhist philosophy, textural history and culture. The images accompanying her talk will feature Silk Route thangkas, and others from her 48 years of work in monasteries and museums.

Ann Shaftel's work is at the forefront in the field of thangka conservation worldwide. She is a renowned teacher of international workshops on the conservation of Buddhist treasures—in the US, Canada, Europe, Bhutan, Nepal, India and China. She is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, and a Fellow of the International Institute for Conservation. Ann's international work in Treasure Caretaker Training won the prestigious Digital Empowerment Foundation's Chairman's Choice award.

Co-sponsored by the Center for Buddhist Studies.

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