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ANT 3930 The Silk Road

Dr. C.K. Shih

In history, the Silk Road was the greatest overland trading route with China on one end, and Rome on the other. Before cross-ocean maritime trading became practical, the Silk Road was the most significant conduit in the world for far reaching cultural and material exchange. Even though the original Silk Road as a trading route declined after flourishing for over a thousand years, the geopolitical and economic importance of the area connected by the Silk Road have never dwindled and will never diminish. The exceptionally diverse and rich cultures along the Silk Road provides endless opportunities for enriching and deepening anthropological understanding about humanity.

In this course, through lectures, readings, and films, you will gain a fundamental knowledge about the peoples and cultures along the Silk Road in a comprehensive and systematic way. You will learn how the distance trade emerged in the late third century BCE; how China, Europe, and nations in between were affected by the trading and the cultural cross-fertilization; how Buddhism and Islam influenced peoples along the Silk Road; what some of the peoples look like today, how they live, work, and worship, as well as what histories and artistic glories they have created. The learning materials are weighed more heavily on China, the initiator of the Silk Road. Yet you will also learn about the histories, religions, customs, arts, as well as ethnic and international conflicts of some the more important European and Central Asian nations along the Silk Road. In addition, you will be introduced to the current hot topic of the “Belt and Road Initiative” and present plight of the Uyghurs ethnic minority in Xinjiang.