Part of a mural from the Mogao Caves in China

Arts of the Silk Road(s)

A Fall 2020 First-Year Tutorial

Detail from a Buddhist mural in the Mogao Caves, situated near the Silk Road in China.

Arts of the Silk Road(s)

A First-Year Tutorial offered fall 2020, taught by Eiren Shea, assistant professor of art history

This class approaches the Silk Road(s) from the point of view of material culture, art, and history. In it, we will see how the material legacy of East, Central, and West Asia helps us understand the complex interactions that took place between different peoples during the height of the Silk Road(s), from about the first century CE through the 14th century CE. We will look at excavated material from the deserts of Central Asia, learn about the dynamism of nomadic groups such as the Mongols, and get to the bottom of whether Marco Polo really introduced pasta to Italy. As part of this class you will learn to incorporate archaeological evidence, art historical material, and primary source texts into your research.

Statue of a woman riding a galloping horse
Young woman, polo player. First half of the 8th century. Terracotta, engobe and polychromy. Tang Dynasty. Musée Guimet.

Delve Deeply into Things I Really Care About from the Outset

I didn't expect to be doing a deep dive into the artistic and cultural exchanges that occurred along the Silk Road for my first class in college. I thought first year would be a bunch of basic intro courses [that] would be very broad ... but that wasn’t true at all!

[While learning with] this active community to understand human interactions during this period, from the spread of Buddhism from South to East Asia to the Mongols bringing in Islamic influences for Chinese art, I've understood more about humanity and my own cultural past than I ever have before.

– Ayan Rahman ’24

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