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HH4003: THE SILK ROAD: OLD AND NEW
HH 4003 The Silk Road: Old and New
[Seminars: 39 hours; Tutorials: 13 hours; Academic Unit: 4.0]
Learning Objective
The New Silk Road is one of NTU’s five peaks of excellence. The Silk Roads have been revived
in the political discourses of the Chinese government over the last five years in its dealings with
its Asian and African neighbors, and in redefning its place in the world today. This course will
focus on equipping students to understand the long and complex history of the Silk Road, with a
particular focus on the enduring relationship between material culture, trade and socio-religious
movements. Understanding the history of the Silk Road will demonstrate to students the long and
complicated history of our globalised world where no culture has ever developed in total isolation
from others, but rather has been inextricably twined with developments in both neighbouring and
distant civilizations.
Content
This course shall examine the relevance of the Silk Roads as a framework for understanding
Asian and global history. It will examine the fascinating and complex history of Eurasian trade
routes over land and sea, and the social, religious and political histories of the civilizations, which
developed alongside these routes. Taking both a thematic and a chronological approach, the
course is divided into three sections. In the first, we will look at the early history of the Silk Road
including the trade in silk, musk and other luxury goods, the links between religion and material
culture, the travelers, traders, monks and scholars who traversed these routes; the nomadic
populations of Central and Inner Asia and the archipelagos and littorals of Southeast Asia and
maritime Asia, and the empires in Eurasia. In the second section, we shall examine the shift from
land to sea in the system of Eurasian trade, in the context of the creation of a new global
commercial system, that was, in the course of the nineteenth century, transformed into the
modern world-system driven by the forces of capitalism and colonialism. These economic and
political transformations were accompanied by technological, cultural, and ideological/religious
transformations driven by projects of modernity and modernization. In the final section, we shall
examine the transformation of the Eurasian political economy in the context of the Cold War and
the forces of decolonization and nation-building, and the creation of a new world-system, after
1945, and the ways in which the framework fo the Silk Roads can be used to understand these
processes. WE shall end by examining the context for the revival of the Silk Roads as a political,
diplomatic, and academic metaphor, in the last ten years. By examining the post-Cold War world
through this concept, we shall explore the extent to which the Silk Roads is relevant to us for
understanding the world today.
Course Outline (SUBJECT TO CHANGE)
Seminar I: Introduction: themes, issues, sources
Seminar II: Material Goods: Silk, musk and the trans-Eurasian trade
Seminar III: Religion, Society and Material Culture: Travel, Traders and Scholars
Seminar IV: Coexistence and conflict on the Silk Roads: Societies, States, and Empires
Seminar V: Excursion 1
Seminar VI: Spices, Tea, and the Sea: European Interventions and Remaking Asian Trade
Seminar VII: Early Modern Material and Cultural Exchanges
Seminar VIII: Nineteenth-Century Empires and Reconfiguring Asia
Seminar IX: Excursion 2
Seminar X:
Religion, Reform, and Pan-Asian Visions
Seminar XI: Nationalism, the Cold War, and Developmental Regimes
Seminar XII: The Silk Roads, Globalization and the Post-Cold War World
Seminar XIII: Excursion 3
Learning Outcome
By the end of this course students will have:
 Acquired an understanding of the interconnected nature of the pre-modern and modern
world.
 Acquired a familiarity with a highly important region which is often little understood.
 Acquired a knowledge of some of the thematic issues in the connected history of global
trade, material culture, religious co-existence, states and nomadic peoples.
Student Assessment
Students will be assessed by:
a. Class presentations
b. Research paper
c. Final Exam
20%
30%
50%
Textbooks/References
 Abu-Lughod, Janet. Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D. 1250-1350.
Oxford University Press, 1991.
 Anderson, Kym. The New Silk Roads: East Asia and World Textile Markets. Cambridge
University Press, 2009.
 Barber, Elizabeth Wayland. The Mummies of Urumchi. W. W. Norton & Company, 2000.
 Barfield, Thomas. Afghanistan: A Cultural and Political History. Princeton University
Press, 2010.
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Barfield, Thomas. The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China 221 B.C. to AD
1757, Wiley-Blackwell, 1992.
Beckwith, Christopher I. Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the
Bronze Age to the Present.
Bentley, Jerry. Old World Encounters: Cross-Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in PreModern Times. Oxford University Press,1993.
Curtin, Philip D. Cross-Cultural Trade in World History. Cambridge University Press,
1984.
Drews, Robert. Early Riders: The Beginnings of Mounted Warfare in Asia and Europe.
Routledge 2008.
Elverskog. Johan. Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road. (Encounters with Asia.)
Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 2010.
Evans, John C. Tea in China: The History of China's National Drink. Greenwood
Press,1992.
Findley, Carter Vaughn. The Turks in World History. Oxford University Press, 2004.
Flood, Finbarr. Objects of Translation: Material Culture and Medieval "Hindu-Muslim"
Encounter. Princeton University Press, 2009.
Foltz, Richard. Religions of the Silk Road: Premodern Patterns of Globalization.
Palgrave Macmillan, 2010
Golden, Peter. Central Asia in World History (The New Oxford World History). Oxford
University Press, 2011.
Goldstein, Mervin. The Snow Lion and the Dragon: China, Tibet, and the Dalai Lama.
University of California Press, 1999.
Gordon, Stewart. When Asia was the World. Da Capo Press, 2007.
Grousset, Rene. The Empire of the Steppes: A History of Central Asia. Rutgers University
Press, 2007.
Harris, Peter ed. The Travels of Marco Polo. Everyman's Library, 2008.
Jackson, Peter. Mission of Friar William of Rubruck: His Journey to the Court of the
Great Khan Mongke 1253-1255. Hackett Pub Co., 2009.
Janin, Hunt. The India-China Opium Trade in the Nineteenth Century. McFarland &
Company, 1999.
Kanet, Roger and Maria Raquel Freire. Key Players and Regional Dynamics in Eurasia:
The Return of the 'Great Game'. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Kapstein, Matthew. The Tibetans (Peoples of Asia). Wiley-Blackwell, 2006.
Karrar, Hasan H. The New Silk Road Diplomacy: China's Central Asian Foreign Policy
since the Cold War. UBC Press, 2010.
Khalid, Adeeb. Islam after Communism: Religion and Politics in Central Asia.
University of California Press, 2007.
Khazanov, Anatoly M. Nomads and the Outside World. University of Wisconsin Press,
1994.
Lane, George. Genghis Khan and Mongol Rule. Hackett Publishing Company, 2009.
Levi, Scott C. Islamic Central Asia: An Anthology of Historical Sources. Indiana
University Press, 2009.
Liu, Xinru. Silk and Religion: An Exploration of Material Life and the Thought of People
AD 600-1200. Oxford University Press, 1996.
Liu, Xinru. The Silk Road in World History (The New Oxford World History), Oxford
University Press, 2010.
Liu, Xinru. Connections Across Eurasia: Transportation, Communication, and Cultural
Exchange on the Silk Roads. McGraw-Hill Humanities, 2007.
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Perdue, Peter. China Marches West: The Qing Conquest of Central Eurasia. Belknap
Press of Harvard University Press, 2010.
Rashid, Ahmad. Militant Islam, Oil and Fundamentalism in Central Asia. Yale
University Press, 2000.
Rizvi, Janet. Trans-Himalayan Caravans: Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in
Ladakh. Oxford University Press, 2007.
Ropp, Paul. China in World History (The New Oxford World History), 2010.
Saikal, Amin. Modern Afghanistan: A History of Struggle and Survival. I.B. Tauris 2004.
Sen, Tansen. Buddhism, Diplomacy, and Trade: The Realignment of Sino-Indian
Relations, 600-1400. Manohar, 2004.
Smith, Lilla Russell. Uygur Patronage in Dunhuang: Regional Art Centres on the
Northern Silk Road in the Tenth Century. Brill, 2005.
Siegel, Jennifer. Endgame: Britain, Russia and the Final Struggle for Central Asia. I. B.
Tauris 2002.
Soucek, Svat. A History of Inner Asia. Cambridge University Press, 2000.
Sumner ,Christina and Feltham. Heleanor. Beyond the Silk Road: Arts of Central Asia.
Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences, 2000.
Whitfield, Roger and Whitfield, Susan. Cave Temples of Mogao: Art and History on the
Silk Road. Getty Conservation Institute, 2000.