Art & Design Building 2026
Section Information for Spring 2017
“Silk Road” is a romantic metaphor for the network of long-distance trade routes that have crossed Eurasia from east to west for two millennia, made famous by the writings of Marco Polo and Ibn Battutah. It has come to stand for a number of themes in history such as cultural connections between China, Central Asia and the Mediterranean; the pre-modern spread of ideas, religions and technologies; the great caravan and bazaar cities; the role of nomadic empires in global history; and the world trade in luxury goods.
In this class we will look at the arts and ideas of various cultures that interacted along the Eurasian trade routes from the Mediterranean to China in pre-modern times. The first part of the course will provide the necessary historical, geographical, religious and architectural background for the regions involved, including Buddhist China and Central Asian Islam. In the second part, we will be reading primary sources such as Marco Polo, Ibn Battutah and the Journey to the West, and studying the trade in luxury goods. This course will require visits to Washington and Baltimore museums, and a cheerful willingness to tackle unfamiliar material. There is no prerequisite beyond sophomore standing, but previous coursework or experience in Medieval, Islamic, Central Asian, Chinese or Buddhist studies would be good background.
Satisfies the general education requirement in global understanding.