This volume is a collection of papers highlighting recent researches on Syriac Christianity in China and Central Asia. The topics range from artifacts to texts and their historical contexts, covering the period from the 7th to the 18th century. As the studies on Syriac Christianity in China and Central advance, focus has shifted from a general historical survey and textual translation to a more micro and meticulous study of specific concepts and terms and particular names of persons and places.
The Image Debate: Figural Representation in Islam and Across the World is a collection of thirteen essays which examine the controversy surrounding the use of images in Islamic and other religious cultures and seek to redress some of the misunderstandings that have arisen. Written by leading academics from the United States, Australia, Turkey, Israel and the United Kingdom, the book opens with an introduction by the editor Christiane Gruber, who sets the subject in context with a detailed examination of the debates over idols and the production of figural images in Islamic traditions. Twelve further articles are divided into three sections: the first deals with pre-modern Islamic practices and anxieties with image-making; the second addresses similar issues in Judaism, in Christianity during the Byzantine period, in pre-Islamic Iran and Central Asia, and in Hindu and Buddhist contexts in South Asia; and the third brings the reader back to Islamic lands with five articles examining traditions of figural representation in the modern and contemporary periods.
For centuries, Persian was the language of power and learning across Central, South, and West Asia, and Persians received a particular basic education through which they understood and engaged with the world. Not everyone who lived in the land of Iran was Persian, and Persians lived in many other lands as well. Thus to be Persian was to be embedded in a set of connections with people we today consider members of different groups. Persianate selfhood encompassed a broader range of possibilities than contemporary nationalist claims to place and origin allow. We cannot grasp these older connections without historicizing our conceptions of difference and affiliation.
Mana Kia sketches the contours of a larger Persianate world, historicizing place, origin, and selfhood through its tradition of proper form: adab. In this shared culture, proximities and similarities constituted a logic that distinguished between people while simultaneously accommodating plurality. Adab was the basis of cohesion for self and community over the turbulent eighteenth century, as populations dispersed and centers of power shifted, disrupting the circulations that linked Persianate regions. Challenging the bases of protonationalist community, Persianate Selves seeks to make sense of an earlier transregional Persianate culture outside the anachronistic shadow of nationalisms.
About the author
Mana Kia is Associate Professor of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies at Columbia University.
Sogdians, a group of Central Asians based between the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, played a significant historical role at the crossroads of the Silk Roads. Travelling the world as caravan leaders, organised in trading networks, they were found from Byzantium to the Chinese heartland. The Sogdian language was a candidate for the lingua franca of the Silk Roads for some hundred years and Sogdians acted as polyglot mediators at courts and prominent translators of Buddhist texts. In the Chinese capitals, fire temples were erected for their use and the exotic products they imported were cherished by the people and the court. This socio-historical study by Moritz Huber provides a translation of the transmitted Chinese records on Sogdians in Sogdiana and China and combines them with archaeological evidence to present a differentiated picture of their presence in China from the 3rd to 10th century CE. Besides the transcription and translation of all epitaphs of Sogdians from an archaeological context, used to tell their interconnected biographies, as well as a detailed discussion of their political organisation in China under the sabao 薩保/薩寶, this publication further includes a case-study of the Shi 史 families in Guyuan 固原, Ningxia 寧夏 Province.
In Transcending Patterns: Silk Road Cultural and Artistic Interactions through Central Asian Textiles, Mariachiara Gasparini investigates the origin and effects of a textile-mediated visual culture that developed at the heart of the Silk Road between the seventh and fourteenth centuries. Through the analysis of the Turfan Textile Collection in the Museum of Asian Art in Berlin and more than a thousand textiles held in collections worldwide, Gasparini discloses and reconstructs the rich cultural entanglements along the Silk Road, between the coming of Islam and the rise of the Mongol Empire, from the Tarim to Mediterranean Basin. Exploring in detail the iconographic transfer between different agents and different media from Central Asian caves to South Italian churches, the author depicts and describes the movement and exchange of portable objects such as sculpture, wall painting, and silk fragments across the Asian continent and across the ages.
Mariachiara Garsparini received a PhD in transcultural studies and global art history from Heidelberg University, Germany. Her research focuses on Central Asian material culture, wall painting, artist’s praxis, and Sino-Iranian and Turko-Mongol interactions. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Asia. Since 2015 she has been teaching Asian art in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Afghanistan is at the cultural crossroads of Asia, where the great civilisations of Mesopotamia and Iran, South Asia and Central Asia overlapped and sometimes conflicted. Its landscape embraces environments from the high mountains of the Hindu Kush to the Oxus basin and the great deserts of Sistan; trade routes from China to the Mediterranean, and from Central Asia to the Arabian Sea cross the country. It has seen the development of early agriculture, the spread of Bronze Age civilisation of Central Asia, the conquests of the Persians and of Alexander of Macedon, the spread of Buddhism and then Islam, and the empires of the Kushans, Ghaznavids, Ghurids and Timurids centred there, with ramifications across southern Asia. All of which has resulted in some of the most important, diverse and spectacular historical remains in Asia.
First published in 1978, this was the first book in English to provide a complete survey of the immensely rich archaeological remains of Afghanistan. The contributors, all acknowledged scholars in their field, have worked in the country, on projects ranging from prehistoric surveys to the study of Islamic architecture. It has now been thoroughly revised and brought up to date to incorporate the latest discoveries and research.
Brilliant horsemen and great fighters, the Scythians were nomadic horsemen who ranged wide across the grasslands of the Asian steppe from the Altai mountains in the east to the Great Hungarian Plain in the first millennium BC. Their steppe homeland bordered on a number of sedentary states to the south – the Chinese, the Persians and the Greeks – and there were, inevitably, numerous interactions between the nomads and their neighbours. The Scythians fought the Persians on a number of occasions, in one battle killing their king and on another occasion driving the invading army of Darius the Great from the steppe. Relations with the Greeks around the shores of the Black Sea were rather different – both communities benefiting from trading with each other. This led to the development of a brilliant art style, often depicting scenes from Scythian mythology and everyday life. It is from the writings of Greeks like the historian Herodotus that we learn of Scythian life: their beliefs, their burial practices, their love of fighting, and their ambivalent attitudes to gender. It is a world that is also brilliantly illuminated by the rich material culture recovered from Scythian burials, from the graves of kings on the Pontic steppe, with their elaborate gold work and vividly coloured fabrics, to the frozen tombs of the Altai mountains, where all the organic material – wooden carvings, carpets, saddles and even tattooed human bodies – is amazingly well preserved.
This second volume of the series offers a broad range of subject matter from an equally broad range of regions. Michael Shenkar compares a particular type of deity from the Parthian West (Palmyra, Hatra) with the colossal image of a divinity from Akchakhan-kala in ancient Choresmia (part of modern-day Uzbekistan). Careful iconographic analysis of a sealing showing the god Mithra, found at Kafir Qala near Samarkand, allows Fabrizio Sinisi to suggest a Kushan origin for the seal that made the impression. Several contributions on Sogdiana concern its archaeology and early history (Bi Bo on Kangju and Sogdiana); the iconography of one of the major wall painting cycles at Panjikent (Matteo Compareti) as well as the city’s temples and deities worshipped (Markus Mode). By drawing on archaeological, ethnological and historical data, Sören Stark offers an extensive discussion of mountain pastoralism and seasonal occupation in northern Tajikistan, north of the Zerafshan River in what were borderlands for Sogdiana. Rounding out the first part of this volume is Suzanne G. Valentine’s publication of a Bactrian camel clay sculpture, excavated in the Sui-Tang capital of Xi’an, its saddlebags decorated with an unusual motif. The second and last part is guest-edited by John Clarke, convener of a Buddhist conference in 2010. This section contains updated or new papers by some of the participants—Naman P. Ahuja on Buddhist imagery in Bengal; Amy Heller on the impact of Kashmiri art on Guge and Ladakh; Deborah Klimburg-Salter on Buddhist pilgrimage sites in Afghanistan; and Michael Willis on sculpture from Sarnath in the British Museum—along with that of Chiara Bellini on the restoration of the Alchi Sumtsek and the dating of the Ladakhi temple.
Table of Contents On Central Asian Art and Archaeology · Michael SHENKAR – “The Chorasmian Gad: On the “Colossal” Figure from Akchakhan-kala” · Fabrizio SINISI – “A Kushan Investiture Scene with Mithra on a Seal Impression from Kafir Qala, Samarkand” · BI Bo – “Recent Archaeological Discoveries Regarding Kangju and Sogdiana” · Matteo COMPARETI – “Simurgh or Farr? On the Representation of Fantastic Creatures in the Sogdian ‘Rustam Cycle’ at Panjikent” · Markus MODE – “In the Heart of the City: On Sogdian Temples and Deities at Panjikent”
On Buddhist Sculpture: Papers from a Symposium held at the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, November 8 and 9, 2010, and Papers Inspired by the Symposium · John CLARKE (Guest Editor) – “Introduction” · Naman P. AHUJA – “Rethinking the History of Buddhist Imagery in Bengal, circa 200 BCE – 700 CE” · Michael WILLIS – “Markham Kittoe and Sculpture from Sarnath in the British Museum” · Deborah KLIMBURG-SALTER – “Buddhist Pilgrimage to India: Bamiyan, Kapisa · -Kabul, and Mes Aynak” · Amy HELLER – “Tracing the Impact of Kashmiri Art in Guge and Ladakh, Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries” · Chiara BELLINI – “Some Other Pieces of the Puzzle: The Restoration of the Alchi Sumtsek by Tashi Namgyal and Other Considerations on the Dating of the Ladakhi Temple”
On Far Eastern Art and Archaeology · Bonnie CHENG – “The Underground Silk Road – Pictorial Affinities in Fifth-century Cave Temples and Tombs” · Heather D. CLYDESDALE – “Buried Towers: Artistic Innovation on China’s Frontier” · Suzanne G. VALENSTEIN with Annette L. JULIANO and Judith A. LERNER – “Hellenism in Sui-Tang Chang’an: Dionysiac Imagery on Mortuary Camels” Young-pil KWON – “Note on Border Patterns Dividing the Earthly and Heavenly Realms in Goguryeo Tomb Paintings”
Transoxania, Khurasan, and ?ukharistan – which comprise large parts of today’s Central Asia – have long been an important frontier zone. In the late antique and early medieval periods, the region was both an eastern political boundary for Persian and Islamic empires and a cultural borderseparating communities of sedentary farmers from pastoral-nomads.
Given its peripheral location, the history of the ‘eastern frontier’ in this period has often been shown through the lens of expanding empires. However, in this book, Robert Haug argues for a pre-modern Central Asia with a discrete identity, a region that is not just a transitory space or the far-flung corner of empires, but its own historical entity. From this locally specific perspective, the book takes the reader on a 900-year tour of the area, from Sasanian control, through the Umayyads and Abbasids, to the quasi-independent dynasties of the Tahirids and the Samanids. Drawing on an impressive array of literary, numismatic and archaeological sources, Haug reveals the unique and varied challenges the eastern frontier presented to imperial powers that strove to integrate the area into their greater systems. This is essential reading for all scholars working on early Islamic, Iranian and Central Asian history, as well as those with an interest in the dynamics of frontier regions.