Sogdian Art and Archaelogy in China

Wertmann, Patrick. 2015. Sogdians in China. Archaeological and art historical analyses of tombs and texts from the 3rd to the 10th century AD. Deutschen Archäologischen Institut, Eurasien-Abteilung, Außenstelle Peking. (Archaeology in China and East Asia 5). Philipp von Zabern.

Sogdians, originating from present-day Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, dominated one of history’s greatest trade empires, extending from Constantinople to Korea between the 6th and 8th centuries AD. They established settlements in China and were granted positions of the highest rank at the imperial court. In recent years, richly equipped tombs attributed to members of the Sogdian diaspora were discovered in north and west China. The burial objects and inscriptions in these tombs offer surprising insights into the lives of these Central Asians. Patrick Wertmann followed the routes of the Sogdian traders and documented for his dissertation their traces in 54 museums and collections in eight countries, particularly in China. This fifth volume of the series Archaeology in China and East Asia offers the most comprehensive overview of Sogdian artefacts thus far assembled, with numerous colour photographs by the author.

The book has 347 pages with 116 full-page plates and 15 tables.

 About the Author:
Patrick Wertmann (PhD 2013) .is a specialist in East Asian art history and now working in the Sino-German cooperation project “Silk Road Fashion” of the Beijing Branch Office, Eurasia Department, German Archaeological Institute.

The deconstruction of the Silk Road

de la Vaissière, Etienne. 2014. Trans-asian trade or the Silk Road deconstructed. In Neal, Larry & Jeffrey Williamson (eds.), The Cambridge history of capitalism. Volume 1. The rise of capitalism: From ancient origins to 1848, 101–124. Cambridge University Press.

The first volume of The Cambridge History of Capitalism provides a comprehensive account of the evolution of capitalism from its earliest beginnings. Starting with its distant origins in ancient Babylon, successive chapters trace progression up to the ‘Promised Land’ of capitalism in America. Adopting a wide geographical coverage and comparative perspective, the international team of authors discuss the contributions of Greek, Roman, and Asian civilizations to the development of capitalism, as well as the Chinese, Indian and Arab empires. They determine what features of modern capitalism were present at each time and place, and why the various precursors of capitalism did not survive. Looking at the eventual success of medieval Europe and the examples of city-states in northern Italy and the Low Countries, the authors address how British mercantilism led to European imitations and American successes, and ultimately, how capitalism became global.


Silks from the Silk Road: Origin, Transmission and Exchange

Sasanian SilkSymposium

Silks from the Silk Road: Origin, Transmission and Exchange

Hangzhou, China, Oct. 11th –Oct. 13th, 2015

In June 2014, the Silk Roads: the Routes Network of Chang’an-Tianshan Corridor jointly nominated by China, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan was inscribed on the World Heritage List, making the ancient Silk Road a common wealth of human beings.

Parallel to the cognominal exhibition, held at the China National Silk Museum from Sept. 15th to Oct. 14th, 2015, which include masterpiece ancient silk textiles and other treasures related to the Silk Road from 24 Chinese museums and archaeological institutions of eight provinces, the symposium will present the following six sections:

  • Silk Road and Technical Exchange
  • Archaeological Findings of Silk in China
  • Archaeological Findings of Silk outside China
  • Silks on the Silk Road from the Perspective of Linguistics
  • Maritime Silk Road and Chinese Export Silk
  • Silks on the Silk Road from the Perspective of Anthropology

See here  for more details and the programme, speackers and topics.

Some talks relevant to Iranian Studies are:

  • Matthehew Canepa: “Sasanian Persian silks in archaeology findings and stone relief illustration
  • Bi Bo: “Silk in Sogdian Literature”
  • Mohammad Bagher Vosoughi: “Silk in Persian Literature”



Wine culture in Iran and neighbouring countries

Fragner, Bert G., Ralph Kauz & Florian Schwarz (eds.). 2014. Wine culture in Iran and beyond (Sitzungsberichte der phil.-hist. Klasse. Veröffentlichungen zur Iranistik 75). Verlag der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften.
Starting from important new archaeological findings and insights that have led to a rethinking of the history of viticulture in Iran and its wider Asian context, this volume explores various aspects of the cultural, social and political significance of grape wine in the Iranian cultural sphere. It assembles specialized studies and interpretative essays ranging from the question of the origins of viticulture and winemaking and the trade of wine between the Iranian plateau and China to viticulture and wine consumption in 20th-century Kafiristan, from the place of intoxicating beverages in hadith to the nature and function of wine in classical Persian poetry and Iranian architecture, from the ambiguities of alcohol in pre-modern Persia to the challenges of modernity and colonial encounters.
Table of Contents (ToC):


Life along the Silk Road

Silk RoadWhitfield, Susan. 2015. Life along the Silk Road. University of California Press.

In this long-awaited second edition, Susan Whitfield broadens her exploration of the Silk Road and expands her rich and varied portrait of life along the great pre-modern trade routes of Eurasia. This new edition is comprehensively updated to support further understanding of themes relevant to global and comparative history and remains the only history of the Silk Road to reconstruct the route through the personal experiences of travelers.

In the first 1,000 years after Christ, merchants, missionaries, monks, mendicants, and military men traveled the vast network of Central Asian tracks that became known as the Silk Road. Whitfield recounts the lives of twelve individuals who lived at different times during this period, including two characters new to this edition: an African shipmaster and a Persian traveler and writer during the Arab caliphate. With these additional tales, Whitfield extends both geographical and chronological scope, bringing into view the maritime links across the Indian Ocean and depicting the network of north-south routes from the Baltic to the Gulf.

Susan Whitfield runs the International Dunhuang Project at the British Library, which provides online access to hundreds of thousands of manuscripts, paintings, and archaeological artifacts from the eastern Silk Road. The author of numerous books and articles on the Silk Road and China, Whitfield travels widely in the region and curates relevant exhibitions. She lectures and teaches worldwide.


Sasanian Persia and the Silk Road

Alram, Michael. 2015. The cultural impact of Sasanian Persia along the Silk Road – Aspects of continuity. e-Sasanika 14.

The paper focuses on the Sasanian Empire’s impact on its surrounding world and explores the question of why its cultural achievements had such a long-lasting influence far beyond the borders of the Iranian lands, even after the decline of the dynasty. This relates to the role of the Sasanians in international trade and their political aim of controlling the land and maritime trade networks that connected Iran with the Mediterranean world, Central Asia, China, India, and the Arabian Peninsula.

Direct link to the article is Alram Sasanian Persia.


A few of our favourite things

The The International Dunhuang Project‘s (IDP) series of  A Few of Our Favourite Things is now complete. The 20 contributions cover a wide range of manuscripts found at Dunhuang, featuring among others objects discussed by Desmond Durkin-Meisterernst, Nicholas Sims-Williams and Prods Oktor Skjærvø.