Call for Papers: Centennial of Laufer’s Sino-Iranica

The international scholarly yearbook Quaderni di Studi Indo-Mediterranei (whose editor is the Iranologist Prof. Carlo Saccone at the University of Bologna) devotes each volume to a different theme. Vol. 12 (2019) of QSIM is scheduled to appear in 2020. Its theme is “Sino-Iranica’s Centennial. Between East and West: Exchanges of Material and Ideational Culture. Commemorating the publication, in 1919, of Sino-Iranica by Berthold Laufer (1874–1934).”

Laufer showed the importance of contacts between the Iranic world and China as reflected in the exchange of items of material culture, and this also involved exchanges between Iran and more western cultures, such as the Graeco-Roman world, and Syria. Moreover, he also showed how trade with India and Indo-China percolated into such exchanges.

There are several topics that could fit in the thematic volume. Prospective authors are urged to contact by email, for the purposes of a preliminary discussion, the guest-editor, Ephraim Nissan (ephraim.nissan@hotmail.co.uk). A deadline is set in the spring of 2019, but this, too, could be discussed in consideration of personal schedules and commitments.

Papers could discuss facets of the Silk Road, such as the spread of religious creeds along it, such as Manichaeism and Nestorianism (or the spread of Marcionism to Central Asia). Manichaeism, founded by Mani, born to Iranian parents of the Arsacid nobility (but his father had joined an Aramaeophone faith community), managed to expand in both the Roman Empire and in Central Asia and China (both Turfan and the coast), by claiming (in the West) that Mani was the truest apostle of Christianity, whereas in such eastern lands where Buddhism was strong, they claimed that the Manichaean understanding of Buddha was the truest.

Another possible theme for a chapter is the spread of iconographical motifs. For example, B. Brentjes, “Romulus und Remus mit der Wölfin aus Nordtads[c]hikistan”, Central Asiatic Journal, 15 (1971), pp. 183–185, discussed an image uncovered in 1967 by archaeologists in a building in Kalai-Kachkacha, in northwestern Tadjikistan.  It is a depiction apparently from the sixth century, of a she-wolf standing and suckling two human toddlers who are kneeling beneath her belly. According to Brentjes, this image from Central Asia was inspired by a similar image showing the same motif — Romulus and Remus being suckled by the she-wolf — as conspicuously found on Byzantine coins (golden solidi) as well as on bracteates from the fifth to early seventh centuries. In contrast, consider the Central Asian myth of Kun‑mo, the founder of the country of Wu‑sun, supposedly an abandoned child who was raised by a wolf and a crow (Namu Jilan, “Myths and Traditional Beliefs about the Wolf and the Crow in Central Asia: Examples from the Turkic Wu‑sun and the Mongols”, Asian Folklore Studies, 65(2), 2006, pp. 161–177).

Also of potential interest for submission are papers about Tibet: for example, the rise of a Tibetan Empire spreading to Afghanistan, or then Muslims in Tibet, or then again some discussion of the old idea that Gesar, King of Phrom, of the Tibetan and Mongolian epic of Gesar, was inspired by the notion of Caesar/Kaisar of Rome. A counterargument (Laufer 1919, pp. 436–437) has been that the Tibetan name for Rome is different from Phrom, but one can retort that e.g. in Italy, a Baghdadite is called “bagdadita”, but centuries ago was a “bagadese”, and the latter survives in the name for a chicken breed, “gallina bagadese”.

Concerning the Tibetan Empire, see C. Beckwith, The Tibetan Empire in Central Asia:  A History of the Struggle for Great Power among Tibetans, Turks, Arabs and Chinese during the Early Middle Ages (Princeton University Press, 1987). As for Islam in Tibet, e.g. see A.B.A. Nadwi, Tibet and Tibetan Muslims (New Delhi: Library of Tibetan Works & Archives, 2004). As for Islamic accounts of Tibet, see e.g. M. Gaborieau (ed., trans.), Récit d’un voyageur musulman au Tibet, by Ghulam Muhammad [1857–1928] (in Urdu and French; Publications du Laboratoire d’ethnologie et de sociologie comparative, Université de Paris X), Paris: Klincksieck, 1973; D.M. Dunlop, “Arab Relations with Tibet in the Eighth and Early Ninth Centuries A.D”, Islâm Tetkikleri Enstitüsü Dergisi (Istanbul), 5(1–4), 1973, pp. 301–318.

Another possible theme is, for example, the one described in the title of the paper collection edited by Matthew Goff, Loren T. Stuckenbruck, and Enrico Morano (eds.), Ancient Tales of Giantsfrom Qumran and TurfanContexts, Traditions, and Influences (Wissenschaftliche Untersuchungen zum Neuen Testament, 360) Tübingen: Mohr Siebeck, 2016.

Western Influences on an Early Unified Silla Bas-relief

A carved granite slab in the Gyeongju National Museum in Korea has images in roundels whose iconography suggests widely ranging connections to the West in the Unified Silla period. Hongnam Kim (Asia Museum Institute, Korea) analyzes the Western influences of this iconography, concluding that it is likely that the craftsman who executed the work was familiar with Christian imagery.

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Latest issue of The Silk Road (Vol. 15, 2017) is now available

The latest issue of The Silk Road is now available. Volume 15 features articles on defensive communication networks through Wakhan and Chitral, caravanserais in the Golden Horde, an analysis of the circulation of silver coins in Gaochang, an investigation into the Central Asian ties of a tenth-century Muslim ruler in Egypt, and a new look at the infamous Tumu incident and the Chinggisid legacy in Inner Asia, among many others. For the full table of contents and links to individual articles, please click here. This issue also marks the beginning of the online-only format of the journal, with the print version ceasing publication. Last but not least, the 2017 volume is the last one to be edited by Daniel Waugh, who will now have more time to pursue his many other scholarly pursuits. I wish him all the best, and take comfort in the knowledge that he will continue to lend his assistance and advice for many years to come. Looking ahead, I am eager to begin the process of assembling the 2018 volume, and look forward to receiving interesting and timely contributions from around the world.

Justin M. Jacobs, Editor, The Silk Road

After 15 Years, The Silk Road Passes the Baton

On January 15, 2003, the first issue of The Silk Road — then a newsletter — was published. In the fifteen years since then, founding editor Daniel C. Waugh has introduced its readers to a vast array of fascinating scholarship from around the world, much of it unlikely to have reached an English readership if not for his untiring labors. Along with many other scholars and amateur enthusiasts, I have long greeted each issue of the journal with eager anticipation, delighting at articles on the reconstruction of Scythian saddles, the “old curiosity shop” of Khotan, or Bactrian inscriptions of the Kushan era, to name just a few of the fascinating pieces to appear under Waugh’s editorship. Alas, those days have come to an end. As of 2018, I have taken over his duties as the new editor of the journal, a transition that also coincides with the cessation of the print version and transfer to the online-only format seen here.

I first met Dan as an undergraduate at the University of Washington, where he taught for nearly thirty-five years. Back then, he was “Prof. Waugh,” which, despite his continued insistence to the contrary, still feels like the most suitable form of address for such an eminent scholar. In the spring of 1999, I was a freshman without a major. On a lark, I decided to enroll in his Silk Road course and was soon enthralled by the endless parade of colorful slides that animated his lectures. Even then, it was clear that this was no armchair scholar: most of the slides, even those of original art, came from photographs taken during his own travels throughout the remotest corners of Eurasia. Later, as a graduate student, I took his seminar on “The Great Game” and began to conduct my own research on Xinjiang from the perspective of Chinese-language source material. As a professor of history in my own right now, I continue to highlight the cosmopolitan themes of human exchange and interaction in the courses I teach at American University, from historiography seminars on the Silk Road to lecture courses on East Asian civilization. For those interested in learning more about my other scholarly and public outreach activities, please visit my website.

Following in Waugh’s footsteps as editor of The Silk Road is a daunting task, and I ask readers for their patience as I learn the ropes. No matter what, however, I look forward to bringing interesting scholarship on the Silk Road from around the world for the edification and stimulation of inquiring minds of all intellectual backgrounds. As always, if you have an idea for a research article, book review, or report on an exhibition or conference, please do not hesitate to get in touch with me via e-mail (jjacobs@american.edu) or mail:

Justin M. Jacobs
Department of History
American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave. NW
Washington, D.C. 20016