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 ( 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.