The Silk Roads: Connecting Communities, Markets, and Minds Since Antiquity


The Silk Roads, a concept invented in nineteenth-century Europe, generally refer to a network of land transportation routes that facilitated contact and exchange between the many cultures across Eurasia. The topic also offers us today a wide-ranging framework within which to ponder the links that have held our world together. To travel the Silk Roads today or at any point in their histories is to encounter a bewildering array of cultures and empires whose histories, boundaries, and archaeological remains overlap one another in a way nearly impossible to sort out. Roman, Persian, Chinese, Macedonian, Armenian, Scythian, Turkish, Sogdian, Iranian, Mongol, to name only some of the more prominent ones.

Fragile, dangerous, sources equally of war and cultural transformation—the Silk Roads are the overarching theme for this digital presentation, which will accompany an in-person exhibition that will open in the USC Doheny Memorial Library in the spring of 2022. The event will give the USC community and the city of Los Angeles the chance to celebrate a return to a mobile, connected world and to ponder its challenges and renewed possibilities.

With the Doheny Memorial Library as the primary presentation space for this exhibition, our focus for the exhibition will be on written artifacts––books, manuscripts, and other vehicles for nonverbal communication—that linked up different Silk Road communities and in the process created entirely new cultures as various groups interacted with one another. There will also be important visual materials such as ceramic figurines found in Chinese tombs and illuminated manuscripts from ancient Persia. The majority of the objects featured in this exhibition come from USC Libraries Special Collections. There are also loan objects from USC Archaeology Research Center and Pacific Asia Museum as well as Los Angeles County Museum of Art and Los Angeles County Natural History Museum.
Take me on a Journey
Explore on my Own

This digital presentation was prepared in part by students in EALC 485 Material Culture of the Silk Road (Spring 2021) and EALC 382 Art and Cultural Heritage in East Asia (Fall 2022). Both courses were taught by Sonya Lee, Professor of Art History, East Asian Languages and Cultures, and Religion.

Co-curators from EALC 485: Brooke Bidwell, Kaylene Goldberg, Sally Chaohui Guo, Joyce Jang, Matthew Leiser, Jack Odom, Devin Pruthi, Shiyun Tang, and Kevin Tinsley

Co-curators from EALC 382: Francesca Abruzzo, Jayne Hoagbin, Esther Hsu, Omar Kofie, Matthew Liu, Minh Nguyen, Hanna Persky, Ryan Rossio, Koji Sakno, Matt Slade, Izabel Wilbur, and Michelle Yu.

Exhibition Planning Committee: Melissa Miller (Philosophy), Danielle Mihram (Science & Engineering), Shahla Bahavar (Social & Behavioral Sciences and Persian collection), Tang Li (Chinese collection), Ruth Wallach (Library Public Services), Tyson Gaskill (Library Communications and Events), Anne-Marie Maxwell (Library Communications and Events), Micaela Rodgers (Library Communications and Events), Jay Rubenstein (History), Carolyn Laferriere (USC Center for the Premodern World), Lynn Dodd (Religion), and Bruce Zuckerman (Religion).

Undergraduate Research Associates for the Exhibit: Kaylene Goldberg and Samantha Scheinfeld.

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