Sarah’s Theme Proposal

/Sarah’s Theme Proposal

Sarah’s Theme Proposal

The People

-Who are they? -Physical aspects (at home and abroad) -Self-image -Biographies/stories

I am interested in humanizing the Sogdian’s history and I can do so through focusing on biographies and stories. This was inspired by the story of Xuanzang and how we know of his travels through his detailed writings to Huili (Hansen). In order to focus on one group of peoples, such as Buddhist monks, like Zuanzang, could connect this thematic essay to religion thematic essay.

Economics – Paper Documents

-Products of trade such as coins/currency, silk, silver, paper

I am interested in studying how/why people were buried in paper goods and what paper might have meant to the communities beyond being just a consumable object. In addition, how recycled paper and documents that were re-purposed for everyday use actually contained important information that can tell us about their way of life (Hansen pg. 15, 137). This could possibly connect religious burial practices with trade goods.  I am specifically going to use the market contract from Tufran, the Ancient Letters, among other paper records. I think this theme will permeate into all of the thematic essays.


I am interested in the religious variety and freedom that was practiced. Some possible topics within religion that interest me are: how religion can be reflected in the coinage (Hansen 97), ossuary decoration, burial practices, Buddhist motifs mixing with other religious content in murals, Chinese monks that travelled to India, and depictions of deities in art and murals (Marshak and Judith Lerner). This topic definitely needs to be more narrowly focused, but I am leaning towards burial practices in Sogdiana.


I am interested in visualizing and giving clear examples of how/what was traded. This was inspired by the trade and market contracts. In my head I am picturing simplified line drawings of trade products and showing for instance – how many camels could be traded for how many bolts of silk. Possibly using Adobe Illustrator to create simple representations. Refer to trade contracts found in tomb of Zuo (Hansen pg, 96, 99 Turfan market records pg. 106) Visualizing how people would have travelled: how many camels or donkeys and how much goods with them. I will explore ways of depicting complex social networks/relationships of objects through infographics.


Using questions as heading for thematic essays

Using young adults as my target audience


Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

Étienne de la Vaissière, Sogdian Traders: A History, trans. James Ward (Leiden: Brill, 2005)

Boris Marshak, Legends, Tales and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana (New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 2002)

A.L. Juliano & J.A. Lerner, eds, Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northern China (New York: Abrams, 2002)

Judith Lerner, “Zoroastrian Funerary Beliefs and Practices Known from the Sino-Sogdian Tombs in China,” The Silk Road 9 (2011)

Nicholas Sims-Williams, “The Sogdian Merchants in China and India,” in Cina e Iran da Alessandro Magno alla dinastia Tang, ed. A. Cadonna & L. Lanciotti (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore, 1996)

Mariko Namba Walter, “Sogdians and Buddhism,” Sino-Platonic Papers 174 (November 2006)



By | 2018-01-07T14:25:21-05:00 February 29th, 2016|Sarah, Theme Proposals|0 Comments

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