I Sogdians Socially
Yes, the Sogdians were merchants. However, we have learned that the Sogdians loved music, drinking, and dancing. I want to explore what their social traditions and rituals were. I doubt they drank purely because they liked to be drunk. What were their customs? Did they have specific rituals containing certain events at set times? Who were the Sogdians socially? The twirling dance is depicted in multiple funerary paintings. At what age did they learn this dance? Who taught it? What are the details surrounding this part of their lives?
II Silk and Silver
We know that they Sogdians used both silk and silver as currency. Given the name The Silk Road, we know that silk had an established presence among the route and that Chinese soldiers were paid in silk. While silk seems to be the more common currency, silver (especially in the form of coins) would be more convenient. I want to explore silk and silver as currency. What currency was used when, and by whom? What was the overlap of these two currencies? Who used which form of currency and did class position play into the currency used?
III Language and Literature
For my final theme, I want to explore the role language and literature for Sogdians. How did language and literature play into, and shape their social life? We know that merchants were translators and could also read. What about the rest of the Sogidan population? What was their literacy rate? Were they just as well “educated”? If so, how? If not, why not? We have the example of the wife’s angry letter to her husband saying that she would rather be a pig’s wife than his. Someone else had to write that letter for her. We later learned that her daughter had written on the letter as well. How did the daughter learn to write and why did she not write her mother’s part?
Another aspect of language and literature that I want to explore is how it influenced business and contracts. It seems to be a favorite quote to describe the Sogdians with honey on their tongues and palms, so as to be sweet talkers and successful in earning a profit. How did their literacy affect commerce and contracts? Were they known to be swindlers or were their honest in their business dealings? How did translation work in that time period for contracts? Were they the only ones who would be able to look at the two translations of a contract and read them?
Albert Dien, “The Glories of Sogdiana,” The Silk Road Foundation
A.L. Juliano & J.A. Lerner, eds, Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northern China
Aleksandr Naymark, “Return to Varakhsha,” The Silk Road Foundation Newsletter, vol. 1, issue 2 (December, 2003).
Aleksandr Naymark. “Seleucid Coinage of Samarqand?” Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society, no. 221 (2014): 16–20.
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), pp. 45-67.
Valerie Hansen, The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)