As a musician, I was intrigued by the Zoroastrian concept of paradise meaning “House of the Song of Praise.” While some of the sources we have read so far have mentioned music or dance, we have read very little about Sogdian music making. In his article “Religious Diversity among Sogdian Merchants in Sixth-century China: Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Manichaeism, and Hinduism,” Frantz Grenet briefly mentions musicians and the “House of the Song of Praise” as they appear on funerary reliefs Other sources we have read also include mentions of musicians on other artworks, such as murals in Pendjikent. Boris Marshak even sugguest there may have been lyrics to songs written with some of the mural panels at Pendjikent. Seeing how musicians are portrayed in art can be used a starting point to learn more about Sogdian music making, such as instruments played, ceremonies or rituals with music, or how music tradition was passed along. With Zoroastrianism as likely the most common religion on Sogdians and based on the belief of Zoroastrian paradise as “House of the Song of Praise,” music likely played an important role in Sogdian life, and I would like examine its presence further.
Coins in Samarkand (and Sogdiana)
When I travel, one items I use as souvenirs is coins. Coins can be an indication of places travelled, places visitors came from, or evidence of cultural or business exchange. I believe that this is the case for coins found in Samarkand and Sogdiana. I would like to look at coins found in Samarkand, in perhaps even all of Sogdiana depending on amount of information on finds available, as an indicator of interaction between the people of different locations. Valerie Hansen discusses coins some in The Silk Road: A New History and Étienne de la Vaissière’s Sogdian Traders: A History includes a section on money and has some information about coins. However, Aleksandr Naymark work in “Seleucid Coinage of Samarqand?” will likely be the most useful. I believe the coins found in Samarkand and Sogdiana will show the geographic expanse of cultural and business exchange of the Sogdians.
When reading about the Sogdians living in China, I was interested in the governing of the foreign community by one of their own people who had Chinese official rank. I also that it was interesting that this position of sabao was not only as a governing leader but as a religious leader as well. Grenet notes that the name for the title is derived from the Sogdian word sârtpâw, meaning caravan leader. I would like to explore the role of the sabao further, such as the their more specific duties and their Chinese government rank. Some of this information may be found on the tombs if they are indicated as a sabao. It would also be interesting to see if I can find information on the transition from the word for leading a caravan to meaning a community leader, however that may be difficult. How is a sabao selected? I am curious if there is there a similar position for Chinese in Sogdiana or for Sogdians living in the Iranian Empire.
Grenet, Frantz. “Religious Diversity among Sogdian Merchants in Sixth-century China: Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Manichaeism, and Hinduism.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa, and the Middle East 27 (2007): 462, 468.
Hansen, Valerie. The Silk Road: A New History. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015. pages 94-98.
Juliano, Annette L. and Judith A. Lerner. Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northern China. New York: Abrams, 2002. pages 225-226.
Marshak, Boris. Legends, Tales and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana. New York: Bibliotheca Press, 2002. pages 56-57.
Naymark, Aleksandr. “Seleucid Coinage of Samarqand?” Journal of the Oriental Numismatic Society 221 (2014): 1-6.
de la Vaissière, Étienne. Sogdian Traders: A History. Translated by James Ward. Leiden: Brill, 2005. pages 171-173.