- #2: Sale contract of slave-girl [Sogdian Language Contract for the Purchase of a Female Slave]
- #243: Fragment of a Wall Painting with a Scene from Mahabharata
- #56: Zoroastrian prayer, the Ashem Vohu, Sogdian MS
- #305: A letter from Arab governor to supreme priest of Samarqand
- #299: Two-headed Buddha
I’m choosing these objects because they all seem to play in with the themes I have picked, mostly in terms of religion. I want to look into how these objects, that relate to different religions on first look, apply to Sogdian religious activities and culture. I’m also interested in looking at the Sogdian people, and objects like #2 may give me a view into the dealings of the people.
In choosing my themes I ended up looking at the three themes under one umbrella theme and how they connect to and provide information about each other. I would consider my main theme to be religion. Most of our readings have shown that Sogdian religion has neither been singular or constant. It is more of an amalgamation of different religions Sogdiana has been surrounded by. More interestingly, even though Sogdians chose a religion of other societies they modified it according to their own ideas e.g. Zoroastrianism was a major religion of the Sogdians yet their Zoroatrian practices differed from standard Zoroastrian practices. They followed a different deity! We have also seen the absorption of other religions in Sogdiana as well as a conversion to other religions for practical purposes e.g. Converting to Islam so as not to give taxes. With all this I question whether religion in a pure orthodox definition of religion was actually important to Sogdians or not? Were they following those religions in the sense that they held the same beliefs or was it more of an absorption of cultural activities that they preferred or liked in said religions? Especially considering that people who did not wish to follow the strict orthodoxy of other religions found their way into Sogdians for the religious freedom it offered them. Are we calling the Sogdian culture a religion then? From there I consider the question of religion’s influence on the people and their activities and social life. Was it religion that influenced the people or did the people influence treligion? How can we define the activities of Sogdian people? Do we look at them under the term of religion or culture? And why do we define Sogdians in reference or comparison to people of other societies such as Chinese or Indians? Who were the Sogdians “originally”? As far as language and text is concerned, I wish to look at religious texts in Sogdian language – why they were in Sogdian language rather than any other? Why was the first Zorastrian text written in Sogdian language? Also, in terms of language I wish to look into the connection between religion and influence of other languages in the Sogdian language. Did Sogdians come into existence out of people escaping other societies?
My goal is to find a way to connect these three themes while also be able to separate them into individual themes. I need to narrow down my focus as well. I think once I have selected the objects it would be easier to narrow my main point of concentration. I think it would also help to consider these themes when looking at temples and the scenes that decorate Sogdian architecture since they seem to offer a view into the plurality of Sogidian religion.
For my bibliography I believe these would provide a good starting point:
Cheng, Bonnie. “THE SPACE BETWEEN: Locating “culture” in Artistic Exchange.”Ars Orientalis 38 (2010): 81–120.
Dynamics in the History of Religions, Volume 5 : Religions and Trade : Religious Formation, Transformation and Cross-Cultural Exchange Between East and West. Leiden, NLD: BRILL, 2013.
Franz Grenet, Pénélope Riboud and Yang Junkai, “Zoroastrian Scenes On A Newly Discovered Sogdian Tomb In Xi’an Northern China,” Studia Iranica 33, 2004, pp. 273-284.
Rose, Jenny. I. B. Tauris Introductions to Religion : Zoroastrianism : An Introduction. London, GBR: I.B. Tauris, 2011.
Mariko Namba Walter, “Sogdians and Buddhism,” Sino-Platonic Papers 174 (November 2006)