Joanna’s Object Proposal

March 15th, 2016|0 Comments

I. Sale of a Slave Girl (Item #2)

http://sogdians.nyufasedtech.com/admin/items/show/2

I will use this document in my research on the status and life experiences of women in the world of Sogdiana. In the sources I have examined so far, women are discussed as either wives, concubines, or slaves. I am interested in studying the intersection of the slave trade and family life, and how those two elements came to bear on the understanding of women’s place in Sogdian society, in this case in the context of women with relatively little social capital.

Sources

  1. Goetzmann, William N. and Rouwenhorst, K. Geert, eds. The Origins of Value: The Financial Innovations That Created Capital Markets (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005).
  2. Hansen, Valerie. The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)
  3. Seibert, Ilse, Woman In Ancient Near East (German Democratic Republic: Edition Liepzig, 1974).

II. Tomb of Shi Jun (Wirkak) and His Wife (Item #144)

http://sogdians.nyufasedtech.com/admin/items/show/144

I believe that this object may be relevant to two of the themes I am working with: Sogdian women and the notion of safe passage. The Tomb of Shi Jun/ Wirkak presents a narrative of a Sogdian man rising to power through success in trade and eventually being appointed sabao by an imperial decree. The tomb itself is for both Shi Jun and his wife, Lady Kang, who also appears in the narrative depicted on this sarcophagus. I hope that this narrative can provide information on the lives of women of the upper class, and the way that marriage and family were defined in their world. I also believe that the Tomb of Shi Jun can provide valuable insight into the life of Sogdians abroad, which will help to frame the circumstances under which they were able to move relatively freely between power structures for the purposes of trade.

Sources

  1. Dien, Albert E. “Observations Concerning the Tomb of Master Shi”, Bulletin of the Asia Institute, Vol. 17 (2003), pp. 105-115.
  2. Grenet, Franz.  “Religious Diversity among Sogdian Merchants in Sixth-century China: Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Manichaeism, and Hinduism,”Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 27/2 (2007): 463-478.
  3. Grenet, Franz and Riboud, Penelope. “A Reflection of the Hepthalite Empire: The Biographical Narrative in the Reliefs of the Tomb of the Sabao Wirkak (494-579). Bulletin of the Asia Institute Vol. 17 (2003), pp. 133-143)..
  4. Kagayama, Etsuko. “The Winged Crown and the Triple-crescent Crown in the Sogdian Funerary Monuments from China: Their Relation to the Hephthalite Occupation of Central Asia”. Journal of Inner Asian Art & Archaeology, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, Volume 2. http://isaw.nyu.edu/publications/jiaaa/volume-2.
  5. Yakubovich, Ilya. Marriage, Sogdian Style. VERÖFFENTLICHUNGEN ZUR IRANISTIK HERAUSGEGEBEN VON BERT G. FRAGNER UND VELIZAR SADOVSKINR. 34. https://www.academia.edu/551389/Marriage_Sogdian_Style.

III. Rustam Epics 2 from Room 50 (Item #351)

http://sogdians.nyufasedtech.com/admin/items/show/351

The depiction of the Rustam Epics at Panjikent serves as a window into the complex system of mythological actors present in this Sogdian settlement. This specific set of stories is deeply connected with the historicized self-image of what Judith Lerner called “Greater Iran”, and I believe that will make it a useful resource in my examination of the utility of fables in Sogdian murals. The murals found in private homes can speak to the lifestyle and belief system of a specific citizen, and they can also speak to the collective self-presentation that allowed Sogdians to flourish at home and abroad. I hope to explore the qualities of Rustam as a national hero, and how that may relate to Sogdians’ concept of their own place in their world.

Sources

  1. Ciafaloni, Davide, and Della Roca de Candal, Geri. “Sassanian Traditions in Sogdian Paintings: Hunting and Fighting Scenes”, INCONTRI DI CULTURE NEL MONDO ANTICO, Vol. 13, 2011. https://www.academia.edu/3386461/Sasanian_traditions_in_Sogdian_paintings_hunting_and_fighting_scenes.
  2. Juliano, A.L. & Lerner, J.A., eds. Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northern China (New York: Abrams, 2002).
  3. Marshak, Boris. Legends, Tales and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana (New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 2002).

IV. Detail of a Sogdian Mural Depicting Members of the Chaghanian mission to the Royal Court at Samarkand (Item #3)

http://sogdians.nyufasedtech.com/admin/items/show/3

Within the theme of safe passage, I plan to explore both the official records that lay out the legalized frameworks for travel and trade in this region, and the artworks that can help us understand the way Sogdians saw themselves as actors in a political structure. I hope to examine the depictions in this mural in terms of their relation to the official record. As Judith Lerner points out, this scene depicts “a world with Samarkand at its center”, even though the Sogdians at this time relied on the Chinese for military support. I believe that this artistic depiction of the political scene can tell us a lot about the Sogdians as a people, particularly when taken in conjunction with official records of the inter-state interactions of the time.

Sources

  1. Juliano, A.L. & Lerner, J.A., eds. Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northern China (New York: Abrams, 2002).
  2. Marshak, Boris. Legends, Tales and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana (New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 2002).

V. Merchants Feasting (Item #268)

http://sogdians.nyufasedtech.com/admin/items/show/268

This scene from Panjikent is a rare instance in which we can see the Sogdians enjoying the fruits of their Silk Road commerce. I would like to look at the characteristics of physicality or costume which identify these figures as Sogdians, and as merchants. I hope to draw connections between these depictions and other descriptions of Sogdian merchants, at home and abroad, and find out how this identity played a role in the concept of safe passage within the commerce of the silk routes.

Sources

  1. de la Vaissière, Étienne. Sogdian Traders: A History, trans. James Ward (Leiden: Brill, 2005).
  2. Hansen, Valerie. The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)
  3. Marshak, Boris. Legends, Tales and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana (New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 2002).
  4. Yatsenko, Sergey A. The Costume of Foreign Embassies & Inhabitants of Samarkand on Wall Painting of the 7th c. in the “Hall of Ambassadors” from Afrasiab as a Historical Source, http://www.cais-soas.com/CAIS/Costume_and_Textile/samarkand_costume.htm.

VI. Letter to Nanaidhat (Item #67)

http://sogdians.nyufasedtech.com/admin/items/show/67

I plan to examine this letter fragment found in Dunhuang in order to better understand the structure of marriage in Sogdian society. The abandoned wife Miwnay is clearly financially reliant on her now-absent husband, which is not surprising in a traditional society. What I found intriguing was that she mentions that she disobeyed her mother and brothers, an act of independence or rebellion that I would not expect a young woman in that time to attempt. I hope to use this letter as a resource to flesh out the relationships between men and women, as well as the legal ramifications of marriage in the world of the Sogdians.

Sources

  1. Hansen, Valerie. The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)
  2. Yakubovich, Ilya. Marriage, Sogdian Style. VERÖFFENTLICHUNGEN ZUR IRANISTIK HERAUSGEGEBEN VON BERT G. FRAGNER UND VELIZAR SADOVSKINR. 34. https://www.academia.edu/551389/Marriage_Sogdian_Style.

Joanna’s Theme Proposal

March 1st, 2016|0 Comments

I – Sogdian Women

I am interested in studying the roles and status of Sogdian women. The material that we have looked at so far presents women in essentially two contexts: as wives, or as “dancing girls”, the latter bearing a connection to either an appearance or a reality of prostitution. Valerie Hansen notes that prostitutes would have been part of the general infrastructure in any oasis town, alongside the innkeepers and doctors (Hansen 106). It is notable also that in funerary art, Sogdian men are depicted in typical Sogdian clothing, yet Sogdian women are depicted in Chinese clothing, so as not to be mistaken for Sogdian dancing girls. That particular act of representation may be able to tell us a good deal about the status of Sogdian women abroad in China. I hope to find more evidence regarding the way that women were treated and depicted at home in Sogdiana.

I would also like to examine the evidence we have on the nature of marriage and the family in Sogdian culture. How did the Sogdian social and legal infrastructure treat women, as compared with contemporary societies? The marriage contract from Mount Mugh seems to show us that women had legal rights similar to their husbands, in the context of executing or nullifying the marriage contract. Gaining a better understanding of the way in which marriage is construed should also provide us with some insight into the ways that Sogdians assimilated into other cultures through various means, including intermarriage. There are also class distinctions to be explored, as women from elite families would surely have been bound by a different set of standards than women of lower social standing.

II – Fables in the Murals at Pendjikent

I want to do some in-depth work with the murals found at Pendjikent. I hope to explore depictions of a variety of fables, and to use these examples of Sogdian art to gain a better understanding of the life-world of these specific urban Sogdians. Boris Marshak pointed to the presence of these murals in private homes as evidence that “there was no insuperable barrier between the rulers and the nobility” (Marshak 14). I would like to explore what the presence and contents of these murals might be able to tell us about the political, social and economic realities of everyday life in Pendjikent.

Within the scope of this project, it would be impossible to incorporate the vast array of literary traditions represented in the Pendjikent murals. After my initial research, I am particularly interested in the depictions of Rustam, one of the most important figures known from pre-Islamic literature. Rustam is the epic hero in the Shahnameh, published in the early 11th century as a mythical/ historical account of the Persian Empire up until the 7th century. I believe that the Pendjikent depictions of Rostam can provide a useful perspective on how Sogdians saw their own place in the history, and possibly the mythology, of the region.

III – Safe Passage

The story of the Sogdians is tied closely with the web of trade routes known collectively as the Silk Road. While the Sogdians were known for their prowess as merchants and traders, they seem to have relied on other groups for protection while out on the caravan routes, which could be quite dangerous. In Chapter Six of Monks and Merchants, Judith Lerner points out that the Sogdians were protected by a series of rotating ‘overlords’ over the course of several centuries, from nomadic mercenaries to the Hepthalites to the Turks (Lerner 222). I was struck by the fact that this group of merchants, seemingly unable to defend themselves effectively in transit, nevertheless remained the group most closely associated with the Silk Road mercantile system of exchange.

I believe that through examining the realities of protection along the Silk Road, we can gain a better understanding of the Sogdians within the context of their world. Given the vastness of these routes and the relative lack of infrastructure, secured borders, or even distinct boundaries between empires, how was the notion of safe passage negotiated? This concept may be of particular interest in conjunction with the current initiative proposed by China to establish the One Belt, One Road system to encourage connectivity and cooperation among Asian and Eurasian countries.

Preliminary Bibliography

  1. Chaliand, Gerard, Nomadic Empires, trans. A.M. Berrett (New Brunswick: Transaction Publishers, 2004).
  2. Choksy, Jamsheed K., Evil, Good, and Gender: Facets of the Feminine in Zoroastrian Religious History (Bern: Peter Lang International Academic Publishers, 2002).
  3. Haidar, Mansura, ed., The Silk Road: Trade, Caravan Serais, Cultural Exchanges and Power Games (New Delhi: Indira Gandhi Centre for the Arts, 2014).
  4. Hansen, Valerie, The Silk Road: A New History (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015).
  5. Juliano, A.L. & Lerner, J.A., eds, Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northern China (New York: Abrams, 2002).
  6. Lerner, Judith, “Zoroastrian Funerary Beliefs and Practices Known from the Sino-Sogdian Tombs in China,” The Silk Road 9 (2011): 18-25.
  7. Kuzmina, E.E., The Prehistory of the Silk Road (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008).
  8. Marshak, Boris, Legends, Tales and Fables in the Art of Sogdiana (New York: Bibliotheca Persica Press, 2002).
  9. Seibert, Ilse, Woman In Ancient Near East (German Democratic Republic: Edition Liepzig, 1974).