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ARTHIST 3Z03 Silk Road In 1st Millenium

Academic Year: Winter 2018

Term: Winter

Day/Evening: D

Instructor: Dr. Angela Sheng


Office: Togo Salmon Hall 425

Phone: 905-525-9140 x 23156


Office Hours: Thursdays 1:00-2:00 pm or by appointment

Course Objectives:

This level-three course aims to examine some of the artistic achievements by peoples of different cultures along the so-called Silk Road in the first millennium. The so-called Silk Road refers to a network of overland routes across Inner Asia, stretching eastward to the East China Sea and westward to the Mediterranean Sea, and in reality, it also includes the grass roads across the northern steppes and the maritime routes to the south. Archaeological finds at various places greatly supplement received texts as sources for understanding a complex past of Interculturality. This course aims to show the significant contributions made by mobile nomads, itinerant travelers of all kinds, and sedentary peoples who spoke different languages, held different belief systems, and survived in different environmental, political and socio-economic conditions. The focus is on the impact of mobile nomads on China.

Textbooks, Materials & Fees:

Foltz, Richard. 2010. Religions of the Silk Road: Premodern Patterns of Globalization

Hansen, Valerie. 2017. The Silk Road: A New History with Documents. Oxford University Press.


Golden, Peter B. 2011. Central Asia in World History. Oxford University Press.

Liu, Xinru. 2010. The Silk Road in World History. Oxford University Press.

To minimize the cost to students, other required readings will be available on reserve at Mills Library, accessed online through JSTOR, or directly downloaded from The Silk Road Journal:

Method of Assessment:

The first three assignments lead to the writing of the essay, a model for the take-home final essay. Details will be discussed in the first class and then posted on Avenue to Learn.

Students will receive a midterm grade of at least 10% by March 16, 2018.

Defining religions and mapping routes and dates of transmission, due January 11, 10%

A comparison of three art works based on a theme, due February 8, 15%

A critical review of two assigned readings based on the same theme, due February 27, 10%

Essay due March 20, 25%

Take-home final Essay due April 12, 35%

Participation in class, 5%

To get A+ requires correct spelling and grammar on all written work.

Grading Scale:

A+ 90-100       B+  77-79        C+  67-69         D+       57-59

A   85-89         B    73-76       C    63-66        D         53-56

A-  80-84        B-   70-72          C-   60-62       D-       50-52

                                                                        F           0-49


Policy on Missed Work, Extensions, and Late Penalties:

Missed work must be made up or no marks for the missed assignment.

Extensions might be considered only when a student presents a valid reason with evidence immediately upon occurrence. The student is required to speak to the instructor in person as soon as possible.

Late penalties: 5% of the grade of the assignment deducted for each day past the due date.

No extensions for the take-home final written without a timely medical certificate.

Please Note the Following Policies and Statements:

Academic Dishonesty

You are expected to exhibit honesty and use ethical behaviour in all aspects of the learning process. Academic credentials you earn are rooted in principles of honesty and academic integrity.

Academic dishonesty is to knowingly act or fail to act in a way that results or could result in unearned academic credit or advantage. This behaviour can result in serious consequences, e.g. the grade of zero on an assignment, loss of credit with a notation on the transcript (notation reads: "Grade of F assigned for academic dishonesty"), and/or suspension or expulsion from the university.

It is your responsibility to understand what constitutes academic dishonesty. For information on the various types of academic dishonesty please refer to the Academic Integrity Policy, located at

The following illustrates only three forms of academic dishonesty:

  1. Plagiarism, e.g. the submission of work that is not one’s own or for which other credit has been obtained.
  2. Improper collaboration in group work.
  3. Copying or using unauthorized aids in tests and examinations.

Email correspondence policy

It is the policy of the Faculty of Humanities that all email communication sent from students to instructors (including TAs), and from students to staff, must originate from each student’s own McMaster University email account. This policy protects confidentiality and confirms the identity of the student.  Instructors will delete emails that do not originate from a McMaster email account.

Modification of course outlines

The University reserves the right to change dates and/or deadlines etc. for any or all courses in the case of an emergency situation or labour disruption or civil unrest/disobedience, etc. If a modification becomes necessary, reasonable notice and communication with the students will be given with an explanation and the opportunity to comment on changes. Any significant changes should be made in consultation with the Department Chair.

McMaster Student Absence Form (MSAF)

In the event of an absence for medical or other reasons, students should review and follow the Academic Regulation in the Undergraduate Calendar Requests for Relief for Missed Academic Term Work. Please note these regulations have changed beginning Fall 2015. You can find information at If you have any questions about the MSAF, please contact your Associate Dean's office.

Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities

Students who require academic accommodation must contact Student Accessibility Services (SAS) to make arrangements with a Program Coordinator. Academic accommodations must be arranged for each term of study. Student Accessibility Services can be contacted by phone 905-525-9140 ext. 28652 or e-mail For further information, consult McMaster University's Policy for Academic Accommodation of Students with Disabilities.

Academic Accommodation for Religious, Indigenous and Spiritual Observances

Students requiring academic accommodation based on religion and spiritual observances should follow the procedures set out in the Course Calendar or by their respective Faculty. In most cases, the student should contact his or her professor or academic advisor as soon as possible to arrange accommodations for classes, assignments, tests and examinations that might be affected by a religious holiday or spiritual observance.

Topics and Readings:

Topics include the archaeological and historical context of the textual sources, art works that reflect cultural integration and different belief systems, ranging from shamanism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Mazdaism, Manichaeism, the Eastern Church (Nestorianism) of Christianity, to Islam.

A detailed reading list will be posted on Avenue to Learn.

Week 1           January 4, 5   Introduction: Context and Methodologies                                

Week 2           January 9, 11, 12       Steppe Nomads, “Animal Style” and Shamanism

Week 3           January 16, 18, 19     Steppe Nomads and the Sedentary Qin-Han Chinese

Week 4           January 23, 25, 26     Pre-Kushan Nomadic Elite and Ancient Bactria

Week 5           January 30, February 1, 2     Buddhism and Gandhara

Week 6           February 6, 8, 9         The Kushan Empire and Buddhism

Week 7           February 13, 15, 16   The Kroriana Kingdom

READING WEEK (February 19-23, 2018)

Week 8           February 27, March 1, 2       The Spread of Buddhism East: Khotan and Kucha

Week 9           March 6, 8, 9  The Nomadic rule in Northern China

Week 10         March 13, 15, 16        The Han-Chinese rule in Southern China

Week 11         March 20, 22, 23        Chinese and Sogdian Cultural Integration

Week 12         March 27, 28 (No class on Good Friday) The Cosmopolitan Tang Dynasty

Week 13         April 3, 5, 6          The Impact on Korea and Japan, and Conclusion

The schedule and topics might change subject to the progress of the class. All changes will be posted on Avenue to Learn.

Other Course Information:


Stanley-Baker, Joan. 2000. Japanese Art. N7350.S7 2000

Baumer, Christoph. 2012. The History of Central Asia. 2 vols. DS 786 .H313

Elverskog, Johan. 2010. Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road. BP 173.B9 E48 2010

Juliano, A and Judith Lerner (eds.). 2001. Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northwest China, Gansu and Ningxia, 4th-7th Century. Asia Society.DS 793 .N6 J85 2001

Rice, Tamara Talbot. Ancient Arts of Central Asia. N 7291.R49

Tucker, Jonathan. 2003. The Silk Road: Art and History. N 7260.T835 2003

Watt, James C. Y. China: Dawn of a Golden Age 200-750 AD. N 7343.23 .C55 2004

Whitfield, Susan. 2004. The Silk Road: Trade, Travel, War and Faith. DS 329.4 .S53 2004

Wood, Francis. 2002. The Silk Road. DS 33.1.W55 2002B

Useful websites:

For all citations in the written reports, please consult Chicago Manual of Style

Mills ONLINE Z253 .C53.

Please also consult

All written work is to be typed in font-size 12, double-spaced with a header that includes the student’s family name, number, and pagination.

Please consult Sylvan Barnet’s A Short Guide to Writing about Art—various editions (N 7476.B37 2000) or other similar texts available at Mills Library.