SOAS University of London

Department of the History of Art and Archaeology, School of Arts

Art and Archaeology of the Silk Road

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2018/2019
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year
The course is designed to give MA level students a grounding in the study of Buddhist and pre-Buddhist art and archaeology along the trade routes between Central Asia and China, beginning with the increasing exchange along these roads in the second century BC up to the 9th century AD, when the interaction collapsed to a great extent. 


  • This Module is capped at 25 places
  • Students enrol via the online Module Sign-Up system. Students are advised of the timing of this process via email by the Faculty Office.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

Although the course is mainly concentrated on Chinese sites, areas like Central Asia, Persia, Tibet, as well as Korea and Japan will be touched as well. The seminars are structured in three general sections:

  • the pre-Buddhist silk road, 
  • Buddhism along the silk road, 
  • and China under silk road influence.

Students will access the topics through readings in a wide range of reference works within the field. This in turn will lead students to a broader consideration of the place of the study of Chinese and China-related art within the discipline of art history, and to an engagement with the issues of the relationship of the particular objects of China's cultural history with the methodological paradigms which have developed within the discipline over the past decades. 
During the course, students will be expected to give oral presentations and to do individual research on a chosen topic.


One hour Lecture, one hour Seminar

Method of assessment

  • One 2 000 words essay (worth 32%)
  • One 3 000 words essay (worth 50%)
  • Two slide tests (worth 9% each)

Suggested reading

  • Stanley K. Abe: Ordinary Images, University of Chicago Press, 2002.
  • Rhie, Marylin Martin:
    • Early Buddhist Art of China and Central Asia, vol. 1: Later Han, Three Kingdoms and Western Chin in China and Bactria to Shan-shan in Central Asia. Leiden, Brill, 1999; 
    • Early Buddhist Art of China and Central Asia, vol 2: The Eastern Chin and Sixteen Kingdoms Period in China and Tumshuk, Kucha and Karashahr in Central Asia, Leiden 2002.
  • Jennifer F So and Emma C Bunker: Traders and Raiders on China's Northern Frontier. University of Washington Press/ Arthur M Sackler Gallery, 2002.
  • Zürcher, Erik: The Buddhist Conquest of China. Leiden 1959.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules