SOAS University of London

History of Art and Archaeology

China and the Silk Road: Art and Archaeology

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Term 2

This module covers the period from the 5th century of the Common Era through to the collapse of the Yuan dynasty in the 14th century . It focusses primarily on the overland routes (Silk and Steppe) that connected China with Central Asia and also Northern India and Persia. Using both archaeological and textual materials, it examines the role of contact, interaction and exchange on the development of material culture (tombs, architecture, textiles, metalwork, ceramics, painting, sculpture, glass) in Central Asia and China. There is also an emphasis on the conduit role these routes played in the transmission of religions, particularly Buddhism but also Zoroastrianism and Manichaeanism. The course as structured stresses cross regional and cross disciplinary approaches.  It encourages students to develop skills of visual analysis, engage with scholarly issues and critically examine the methodological paradigms and narratives that have shaped the study of the Silk Road over the past century.


  • This Module is capped at 30 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

On successful completion of this module a student will be able to:

  • Assess critically the materials and themes explored in this module
  • Identify  and evaluate established paradigms and experiment with alternative models
  • Analyse  material culture in terms of the theories and methods discussed during the module
  • Reflect and comment critically on issues regarding ethnicity and identity
  • Develop, articulate and justify scholarly positions using relevant and correct terminology
  • Demonstrate a knowledge of the range of materials and resources available to support research in the study of Silk road art and archaeology.


  • One hour lecture, one hour seminar

Method of assessment

  • One 1,000-word object analysis (worth 25%)
  • One 2,000-word essay (worth 65%)
  • Seminar participation (worth 10%)

Suggested reading

  • Stanley K. Abe. 2002. Ordinary Images. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Valerie Hansen. 2012. The Silk Road -- A New History. Oxford: Oxford University Press
  • James C.Y. Watt. 2004. China - Down of a Golden Age, 220–750 AD.  New Haven and London: Yale University Press
  • -----------------------2010. The World of Khubilai Khan: Chinese Art in the Yuan Dynasty. New Haven: Yale University.  


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules