On and Beyond the Silk Road

I. Meeting of Cultures

(Series of online lectures organised by the Section for the Study of Cultures along the Silk Road)

The role of trade routes has usually gone far beyond simply meeting the material needs of a community, providing the products needed and allowing for the exchange or sale of goods. From the perspective of centuries, the cultural significance of the routes exceeds their purely economic value. Even goods that were once traded are now valuable primarily as a source of information about previous epochs and cultures.

Merchants were not the only group to use trade routes. Equally important were, among others, world curious travellers, envoys, officials or monks, set on the journey in search of knowledge or to promote their faith in distant countries. They all contributed to the fact that trade routes and, in particular, their staging points, oases and cities have often become lively centres of intellectual exchange.

One of the most famous trade routes, still strongly affecting the imagination today, is the Silk Road. The name may be misleading, as we are not dealing here with a single route, but rather a network of local roads in Central and Eastern Asia, leading to the countries of the Mediterranean Basin. In addition, the sea route has connected the land route with the countries of South-East Asia and South Asia, on the one hand, and with the south-eastern Mediterranean, East Africa and South Arabia, on the other. It is therefore not surprising that few people took the trouble to travel along the entire Silk Road, particularly overland, and that the trade there was primarily local. Similarly, even silk itself was not the only product transported along this route, nor did it always play a major role there.

The planned lectures will be devoted to various aspects of the Silk Road and the cultural exchanges that have taken place on and around it. The first series, which will take place in the academic year 2020/21, will give an insight into the richness of issues related to the Silk Road, but for obvious reasons, it does not exhaust this subject. In addition to the introduction to this field of research, some topics concerning art, languages, literature, religion and archaeology will be addressed. All these themes will be continued and deepened in the future.

We are extremely pleased that for this first cycle we have managed to attract such distinguished speakers as Prof. Diwakar Acharya (Oxford), Dr. Stefan Baums (Munich), Dr. habil. Dragomir Dimitrov (Marburg), Prof. Erika Forte (Kyoto), Prof. Hiromi Habata (Tokyo), Prof. Marek Mejor (Warsaw), Prof. Monika Zin (Leipzig), among others.

The lectures will be held online (via MS Teams) and will be open to the public.
If you are interested, please contact us at .



27 November 2020 at 5 pm: Prof. Marek Mejor, “Szlak Jedwabny: na skrzyżowaniu kultur” [Silk Road: At the Crossroads of Cultures; in Polish].

18 December 2020 at 5 pm: Prof. Monika Zin, “Buddyjskie malowidła ścienne z rejonu Kuča na Północnym Jedwabnym Szlaku” [Buddhist Murals of Kucha on the Northern Silk Road; in Polish].

22 January 2021 at 5 pm: Dr Stefan Baums, “Buddhist Manuscripts from Gandhāra: The Word of the Buddha and His Commentators”.

26 February 2021 at 5 pm: Dr habil. Dragomir Dimitrov, “On the Buddhist Indus Script and Scriptures of the Sāṃmitīyas”.

12 March 2021 at 10 am: Prof. Erika Forte, “New Ruins in an Old Context: The Buddhist Site of Toplukdong (Domoko) in Khotan (7th–9th c. CE)”.

23 April 2021 at 5 pm: Prof. Diwakar Acharya, “Bodhisattva Becomes Shiva: On the Trans-Himalayan Cult of Lokeshvara Worship and its Reinterpretation in Pre-Modern Times”.

7 May April 2021 at 10 am: Prof. Hiromi Habata, “Lost Buddhist Culture Reflected in Tocharian Literature”.

14 May 2021 at 5 pm: Prof. Max Deeg, “A 7th Century Record of a Gateway to India: The First Chapter of Xuanzang’s Datang Xiyu ji (Record of the Western Regions)”.

28 May 2021 at 5 pm: Prof. Steven Sidebotham, “An Ancient Merchant’s Journey from India to Alexandria in Roman Times”.

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