Upcoming Events

The Silk Roads: From Local Realities to Global Narratives
28 – 30 March, 2019
Wake Forest University
Reynolda House Museum of American Art
2250 Reynolda Road, Winston-Salem, North Carolina 27106

Silk Roads Winston-Salem (SRWS) is an interdisciplinary group of Wake Forest University faculty that came together in the Fall 2016 semester to encourage teaching and scholarship related to the social, literary, religious, and artistic exchanges along the historical Silk Roads. From this group, the faculty formed an ad-hoc Steering Committee to organize events and programming. In the Spring 2017 semester, the Steering Committee announced the SRWS project to the general faculty at the College Faculty Meeting on March 13, 2017.  The Steering Committee decided to focus its efforts over the course of two years, spanning the 2017-2018 and 2018-2019 academic years. The planned events culminate in a research symposium that will bring leading scholars of Silk Roads studies to the Wake Forest campus.

A multiple-day, interdisciplinary conference will be held March 27-30, 2019. Instead of adhering to a geographic or temporal focus, the theme of the conference emphasizes exchange and transformation along the Silk Roads—moments of acculturation or hybridization that contributed to novel syncretic forms.

Previous Silk Roads conferences have often been targeted to specific disciplines, such as visual arts, archaeology, historical texts, or contemporary crafts. The Silk Roads: From Local Realities to Global Narratives brings together leading scholars in multiple disciplines related to Silk Roads studies. This holistic approach to understanding ancient globalization, exchanges, transformations, and movements—and their continued relevance to the present—is in line with contemporary academic trends toward interdisciplinary. Indeed, the Silk Roads is such an expansive topic that many approaches to its study must be included to accurately represent its many facets.

The Silk Roads: From Local Realities to Global Narratives takes a comprehensive approach to defining the field of Silk Road studies. It does so in three ways:

  1. We highlight the multiplicity of networks that constituted the Silk Roads. Crucially, we incorporate both land and maritime routes into a single focus.
  2. We approach the Silk Roads from a plethora of time periods spanning from the first millennium BCE to the Early Modern Period.
  3. We include participants from many disciplines, rather than cater to a single academic specialty.

Our hope in developing this comprehensive format is that it will lead to a new definition of the contours of Silk Roads studies. We seek to establish a new foundation for the field based on an interdisciplinary approach to current research.


Thursday 28 March 2019

8:30am – 8:45am – Introduction

8:45am – 10:05am – Session 1

8:45 Benjamin Coates, Chair

8:50 Elizabeth Clendinning (Wake Forest University), “A Balanese Welcoming Dance”

9:15 Andrew Gurstelle (Wake Forest University), “Trial and Error at Tongguan”

9:40 ZHANG Qiong (Wake Forest University), “Strange Journeys of the Yakṣas: Politics, Science, and Cultural Imagination in the Cartographic Encounters between Early Modern Europe, Ming-Qing China, and Tokugawa Japan”

10:30am – 12:15pm – Session 2

10:30 Ulrike Wiethaus, Chair

10:35 James Millward (Georgetown University), “What Do We Mean by ‘Cultural Exchange’ on the ‘Silk Road’? Thoughts from a Study of the Eurasian Lute”

11:00 Tansen Sen (New York University-Shanghai), “Against “Silk Road(s)”! Alternatives to Understanding Pre-modern Cross-Regional Interactions”

11:25 Nicola Di Cosmo (Institute for Advanced Study), “Ecological Frontiers, Economic Exchange, and the Origins of the Silk Road”

11:50 Michael L. Bates (American Numismatic Society), “Restructuring Central Asia by Place and Time”

2:00pm – 3:45pm – Session 3

2:00 Megan Mulder, Chair

2:05 WU Xin (Fudan University), “The Achaemenid Empire and the Formation of the Silk Roads”

2:30 Jennifer Post (University of Arizona), “New Trade Routes, Local Soundways, and Environmental Impact: Changing Pastoral Soundscapes and Lifeways in Inner Asia”

2:55 Tim Williams (University College London), “The Silk Roads as a Complex Networks of Interaction – for Infectious Diseases, Political Struggle, and Urban Transformations”

3:20 Judith A. Lerner (New York University), “Silk Roads and the Impact of Sogdian Dance”


7:30 – 10:00 – Performance: Silk Road Ensemble


Friday 29 March 2019

8:30am – 10:15am – Session 4

8:30 Nina Lucas, Chair

8:35 YANG Juping (Nankai University), “New Discoveries, New Problems: Legacies of Hellenistic Civilization on the Silk Roads”

9:00 Stewart Carter (Wake Forest University), “Music for the Sogdian Whirl: Instruments, Ensembles, and Dancers in Buddhist Art of the Tang Dynasty”

9:25 Hyunhee Park (The City University of New York, John Jay College), “Local and Global: Canton During the Pax Mongolica

9:50 QI Xiaoyan (Changzhi University), “The Sogdians in Shanxi (386-618 AD): Chinese Literary Sources and Archaeological Evidence”

10:45am – 12:30pm – Session 5

10:45 Steve Folmar, Chair

10:50 Touraj Daryaee (University of California-Irvine), “Hoards and Roads: What Can the Sasanian Silver Drahms Tell Us about the Silk Road?”

11: 15 James A. Anderson (University of North Carolina-Greensboro), “Pearls and Power: Chōla’s Tribute Mission to the Northern Song Court within the Maritime Silk Road”

11:40 DU Dan (University of North Carolina-Charlotte), “Flying Cash: Credit Instruments on the Silk Roads”

12:05 Jay Ford (Wake Forest University), “Mahāyāna Buddhism and the Silk Road”

2:00pm – 3:45pm – Session 6

2:00 T. H. M. Gellar-Goad, Chair

2:05 Chapurukha M. Kusimba (American University), “Exploring Maritime Networks Between China and East Africa”

2:30 Margaret Sarkissian (Smith College), “From Fabled Port to Muddy Lagoon: The Fluctuating Fortunes of One Stop on the Maritime Silk Road”

2:55 John Ruddiman (Wake Forest University), “Soldier to Supercargo, Continental to Consul: Samuel Shaw’s Pursuits of Independence on an Oceanic ‘Silk Road’”

3:20 Jeffrey D. Lerner (Wake Forest University), “Shipwrecked Indians on the Coast of Germania?”

4:00pm – 5:20pm – Session 7

4:00 Ananda Mitra, Chair

4:05 SHI Yunli (University of Science and Technology of China), “Charting the Chinese Sky with Western Observations: The Star Maps Made by Jesuit Astronomers in the Late Ming Dynasty Revisted”

4:30 Charles Wilkins (Wake Forest University), “Gambling with History? The Persian Card Room at Graylyn International Conference Center”


8:00 Hanes Gallery
The Persian Card Room at Graylyn

Saturday 30 March 2019

9:00am – 10:15am – Session 8

9:00 Rob Hellyer, Chair

9:05 Wayne Silver (Wake Forest University), “A TRP along the Silk Road: How We Detect and Use Spices”

9:30 Monique O’Connell (Wake Forest University), “Silk Road Pharmacy: Merchants, Apothecaries, and Plague Remedies in Early Modern Venice”

9:55 Eric Dursteler (Brigham Young University), “Spice and Taste in the Culinary World of the Early Modern Mediterranean”

10:45am – 12:30pm – Session 9

10:45 Laura Veneskey, Chair

10:50 Nancy S. Steinhardt (University of Pennsylvania), “The Role of Chinese Architecture and its Decoration along Sixth-Tenth Century Silk Roads”

11:15 LUO Di (Wake Forest University), “Diamond in the Square: Lantern Ceilings in Traditional Asian Architecture”

11:40 Bernadine Barnes (Wake Forest University), “Prints and Pilgrims on the Silk Road”

12:05 SHI Yaohua (Wake Forest University), “Kyoto and Dunhuang: Pure Land Buddhism”

2:00pm – 3:20pm – Session 10

2:00 Monique O’Connell, Chair

2:05 Lina Benabdallah (Wake Forest University), “Between Past and Future: the Role of Temporality and Nostalgia in Chinese-African Relations”

2:30 Silvia Tiboni-Craft and Qiaona Yu (Wake Forest University), “Traveling the Silk Roads: a Virtual Path to Language Acquisition, Culture, Literature and Business in the Past and Present”

2:55 Margaret Ewalt (Wake Forest University), “Convergent Knowledge (Ex)change along the Literal and Figurative Silk Roads: How “China china” or “Jesuits’ bark” became “quinine””

3:35pm – 4:55pm – Session 11

3:35 Wei-chin Lee, Chair

3:40 Chad Haines (Arizona State University), “Placing Cosmopolitanism: Global, National, and Local Imaginings of the Silk Route in Pakistan”

4:05 Rais Rahman (Wake Forest University), “Cosmopolitan Universe: Bombay as a Site of Intersecting Identities”

4:30 Saba Samee (Institute for Art and Culture, Lahore), “The Progression of the Silk Roads into a Global Economic Corridor and its Impact on the People of Pakistan”


7:30 – 9:00 – Closing Reception



We Thank our Sponsors

Department of History

Kline Harrison, Associate Provost for Global Affairs