UVA East Asia Center
Lecture on Monday 30 September 2013
Room 130 Monroe hall, Charlottesville
Speaker: Judith Lerner, New York University
Co-sponsored by the Institute of the Humanities and Global Cultures
The Sogdians were an East Iranian people who lived in what is today Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. They are best known for their mercantile activities along the so-called “Silk Route,” that network of roads that connected the eastern Mediterranean with China. Indeed, Sogdian caravans and Sogdian trading communities established across Central Asia and well into China abetted the intense intercultural exchanges that took place between East and West during the 5th-8th centuries--the period in which Sogdiana flourished. Not only were Sogdians instrumental in the exchange of goods from varied cultures, their caravans aided the transference of different peoples, craft techniques, religious ideas and actual texts. Importantly, Sogdians were instrumental in bringing Buddhism, Manichaeism, and Nestorian Christianity to China; as well as introducing their own religion, Zoroastrianism. But the Sogdians were not mere intermediaries. Sogdian art, craft and architecture enjoyed great influence in China well into the mid-Tang period; following the Muslim conquest of Sogdiana in 722, Sogdian art served as a model for successive Islamic courts. This lecture will focus on Sogdian visual culture as known in Sogdiana itself and in China. I will survey the architecture, painting and sculpture unearthed in the Sogdian cities of Varakhsha (near present-day Bukhara), Afrasiab (Old Samarkand), and Panjikent; as well as the funeral beds and sarcophagi discovered in China that belonged to members of the Sogdian--and other Central Asian--communities that had settled there.