Thursday, 31 January 2019

Silk Roads and Steppe Roads of Medieval China: History Unearthed from Tombs

The 2016 Rostovtzeff Lectures were delivered by Jonathan K. Skaff (Shippensburg University).
  • "A Slave Road? Sogdian Merchants and Foreign Slaves at Turfan,"
  • "Sogdians or Borderlanders?, Part I: Lives Revealed in Epitaphs,"
  • "Sogdians or Borderlanders?, Part II: Death Rituals Revealed in Tombs," 
  • "A Tang Dynasty Ally in War and Ritual: The Tomb of Pugu Yitu (635-678) in Mongolia,"                                                                                                                                     














"A Slave Road? Sogdian Merchants and Foreign Slaves at Turfan," 
Tuesday, March 29, 2016 
To watch this first lecture, press HERE

Dr. Jonathan Skaff is a Visiting Research Scholar at ISAW who will deliver the annual M.I. Rostovtzeff Lectures in Spring 2016. Skaff is a Professor of History at Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, where he also has served as Director of International Studies. He developed a lasting fascination with Eurasian cultural connections after teaching English in Shanghai in the mid-1980s and traveling through northwest China, Pakistan, India, Nepal and Tibet. Since receiving his doctorate from the University of Michigan in 1998, his research has investigated medieval China’s frontier interactions with Inner Asia. Most prominently, his book, Sui-Tang China and its Turko-Mongol Neighbors: Culture, Power and Connections, 580-800 (Oxford University Press, 2012) revealed previously unrecognized cultural connections between China and peoples of the Eurasian steppe involving diplomacy, warfare, ideology, and political networking. A Chinese translation is forthcoming from the Social Sciences Academic Press.
Skaff’s Rostovtzeff lectures, entitled Silk Roads and Steppe Roads of Medieval ChinaHistory Unearthed from Tombs, comprise four case studies that use paper documents, stone epitaphs and artifacts excavated from tombs to illuminate China’s interactions with Eurasia. “Silk Roads” is the popular name for east-west land routes—linking East, South, and West Asia and serving as conduits transmitting luxury goods, technology, religion, and artistic motifs. “Steppe Roads” is a term coined by David Christian, who defines them as north-south routes linking the Eurasian steppe’s vast pastoral grasslands with the agricultural regions to the south that facilitated exchanges of goods such as Chinese silks and Mongolian horses. The lecture series argues that the Silk and Steppe Roads were networks through which Eurasian peoples, who perceived their societies to be unique, spun overlapping and entangled webs of culture. The transit hubs of Silk and Steppe Roads were particularly active sites of cultural contestation, experimentation, and mutual influence that had an impact on the historical development of China and Inner Asia.
The first lecture entitled "A Slave Road? Sogdian Merchants and Foreign Slaves at Turfan" introduces the Silk Roads through a case study of Sogdians living as a minority at the Chinese oasis city of Turfan in the six and seventh centuries. The Sogdians were early inhabitants of modern Uzbekistan and Tajikistan who spoke an Iranian dialect, and began to migrate eastward by the fourth century CE to settle in cities and towns on the Silk Roads. The lecture will update Skaff's previous publications on Sogdian farmers and merchants at Turfan by considering recently-discovered paper documents and epitaphs.

"Sogdians or Borderlanders?, Part I: Lives Revealed in Epitaphs," 
Tuesday, April 5, 2016
To watch this lecture, press HERE

The second lecture “Sogdians or Borderlanders?, Part I: Lives Revealed in Epitaphs” will return to the topic of immigrants, but in this case two lineages with the same surname of Shi who settled at Guyuan in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region where the Silk Roads and Steppe Roads intersect. These people were locally powerful elites serving a succession of China-based dynasties as military officers, imperial bodyguards, horse breeders and translators in the sixth and seventh centuries. Their existence literally came to light when archaeologists excavated six tombs at Guyuan in the 1980s and 1990s containing burial goods and seven engraved stone epitaphs written in Chinese. A scholarly consensus has developed that both lineages had Sogdian origins, but this lecture along with the third lecture in the Rostovtzeff series will challenge and complicate this conclusion.




"Sogdians or Borderlanders?, Part II: Death Rituals Revealed in Tombs," 
Tuesday, April 12, 2016
To watch this third lecture, press HERE

The third lecture “Sogdians or Borderlanders?, Part II: Death Rituals Revealed in Tombs” will return to the topic of immigrants, but in this case two lineages with the same surname of Shi who settled at Guyuan in China’s Ningxia Hui Autonomous Region where the Silk Roads and Steppe Roads intersect. These people were locally powerful elites serving a succession of China-based dynasties as military officers, imperial bodyguards, horse breeders and translators in the sixth and seventh centuries. Their existence literally came to light when archaeologists excavated six tombs at Guyuan in the 1980s and 1990s containing burial goods and seven engraved stone epitaphs written in Chinese. A scholarly consensus has developed that both lineages had Sogdian origins, but this lecture along with the second lecture in the Rostovtzeff series will challenge and complicate this conclusion.


大唐故右驍衛大將軍金微州都督上柱國林中縣開國公仆固府君墓志銘並序 / 公諱乙突,朔野金山人,蓋鐵勤之別部也。原夫石紐開基,金峰列構,疏枝布葉,擁 / □塞而推雄,茂族豪宗,跨龍城而表盛。亦有日磾純孝,泣畫像於漢宮,日逐輸忠, / 委□□於鑾邳。求諸史諜,代有人焉。祖歌濫拔延,皇朝左武衛大將軍、金 / 微州都督。父思匐,繼襲金微州都督。並志識開敏,早歸皇化,覘風請謁,匪 / 獨美於奇肱,候日虔誠,本自知於稽顙。公幼而驍勇,便習馳射,彎弧挺妙,得自乘 / 羊之年,矯箭抽奇,見賞射雕之手。及父歿傳嗣,遂授本部都督,統率部落,遵奉 / 聲教。回首面內,傾心盡節。俄以賀魯背誕,方事長羈,爰命熊羆之軍,克剿犬羊之 / 眾。公乃先鳴制勝,直踐寇庭,無勞拔幟之謀,即取搴旗之效。策勛敘績,方寵懋官, / 詔授右武衛郎將,尋授護軍,封林中縣開國子,俄除左武衛大將軍。至麟德二年,/鑾駕將巡岱岳,既言從塞北,非有滯周南,遂以汗馬之勞,預奉射牛之禮。服既榮 / 於飾玉,職且貴於銜珠,厚秩載隆,貞心逾勵。及東征靺鞨,西討吐蕃,並效忠勤,亟 / 摧凶丑。裒錄功績,前后居多,尋除右驍衛大將軍,依舊都督,加上柱國,林中縣開 / 國公,食邑一千戶。頻加寵授,載踐崇班,邁彼氈裘之鄉,參茲纓冕之列。光 / 膺啟國,既錫茅土之封,趨步升朝,且曳桃花之綬。方謂高情壯志,媲金石而同堅,/ 豈圖脆質小年,與風露而俱殞。奄辭白日,長歸玄夜。以儀鳳三年二月廿九日遘 / 疾,終於部落。春秋卌有四。/ 天子悼惜久之,敕朝散大夫、守都水使者天山郡開國公麴昭,監護吊祭, / 賻物三百段,錦袍金裝帶弓箭胡祿鞍韉等各一具。凡厥喪葬,並令官給,並為立 / 碑。即以其年歲次戊寅八月乙酉朔十八日壬寅,永窆於纈碖原,禮也。生死長乖,/ 哀榮畢備,深沉苦霧,方結慘於鬆塋,飋[風+日]悲風,獨含淒於薤鐸。對祁連而可像,寄□勒而有詞,述德表功,乃為銘曰:/西歭蔥山,北臨蒲海,土風是系,英杰攸在。葉貫箭鋒,花分騎彩,孫謀有裕,祖襲無 / 改。束發來儀,腰鞬入侍,/ 天德斯溥,人胥以洎。獻款畢同,輸忠靡異,臨危效節,致果為毅。疇庸啟邑,疏爵命 / 官,從軍擁旆,拜將登壇。赫弈光顯,榮名可觀,方奉 / 明時,遽歸幽穸。壯志何在,瓌容共惜,鶴隴俄封,雞田罷跡。月落無曉,雲來自昏,鳥 / 切響於鴻塞,人銜悲於雁門,庶清塵而不泯,紀玄石而長存。


"A Tang Dynasty Ally in War and Ritual: The Tomb of Pugu Yitu (635-678) in Mongolia," 
Tuesday, April 19, 2016
To watch the fourth episode, press HERE

The final lecture “A Tang Dynasty Ally in War and Ritual: The Tomb of Pugu Yitu (635-678) in Mongolia” takes the audience along the Steppe Roads from China to Mongolia to investigate another recently discovered tomb and epitaph. The history of Mongolia is little known between the First Türk (552–630) and Second Türk (682–742) Empires. Chinese historical records claim that the Tang Dynasty exerted suzerainty over Mongolia during the interregnum through vassal rulers, but offer few details after 660. Likewise, Uighur Empire (744-840) inscriptions assert an earlier period of rule over Mongolia in alliance with the Tang. The recent excavation of Pugu Yitu’s tomb and Chinese-language epitaph shows that an alliance endured through the 670s and throws new light on cultural connections between China and Mongolia.

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