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Readers in Singapore may be interested in this conference held at the Singapore Management University. Registration closes 15 September.

Ancient Silk Trade Routes – Cross Cultural Exchange and Legacy in Southeast Asia
27–28 October 2011
Singapore Management University
Registration details here

As key nodes that connected ancient silk routes traversing China, Japan and India, trading hubs, towns and cities in Java and Sumatra and other places in SE Asia were key destination points for merchants, monks and other itinerants plying these routes.

Recent archaeological excavations in countries bordering the South China Sea and around the Indian Ocean unveiled remarkable similarities in artifacts recovered both on land and from the sea. The similarities underlined the many facets of regional exchanges and cross-cultural influences among people and places in these networks. Some of the findings indicate a distinct Chinese presence in the commercial, social and religious activities of these early SE Asian trading posts.

This symposium explores several threads arising from this regional exchange of goods and ideas, in particular, the cross-cultural dimensions of the exchanges. The agenda for the symposium is as follows:

The Textile Trade – The Silk Road not only facilitated commerce, but also brought about exchanges of art and culture. Speakers will discuss the cultural contexts embedded in the textiles as well as interpretations regarding lifestyles and aesthetic orientations of the various ethnic groups;

The Ceramic Routes – Maritime trade routes have been closely associated with the transport of ceramics, and recent marine archaeological investigations in the waters of South East Asia have provided better understanding of the routes, scale and characteristics of this trade;

The Trading Hubs – Research has opened up new paradigms in the interpretation and study of the complex links between insular and mainland SE Asia and their larger South and East Asian neighbours. This panel will discuss recent works on trade exchanges, port polities, settlement patterns and maritime networks;

Arts & Artifacts – This thread explores cross-cultural influences as manifested in forms, motifs, manufacture and materials in works of art. This Panel will discuss the cultural transformation of Buddhist arts in China as a study of the cross-cultural exchange and the multifaceted outcomes, from aesthetics to lifestyles, language and government policies;

Religion – This thread will examine the impact of the cross-cultural exchanges on the development of Esoteric Buddhism. Excavations in Xi’an, China have discovered another thread in this network, underlining the link between SE Asia and Esoteric Buddhism of China and Japan as monks from these countries sojourned in Java or Sumatra on their way to or back from India. Researchers and academics from countries which were part of this ancient network will also explore and discuss diverse and alternative perspectives and interpretations of the iconographs at Borobodur.

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