The Shahid Beheshti University of Tehran, Iran has established the Iranian Research Center on the Silk Roads. The Center is a scientific and academic institution, and a unique academic research center in Iran to focus on the Silk Roads.
Arts and Literature
The Kazakh Research Institute of Culture (KazRIC), established November 10th, 1934, was one of the first scientific institutions in Kazakhstan. Originally, it united several scientific and educational organizations: the Kazakh Central Archive, the Regional Museum, the Regional Bureau and the State Library.
The arts of the book in Central Asia between the eighth and sixteenth centuries were centred around miniatures and calligraphy. The spread of new trends and styles is indicative of the lines of communication that connected much of Central Asia. Calligraphy became increasingly important after the conversion of many of these regions to Islam, and these art forms continued to be cultivated and developed in schools such as the school of Samarkand.
The Turkic, Uighur and Mongol peoples produced a range of arts and crafts. Ceramics, metalworking, jewelry, and artefacts in wood, glass and bone, as well as fabric-making and sculptures, were all important to these areas. Hindu and Buddhist art has also had an impact on artistic culture, as seen in the crafting and decoration of pottery and tiles.
Myanmar served as a significant ‘hub’ in the cross-cultural transfer of objects, traditions, techniques and artistic influences that flowed from China through Central Asia, Western Asia as far as Europe (and vice versa) – both by land and maritime routes. The reasons for this were Myanmar’s geographical location, long coastline with many ports and its river access to China.
Excavations in Panjikent in Tajikistan have revealed mural paintings of particular significance for the history of literature. These works by Sogdian painters, which range from the 6th to the 8th century AD, illustrate fables, epics and folk tales from different origins along the Silk Roads. The literary works represented on the walls include for instance fables by Aesop, stories from the Indian Panchatantra and the tale of the seven exploits of the Persian warrior Rustam.
Ancient Arabic poetry used two elaborated structures that acquired considerable prestige and became recognized as classic structures of Arabic poetry: one reserved strictly for the funeral elegy, the marthiya, and the second one, the qasida (the ode) serving as the framework for all thematic developments.
The island of Sri Lanka was a popular stopover for merchants because of its strategically advantageous position on various oceanic trade routes, its beautiful scenery and the valuable goods that could be found there, such as pearls and precious stones. It was also a meeting place for sailors, adventurers and pilgrims from different cultural backgrounds. Arab merchants came to Sri Lanka even in pre-Christian times, and their influence became more and more important after the birth of Islam, when Arab settlements spread all over the island.
Textiles and artistic fabrics are one of the oldest art forms of Central Asia. From the sixteenth to the mid-nineteenth centuries, silks, velvet, brocade, and wool were central to trade and culture in Iran, India, Western China, Transoxania and Mongolia, and carpets were the most important product of this art.
While there an overlapping of cultures of East and West via the Silk Routes usually occurred throughout history, the peninsula of Korea, however, restricted itself to mostly ‘absorbing’ cultural and artistic influences from far and wide and few traces of Korean culture have been found in Central Asia. Evidence of this cultural and material appropriation can be found in several tumuli, including buckled belts with a Scythian zoomorphic influence, Roman and Germanic glassware, central-Asian inspired metalwork, Chinese-inspired painting techniques.