Events in UCIS

Thursday, October 25 until Wednesday, May 1

8:30 am Exhibit
Travelers Along the Silk Roads: 10th Century to the Present
Ground and Second Floors, Hillman Library
Sponsored by:
Center for Russian East European and Eurasian Studies along with Year of PittGlobal and Hillman Library
See Details

Free and Open to the Public during Hillman Library Hours

The term Silk Road, coined by 19th century German explorer Ferdinand von Richthofen, refers to a loose network of overland trade routes stretching from the Mediterranean to East Asia. Textiles, gems, spices, animals and even religions were all exchanged along this vast expanse, starting around 1,000 B.C. and continuing for millennia. For much of this time, most Silk Road traders coming from western Eurasia were Muslim, and they brought their beliefs and rich culture to millions of people.

A Crossroads of Ideas

While the Silk Road was a two-way route, most of its movement was eastward, carrying Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Judaism, and later, Islam.

By the 8th century, Muslims stopped thinking of religion geographically and began seeking converts along the Silk Road. The benefits of conversion to such a widespread religion were many, as Muslims preferred trading with other Muslims.

Islamic scientific and medical advancements also had significant impact on Silk Road travelers. Chinese Buddhist traders adopted Islamic medical knowledge in wound healing and urinalysis. Muslims brought India their insights on astronomy, including a skepticism of the geocentric universe.

Cultural Exchange Along the Route

Influences from Buddhist China and other regions also affected radical changes in Islam. In the 12th century, abstract Islamic art suddenly started depicting human figures, long considered forbidden in Islam. Murals showing Buddhist statues and Indian narrative artwork started appearing in mosques, and Islamic art exploded with new techniques and figures. Chinese technologies, such as paper production and gunpowder, were transmitted to the West. Iran’s art in the Mongol period (13th and 14th centuries) is dramatically influenced by Chinese artistic traditions.

The Exhibit Design

The ground floor cases in Hillman Library feature a map of the Silk Road from its Eastern terminus in the Chinese city of Xian to its western terminus in Constantinople. They also display the late-14th century Catalan Atlas, the most detailed world map of its time, showing key places along and major figures who traveled the overland route of the Silk Road. The exhibit continues on the second floor of Hillman Library in five thematic display cases:

*Horses and Dynasties: Cartography and Painting in China, 10th-14th Centuries,
*Alexander the Great, Kublai Khan, and Marco Polo: Confluences of Power and Exchange in Assia,
*Musical Encounters in the Deserts and Mountains of Central Asia,
*Explorations in Turkestan: Aurel Stein and Bamiyan, and
*New World Exploitation and the China Trade with Europe.

Tuesday, January 29

12:00 pm Lecture Series / Brown Bag
Lunch and Learn: Embracing the World at Pitt
William Pitt Union, Lower Lounge
Announced by:
Director's Office on behalf of Year of Pitt Global and Pitt Staff Council
See Details

You have an important role in helping Pitt to Embrace the World. Do you know what’s available through the Year of Pitt Global?
Do you understand the roles of the University Center for International Studies, Office of International Services, and Global Operations Support?
Register today to learn more about Pitt’s global reputation and engagement efforts as well as tools and resources available to everyone to strengthen Pitt’s welcoming environments for international populations on campus and abroad.

Speaker: Belkys Torres, PhD
Executive Director of Global Engagement
Co-Chair, Year of Pitt Global Steering Committee
University Center for International Studies

Please contact Staff Council at 412-624-4236 or email with questions.

4:30 pm Workshop
Hot Topics/Global Perspectives
Hillman Library ground floor (next to Cup and Chaucer)
Sponsored by:
Global Studies Center
See Details

We supply cookies, you supply the questions, insights, and perspectives on contemporary global issues. Join GSC for these informal monthly conversations about pressing contemporary issues. We begin with current events and seek to draw deeper connections and put these issues in transnational perspective. Student-focused, open to all.