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.

Thursday, April 18

12:00 pm Lecture Series / Brown Bag
The Stories Polish Secret Police Files Tell Us
4130 Wesley W. Posvar Hall
Sponsored by:
Center for Russian East European and Eurasian Studies along with Department of History and Department of Political Science
See Details

Anna Krakus, University of Southern California

Police files tend to catalog a suspect’s crime. Police files in communist countries, however, go much further and document a suspect’s biography. This was the case in Polish police files where genres of biography and criminal surveillance blurred, turning the cop into a kind of literary author. Communist police files, therefore, told stories—not just about the factual and fictive biographical characteristics of a subject, but also intimate aspects of their personal lives and relationships. This live interview with Anna Krakus will delve into the police as author and the ways police files reflected literary elements that intersected with literary genres found in communist Poland.

3:00 pm Lecture Series / Brown Bag
The Rediscovery of Sogdian: The Lingua Franca of the Medieval Silk Road
Hillman Library, First Floor - Thornburgh Room
Sponsored by:
Center for Russian East European and Eurasian Studies
See Details

Presented by Nicholas Sims-Williams, Emeritus Professor of Iranian and Central Asian Studies, SOAS University of London.

This event is part of the Guest Speaker Series of Silk Roads Rising: Globalization and Exchange from the 10th Century to the Present.

6:00 pm Lecture
Art in the US-Japan Relationship
Carnegie Museum of Arts, 4400 Forbes Ave
Sponsored by:
Asian Studies Center along with Japan America Society of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Museum of Art, National Association of Japan America Societies and Japan-United States Friendship Commission
See Details

Beyond his fame as Pulitzer-Prize-winning author of Tales of the South Pacific and Hawaii,James A. Michener was an enthusiastic collector of fine art. He managed to assemble the third largest collection of ukiyo-e in the United States, which he donated to the Honolulu Museum of Art. Join us at the Carnegie Museum of Art to learn about Michener's collecting journey with Stephen Salel, Curator of Japanese Art. Please register at