Alain George: China and the Islamic world: early encounters in art, religion and commerce

Lecture

In the 7th to 9th centuries, following the rise of Islam, contacts between the eastern and western ends of the Asian continent reached unprecedented levels. Direct sea trade witnessed a spectacular growth: for the first time, southern China could be reached directly from Iraq, at the heart of the Islamic world, on a regular basis, in a matter of months. Baghdad and Chang'an, the Abbasid and Tang capitals were the greatest cities in the world, and the ties between their immensely rich empires grew. Three social groups became key actors in an ongoing exchange of objects and ideas: Islamic political élites, with their embassies and luxury gifts; Christian missionaries from the Syriac-speaking Church of the East, who sought (and eventually failed) to give their faith an enduring foothold in China; and merchants from Iraq, mostly Muslim, established in large numbers on the South China coast. The present seminar will focus on the artistic and material dimensions of these understudied interactions, which set the trend for centuries of contacts between China and the Islamic world.

Kunsthistorisches Institut in Florenz - Max-Planck-Institut
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