Kenyon College homepage Department of Religious Studies
Nurten Kilic-Schubel 

Syllabus: ASIA 490 Senior Seminar: Asia in Comparative Perspective

Prof. Nurten Kilic-Schubel


ASC 311, PBX 5077

Tues.-EVE PLM 200

Office Hours: Wed: 2:00-3:30,Thurs.:2:30-4:00


Course Description:
This year's seminar for Asian studies will focus on the history and legacy of the Great Silk Road. The Silk Road, stretching from China to the Mediterranean world, has been alive for thousands of years with dynamic interactions among various Asian civilizations. It functioned as a vital link in the religious, cultural and economic exchanges among them and thus had a critical impact on all of Asia. The course will focus on the impact of those economic and cultural and religious exchanges on the development of Asian civilizations as well as the social and political changes in Asia, which in turn had an impact on the Silk Road. The class will include both lectures and class discussions, but as it is a seminar it will depend largely on your participation. Main discussion topics will include interactions among various religions, art forms and literature, the importance of nomadic and sedentary relations in the history and the development of the "Asian World" system, the pivotal role of the Mongols and Turco-Mongols in Asian history, as well as, the role of trade and religion in state formations along the Silk Road.

Required Texts:
The following texts are available for purchase in the bookstore.

Sally Hovey Wriggins, Xuanzang. A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road. Oxford, 1996.

Vikram Seth. From Heavenly Lake. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.

Richard C. Foltz, Religions of the Silk Road. Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century. New York: St. Martin's Griffin, 1999.

Jerry H. Bentley. Old World Encounters. Cross Cultural Contacts and Exchanges in Pre-Modern Times. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1993.

Marshall G.S. Hodgson. Rethinking World History. Essays on Europe, Islam and World History. Cambridge: Cambridge University press, 1993.

Peter Hopkirk. Foreign Devils on the Silk Road. The Search for the Lost Cities and Treasures of Chinese Central Asia. Amherst: The University of Massachusetts Press, 1980.

Ibn-i Battuta. Travels in Asia and Africa 1325-1354.

Texts on Reserve:
The following texts are on reserve in the library.

Andre Gunder Frank. The Centrality of Central Asia. Comparative Asian Studies. Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1992.
David Morgan. The Mongols. Oxford: Basic Blackwell, 1986.

Cuiyi Wei and Karl W. Luckert. Uighur Stories From Along the Silk Road. Oxford: University of America, 1998.

Janet Abu-Lughod, Before European Hegemony: The World System A.D.1250-1350. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989.

Isenbike Togan, Flexibility and Limitation in Steppe Formations. Leiden, New York, Koln, 1998.

Richard Bernstein, Ultimate Journey. New York, 2001.

I will also provide supplementary reading list and handouts.

Useful Web Links:
Silk Road Foundation:
The International Dunhuang Project:
Central Asia World Wide Web:

Course Requirements and Grading:

(1) Class attendance and participation. This is a seminar and regular attendance and participation is mandatory. Excessive unexcused absences will result in a lowering of one's grade. Everyone will be expected to respond in someway to the readings and, most importantly to the presentations of their fellow students. At the beginning of each meeting each student will turn in a list of three questions and/or insights about the readings. These will be used to stimulate class discussion. Failure to turn in a list will result in a lowering of one's grade. In the weeks in which students are leading discussions they will be exempt from this requirement. (30%)
(2) Each week one student will initiate a discussion of the readings. One responsibility of the discussion leaders will be to write reaction papers on reading assignments (4-5 pages). Another responsibility of the discussion leader will be to identify place names that occur in the readings for that week, on a map.(40 %)
(3) A final short essay (7-10 pages) on topics chosen in consultation with the instructor. It should draw on your area of specialization in Asian Studies. Papers must be fully documented and contain a bibliography. These papers will be photocopied and distributed to the class for discussion during the last two class periods. Papers will be due on or before Nov. 13. No exception. (30%)

There is no final exam in this class.

If you have a disability and therefore may have need for some type of accommodation in order to participate fully in this class, please feel free to discuss your concern in private with me and be sure to contact Erin Salva at the Office of the Dean for Academic Advising.
The Course Outline:

Week One (Aug.28)-Introduction to course. Preliminary discussion of the role and significance of the Silk Road(s) in Asia and world history.
Pictures: "The Story of Lady Wen-Chi"

Week Two (Sept. 4)-How to study Asia?
Readings: Hodgson, 3-91, 267-299.

Week Three (Sept.11)--Early contacts and communications along the Silk Road(s), nomads and sedentary people.
Readings: Bentley, 3-66; Foltz, 1-23.
A clip from Video: " In search of the Kingdom of Lou-Lan"

Week Four (Sept.18)-Religions, Trade and Art: Travelers on the Silk Road
Readings: Foltz, pp.23-109; Bentley, 67-110; Cuiyi Wei, 40-43, 99-106, 78-81 Xuanzang, 1-50.
Guest Lecturer: Prof. Joseph Adler, " Buddhism along the Silk Road"

IMPORTANT NOTE: Richard Bernstein noted book critic for the New York Times and the author of the book, Ultimate Journey. Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment will be giving the Storer Lecture on Monday September 24 on a topic related to this course. This lecture is required unless you have a class or job conflict.

Week Five (Sept. 25)-A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road
Readings: Xuanzang, 52-128, Bernstein, 3-70.
Guest Lecturer: Richard Bernstein.

Week Six (Oct 2)-Art along the Silk Road
Video: "Art Gallery in the Desert"
Readings: Xuanzang, 129-194.
Guest lecturer: Prof. Sarah Blick " The Art of Silk Road"

Week Seven (Oct. 16)--Silk Road under the Mongols: The Mongol World System
Readings: Togan, 17-59, Morgan, 55-135; Bentley, 111-164; Foltz, 111-144, Abu-Lughod, 153-184.

Week Eight (Oct. 23)-- Islam in Asia and along the Silk Road
Readings: Battuta, 43-181-, Hodgson, 97-125, 171-206
Guest Lecturer: Prof. Vernon Schubel " Islam and Sufism along the Silk Road"

Week Nine (Oct. 30)-Regional Empires and Trade in Asia in early Modern Period: Did the Silk Road and Central Asia decline?
Readings: Rossabi (handout), Togan (handout), and, Gunder- Frank, (on reserve)

Week Ten (Nov. 6)-Orientalism along the Silk Road.
Readings: Hopkirk, pp.32-144. A clip from Video: " Across the Taklamakan Desert"

Week Eleven (Nov. 13)--A Modern Traveler along the Silk Road. Papers due!
Readings: Vikram Seth, pp.1-80 and handouts and a clip from Video: "Two Roads to the Pamirs"

Week Twelve (Nov. 27)-Vikram Seth, Part II.
Readings: Seth, pp.80-178, handouts

Week Thirteen (Dec. 4)-Presentation and Discussion of Student Papers.

Week Fourteen (Dec.11)-- Presentation and Discussion of Student Papers