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Thursday, April 16, 2009 - 19:30

A New History of the Silk Road

Valerie Hansen

Professor of History,

Yale University;

Visiting Professor,

Beijing University

 Embassy of the Czech Republic 

Jieke Dashiguan 2 Ritan Lu Jianguomenwai


Whenever a European-looking object surfaces in China, many of us assume that sometime in the distant past a merchant on his way from Rome to China must have dropped it. Somewhere in the back of our minds floats an image of a lone figure riding on a camel carrying silk along the Silk Road.

New evidence from the Silk Road, however, suggests that a merchant engaged in private trade is the least likely explanation for how this plate arrived in China. More probably, a ruler dispatched an envoy to present it as a gift to another ruler. If not, then a local craftsman made a copy of something foreign-looking, and a refugee or bandit lost it on the road before he or she could sell it. This lecture surveys recent archeological finds with the goal of clarifying the nature and extent of the Silk Road trade.