Various Essay Topics

Assessment 1: Essay
Format: Write a 3000-word essay (footnotes and bibliography excluded) on ONE of the essay topics listed below. The essay should be properly referenced (footnotes or endnotes are acceptable) and include a separate bibliography. You must submit to the Turn-it-in box marked “Essays” on the Moodle site. Be sure to complete ALL of the sections in the upload dialogue box.
At least SIX references are required for the completion of this essay
Only ONE foreign language reference is allowed to be cited
The essay word count has a 10% leeway, which means 2750 – 3250 words are acceptable. It is strongly discouraged that you write an overtly lengthy essay. 3300 words is the topic limit.
You MUST come up with an essay title. Remember, an essay title is NOT the same as a research question.
The readings listed her3 are suggestions. You are not required to base your essay on the materials suggested for each topic. You are free to look for material that better supports your argument or that is more accessible. Look at the section “Resources for Students” and also at the recommended websites. If you wish to write your essay on a topic not contained in this list, you should apply for permission to do so by contacting your lecturer by email as early as possible and certainly before the end of classes. Tell her the title of your proposed essay and a short list of the references you intend to use. Once you have chosen a topic, you must stick closely to that topic in writing your essay. This will be the title you enter into the “Submission title” section of the ‘upload dialogue’ box.
In writing the essay, make sure that you use only your own words. Refer to all your sources in footnotes or endnotes and attach a list of these sources as “Bibliography” to your essay. Both the Harvard and the APA system of referencing are acceptable.
Essay questions:
1). What were the aspects of the geography and ecology of Central Asia that led to the rise of pastoral nomadism and irrigation agriculture. Did they lead to trade?
This question asks you to look at trade along the Silk Road as conditioned by ecological factors. You might want to look at such factors as availability of water; mountain, oasis, desert steppe ecology; animal populations, plant distribution; as well as human interactions with both other groups and the environment.
David Christian, A History of Russia, Central Asia and Mongolia, Vol 1. Oxford: Blackwell 1998, pp.69-157.
Stuart Legg, The Heartland. London: Secker & Warburg, 1970, chapter 1.
Owen Lattimore, High Tartary. Boston: Little, Brown and Company 1930, chapters 15 and 16.
V. Askarov, V.Volkov and N.Ser-Odjav, “Pastoral and Nomadic Tribes at the Beginning of the First Millenium B.C.” in A.H. Dani and V.M. Masson, History of civilisations of Central Asia, Vol. 1, The dawn of civilization: earliest times to 700 B.C. Paris: Unesco Publishing 1992, section 20.
2). Discuss what contribution art and iconography made to the diffusion of religious traditions along the Silk Road?
The question asks you to discuss why and how religions use material culture to promote their cause. Does a religion need to express its faith and identity through art and architecture? What function does art serve in shaping a particular religious world view?
T.H. Barrett, “The religious meaning of Buddhist sculpture in its cultural setting: the Buddha images of Qingzhou in the light of recent scholarship”. Buddhist Studies Review 22, 2005: 44-69.
Tamara Talbot Rice, Ancient Arts of Central Asia. London: Thames & Hudson 1965.
Richard Foltz, Religions of the Silk Road. New York: St Martins Press 1999. Susan Whitfield (ed.), The Silk Road. Trade, Travel, War and Faith. Hong
Kong: Serindia Publications 2004.
3). To what degree did either Buddhism or Islam (choose one of the two) provide a basis for cultural exchange and trade along the Silk Road? The question asks you to view the believers’ religiosity and the active spread of religious beliefs as stimulating cultural exchange and facilitating commercial activities.
Susan Whitfield, Life along the Silk Road. Berkeley: University of California Press 1999, pp. 113-137 and 155-173.
Also see sources for essay topics 2 and 4.
4). What were the characteristic components of international trade along the Silk Road in the Pre-Mongol era; the traders, their means of transport, their goods, their geographical range, the currency they used and so on? To what extent was this trade dominated by the major empires situated at either end of the Silk Road?
This question asks you to look into the components that were important for trade along the Silk Road: the traders, their means of transport, their goods, their geographical range, the currency they used and so on. You are also asked to give some thought to how this trade was promoted or perhaps impeded by the empires whose inhabitants produced and bought the goods traded along the Silk Road.
Helen Wang, “How much for a camel? A New Understanding of Money on the Silk Road before AD 800”, in S. Whitfield (ed.), The Silk Road. Trade, Travel, War and Faith. Hong Kong: Serindia Publications 2004: 24-33.
Susan Whitfield, Life Along the Silk Road. Berkeley and Los Angeles, University of California Press 1999: 27-54.
Rika Gyselen, “Economy in the Sasanian Iran”, Economy of Ancient Iran,
Pegolotti’s Merchant Handbook,
Étienne de la Vaissière, Sogdian Traders. A History. Leiden: Brill 2005, in particular part 4.
5). Would you agree with the statement that, “International trade shaped the economy, culture and civilisation of many Central Asian Silk Road societies in the pre-Mongol era”. Compare the impact of this international trade to other forces such as economic, political and cultural forces that were at work in the societies along the Silk Road.
See sources for essay topic 5, and in particular Étienne de la Vaissière.
6). Discuss and express your opinion of the veracity of the claim that, “After arriving in China, religions imported from the Silk Road were changed almost beyond recognition.”
This topic asks you to define the religions that have at different historical stages travelled to China and to compare their appearance in China with the form they had at the place and time of their origin. Use the example of one or two of these religions for a discussion of the above statement.
Richard Foltz, Religions of the Silk Road. New York: St Martins Press, 1999. Arthur Wright, Buddhism in Chinese History. Stanford: Stanford University
Press 1959.
Liu Xinru, Silk and Religion, Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996.
Morris Rossabi, “The Muslims of the Early Yüan Dynasty”, in John D. Langlois (ed.), China under Mongol Rule. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1981: 258-299.
Jacques Gernet, Buddhism in Chinese Society: An Economic History from the fifth to the Tenth Centuries. New York: Columbia 1995.
Kenneth Chen, The Chinese Transformation of Buddhism. Princeton: Princeton University Press 1973.
7). Nomadic pastoralists founded states and even empires along the Silk Road, using examples discuss the methods they used in this process and the particular problems they faced.
David Christian, “State Formation in the Inner Eurasian Steppes” in Silk Road Studies II. Turnhout: Brepols 1998: 51-76

T. Barfield, The Perilous Frontier: Nomadic Empires and China. London: Blackwell 1989
Nicola Di Cosmo, Ancient China and its Enemies. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 2002, chapter 5.
8) What were the most important features of political and military relations along the long Eurasian border between agrarian states and pastoralists? You must illustrate your arguments with specific examples (for example, what kind of threats and opportunities did the nomadic pastoralists present for China?) For more information on Various Essay Topics visit this:

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