The Silk Road: Connecting Cultures, Creating Trust
Smithsonian Institution. Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage Search this
The Silk Road defines an exchange of products, both material and intellectual, across Eurasia from China to the Mediterranean, traditionally from the 2nd century B.C.E. through the first twelve centuries of the Common Era. People who know something of the Silk Road think first of the transport of silk to Rome or the expansion of Buddhism from India to China, although certainly it is much more. But why silk, and why a road to describe this exchange? Silk provides the example of a mysterious luxury product for which people throughout the region were willing to pay high prices and even jeopardize lives. And the "road" refers to the exchange of those material products that traveled by land, although this literal meaning must be extended to include cultural and spiritual exchanges that would be part of a metaphorical Silk Road. Beyond these definitions the idea of the Silk Road is still available for new interpretations. And in the political environment prevailing in 2002, the idea was particularly evocative.
Visitors to the Festival were greeted by five "sentinels of arrival," landmarks along the ancient Silk Road: St. Mark's Square in Venice, Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya) mosque/church/museum in Istanbul, Registan Square in Samarkand, the Xi'an bell tower, and the great gate to Todaiji Temple in Nara. Each housed a stage that reflected a different performance tradition. The performing arts selected for the Festival were grouped into spiritual activities, courtly entertainment, local celebrations and entertainments, nomadic presentations, and new musics that draw from tradition. Spiritual music, for example, provided the program an opportunity to present the stories of the expansion of religion - Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity - along the Silk Road. Buddhist monks from Tibet and Sufi Muslim devotees from Turkey and Bangladesh highlighted the central role that religion played in Silk Road trade.
Existing examples of ancient silk, pottery, carpets, and glass all tell very specific stories of travel and exchange and remind us of the extent to which people across the region have been connected throughout history. What may be surprising to some, however, is how many such objects are still made today. The curatorial staff chose to feature ceramics, silk and cotton textiles, carpets, paper, and stone and metal products, including glass. Each was in a different compound - the Paper Garden, the Ceramics Courtyard, the Silk Grove, the Family Oasis, and the Jewel Garden - and told a story from a different period along the Silk Road, including, in some cases, a chapter from life in the United States. Paper, for example, was invented in China and remained a secret of the region for centuries; along with written language, writing materials were thought to possess magical qualities. Religious texts as well as commercial bills were written out and transported along a route that, through such communication, could more easily function. Each region added its own distinctive features of paper art including Turkish marbling and Italian watermarks. Similar elaborations have been made in the art of calligraphy, which, particularly in Islamic and Chinese cultures, has become highly refined and stylistically differentiated as to school and usage. Representatives of these schools still train new generations of artists along the Silk Road and in the United States.
The movement of religious traditions around the world has arguably been one of the most important forces throughout world history. Both Islam and Buddhism were introduced to millions of new adherents along the Silk Road, and these conversions continue to alter the face of our world. These religions, along with all of the above exchange goods, have also altered the face of the United States. Many Americans drink tea in fine china, buy "Oriental" carpets, and certainly wear garments of cotton, wool, and silk. They are likely familiar with Asian martial arts and may attend an Islamic mosque. The Silk Road has extended to the United States and, since the tragic events of September 11, 2001, understanding that connection clearly has become more important. The 2002 Festival offered its million visitors the opportunity to learn more about the roots of this vital connection and to celebrate the long-standing relationships that have existed between East and West and North and South. The Festival provided a rare opportunity to connect with other cultures as well as with one's own and in doing so, in a small way, to build trust between and within cultures of the global Silk Road.
Richard Kennedy and Theodore Levin were Co-Curators, assisted by a Curatorial Committee whose members included Milo Beach, Jean During, Henry Glassie, Tom Kessinger, Alma Kunanbay, and Yo-Yo Ma. Cristin Bagnall, Jean Davidson, Catherine Gevers, Richard Kennedy, Richard Kurin, Theodore Levin, Diana Parker, and Esther Won made up the Production Committee. Rajeev Sethi was Festival Scenographer, and James Deutsch, Stephen Kidd, Arlene Reiniger, and Shayna Silverstein were Program Coordinators. Betty Belanus was Family Activities Coordinator; Jane Farmer was Paper Garden Coordinator; Marjorie Hunt was Silk Grove Coordinator; and Diana Baird N'Diaye was Fashion Court Coordinator.
Researchers and local coordinators:
Abduvali Abdurashidov, Mila Ahmedova, Omer Akakça, Bassam AI-Kahouaji, Dinara Amirova, Nahomi Aso, Najmieh Batmanglij, Betty Belanus, Laura Beldiman, Susan Blader, Guanghui Chen, Rta Kapur Chishti, Shafique Rahman Choudhury, Jerome Cler, Ardasher Dekhoti, James Deutsch, Hermine Dreyfuss, Cloe Drieu, Jean During, Jane Farmer, Sasan Fatemi, Walter Feldman, Henry Glassie, Chen Guanghui, Harold Hagopian, Elias Hanna, Rachel Harris, K. David Harrison, Bhagwati Prasad Hatwal, Martha Huang, George Jevremovic, Neslihan Jevremovic, Stephen Jones, Richard Kennedy, Jonathan Mark Kenoyer, Stephen Kidd, Doug Kim, Peg Koetsch, Alma Kunanbay, Gavyn Lavergne, Theodore Levin, Firoz Mahmud, Elshan Mansurov, Peter Marsh, Andranik Michaelian, Nataliya Mussina, Afanassij Myldyk, Olima Nabiva, Eden Naby, Mohammed Nasseripour, Liesbet Nyssen, Susan Pertel-Jain, Aziz Rahman, Marjorie Ransom, Arlene Reiniger, Rajeev Sethi, Pravina Shukla, Razia Sirdibaeva, Atesh Sonneborn, Youssef Summad, Nancy Sweezy, Takashi Takahara, D. Tserenpil, Shu-ni Tsou, Oguzhan Tugral, Mark van Tongeren, Seric Walley, Philippa Watkins, Chris Walter, Toshio Watanabe
Sibel Akad, Omer Akakça, Bassam AI-Kahouaji, Dina Amirova, William Belcher, Susan Blader, Camilla Bryce-Laporte, Sertac Çakim, Charles Camp, Guanghui Chen, Rta Kapur Chishti, Dinara Chochunbaeva, Shafique Rahman Choudhury, Jerome Cler, David d'Heilly, Tenzin Dickyi, Hermine Dreyfuss, Jean During, Jane Farmer, Walter Feldman, Alysia Fischer, Gail Forman, Helen Frederick, Ganbold, Henry Glassie, Harold Hagopian, Rachel Harris, K. David Harrison, Bhagawati Prasad Hatwal, Catherine Hiebert Kerst, Neslihan Jevremovic, Alison Allen Jia, Mark Kenoyer, Dipti Khera, Doug Kim, Benjamin David Koen, Peg Koetsch, Alma Kunanbay, Gavyn Lavergne, Tom Leech, Theodore Levin, Yo-Yo Ma, LaVerne Magarian, Firoz Mahmud, Peter Marsh, Nataliya Mussina, Eden Naby, Joan Nathan, Liesbet Nyssen, Nilgun Peksalli, Susan Pertei-Jain, Steven Prieto, Frank Proschan, Marjorie Ransom, Philip Schuyler, Shubha Sankaran, Pravina Shukla, Robin Ami Silverberg, Madan Gopal Singh, Nancy Sweezy, Takashi Takahara, Geshe Lobsang Tenzin, Oguzhan Tugral, Michael Twitty, Kojiro Umezaki, Mark van Tongeren, Yuriko Yamaguchi, Wang Yousheng, Chris Walter, Philippa Watkins, Jeffrey Werbock
TIBETAN MONKS FROM THE DREPUNG MONASTERY (INDIA, UNITED STATES)
Geshe Lobsang Chogyal
URHOY CHOIR (SYRIA)
SPORTS AND MARTIAL ARTS TRADITIONS
ASIAN MARTIAL ARTS (UNITED STATES)
Sifu Tony Chen
Bernard Beno Hwang
Jia Tao Zhang
BUKH: LEGENDARY WRESTLING TRADITION (MONGOLIA)
POTOMAC POLO CLUB
Joe Muldoon, Jr.
Joe Muldoon III
Morshed Mehregan, -- morshed
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Smithsonian Folklife Festival records: 2002 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, Ralph Rinzler Folklife Archives and Collections, Smithsonian Institution.
"Victory breeds hatred, for the vanquished is stricken with suffering; but the tranquil man lives in happiness, disregarding both victory and defeat."--Buddha, The Dhammapada, verse 201. From the series Great Ideas of Eastern Man.
Matazo Kayama, Japanese, born Kyoto, Japan 1927 Search this
gouache, metallic gouache, and opaque white on dyed paper mounted on paperboard