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China and the Islamic World Conference in Istanbul 2014

Deadline: 15th April

An international conference organised by the Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin Research Foundation for the History in Islam, the Fatih Sultan Mehmet Vakıf University (Dr. Detlev Quintern, Istanbul) and the Centre for Chinese Studies, The University of Manchester (Dr. Yangwen Zheng).

To be held at the Prof. Dr. Fuat Sezgin Research Foundation for the History in Islam, Istanbul on 5 and 6 June, 2014.

In June 2005 the Asian Civilisation Museum in Singapore exhibited some four hundred ceramics which had been recovered from the oldest shipwreck found in Southeast Asia. The ceramics bore no resemblance to the familiar blue and white Ming and Qing porcelain, nor did they look like the rarer white Song and Yuan wares. Made in a kiln in Changsha in the Tang dynasty (618–906), these were the long vanished “Changsha ceramics”. Named the “Tang cargo” by excavators and archaeologists, these fascinating ceramics were shipped from the city of Yangzhou, on the banks of the Grand Canal in northeast interior China. What is more, the Changsha ceramics—some intact after nearly 1400 years buried under the sea—were contained in large jars which had been made in Vietnam. They were painted with Arabic characters and clearly destined for Arabia. The vessel itself bears the hallmarks of Arabic shipping technology, while the wood used to build the ship was from India. The “Tang cargo” raises a number of complex questions about the nature of trade and knowledge in this period. Why were they exported from Yangzhou rather than from Guangzhou (Canton)? How did a small and obscure kiln in an inland south-central province come to produce wares for the most powerful empire on earth in the eighth century? What kind of multi-national commercial and financial networks were in place to facilitate such cross-regional long distance trade. Was Arabic the lingua franca of transaction?

Parallel to the “Silk Road on the Sea” across the South China Sea and the Indian Ocean, the Silk Road of Central Asia saw a system of commercial routes linking various traders’ communities who organized themselves into caravans carrying goods, such as silk textiles, jade, ceramics, porcelain on pack animals (Bactrian camel). Porcelain is one of many examples of Sino-Islamic trade and exchange since the early seventh century. But the exchange was never reduced to trading goods only. Philosophies, ideas and not least scientific and technological knowledge moved along the trading routes. They include paper making, medical science, geographical and cartographical sciences, military technology, clock-making and much more. The story of the “Tang cargo” highlights and lends force to the new perspective this conference is trying to develop. We welcome scholars of China and the Islamic World to join us in a debate that addresses but not limited to the following questions/issues:

1. Trade, travel and exchange between China and the Islamic World
2. Flow of knowledge, science, and technology from China to the Islamic World and vice versa
3. Institutions, mechanisms and significance of their exchange

Inquiries and abstracts of no more than 200 words, plus 5 lines of biographical information, should be sent to Mr. Hüseyin Balim ( before 15 April 2014. Those accepted to present at the conference will be notified by 30 April 2014.

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