Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Silk and Religion: An Exploration of Material Life and the Thought of People, AD 600-1200

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Silk and Religion: An Exploration of Material Life and the Thought of People, AD 600-1200

Article excerpt

Xinru Liu, Silk and Religion: An Exploration of Material Lie and the Thought of People, AD 600-1200 (New Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1998). x + 235 pp.; 1 map. ISBN 0-19-564452-2. Rs. 205.00.

Xinru Liu, at the beginning of this study, poses a question for the reader: 'is it possible to find a rule, a pattern, a common rhythm of historical development among different regions with seemingly different cultures?' (p. 5). It may well seem that a query of this sort might invite some criticism: hypotheses concerning the nature of 'global' systems have engendered numerous debates about the application, or even the reliability, of models of the World System in the study of world history. Additionally, when considering widespread links between individuals, nations, and entire civilizations, it is also questionable whether any satisfactory answers about the cultures concerned can be reached by applying one theme as a global constant.

Liu, however, is well aware that the question about patterns of historical development is an old one, existing independently of any models of global systems, one that is part of a search for the roots of often unexpected resemblances between cultures that are physically distanced from one another. Consequently, Silk and Religion, as the author makes clear, is not an attempt to forge another link in the World System chain. Instead, it is a story that helps to trace similarities between different cultures by following the trade paths of on valuable commodity - in this case, silk - and the relationships that grew from those connecting paths of communication throughout Eurasia. By exploring the ties between luxury goods and social status, trade and the forces regulating exchange, and the role of religious institutions in that regulation, Liu has revealed a complex picture of the nature of relationships between different cultures as a result of silk transactions, particularly those that involved religious practices or institutions. …

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