Undergraduate Degree



DD9010 Imag(in)ing The Silk Road: Heritage and Media


[Lectures: 39 hours; Pre-requisites: Nil; Academic Unit: 3.0]  


Academic Unit                         :           3 AU


Pre-requisite                            :           Nil


Course Description                 :


Content and Learning Objectives

The course surveys the cartography of Asia, in Western and Asian traditions (1200-today), with focus on the silk roads, and is perceived as a case study to introduce a series of art forms and ideas which still pervade the contemporary, 21st century, global ideology in art and world ontologies (Silk Road: Visualisation / Animation / Historical authenticity). The course examines the contextual cultural, socio-political and economic contexts through which the art of cartography, and different ways of thinking about the world, emerged (from the ideology of pagan kosmos / christian mundus to the global ideology). The analysis of these cultural contexts is essential for the understanding of the role that the so-called silk roads had for medieval and modern societies (both in Europe and Asia) and for thinking about the role of new silk roads in contemporary and future global societies "as a metaphor for the on-going flow of ideas and knowledge between Asia and Europe, which in turn contribute to the reconfiguration of global economic and diplomatic relationships" (van der Ploeg, J. - G. A. Persoon & H. Liu, p. 6).


Course Outline





Presentation of the Course




Conceptualizing the Silk Road as a Globalization Network from Ferdinand Richthofen to the NTU "New Silk Road" initiative (1877-today).


Models of "kinds of world": maps and globes from Ptolemy to Google Earth.


How to lie with maps. Objectivity, Subjectivity, Representations (from kosmos/mundus ideology to world/global ideology).


Cartography in World Art Histories. Maps as Paintings/Paintings as Maps from Ignazio Danti (Renaissance Italy) to Laura Wills (Contemporary Artist, Australia).




Asia in Western Cartography


The western representations of the world from Marco Polo to Niccolò de' Conti: Trade, Religion and Cartography


Asian Cartography of the World



ggu shanshui ditu/Map of the Mongol Land (early 16th cent.)


Martino Martini's Novus Atlas Sinensis (1655)



tteo Ricci's Chinese map of the world (1602)


The New Silk Road


Concluding Session



Learning Outcome

The students will be able to understand the broad history and chronological developments of the representations of Asia from late medieval times to today; to know and apply relevant art-historical and critical theory to the discussion of a wide variety of manuscript maps, wall paintings and globes, perceived as a way to imag(in)ing geopolitical realities; and to develop communication skills, including critical thinking, writing abilities and confident verbal articulation of ideas.


Student Assessment

Students will be assessed by continuous assessment (100%)


Components include:

1)      Oral Presentations (45%)

Students will engage in a seminar and a class presentation, 12-minute per speaker/each assignment. The seminar adopts the format of a visual analysis on the work of a new media artist taken as a case study for the debate on particular issues, concepts or problems. The class presentation is implemented as a curatorial proposal for an exhibition on a specific form of new media art. Students will also perform as designated respondents/opponents for one seminar and one class presentation. (45%)


2)      Written Assignment (40%)

The final assignment takes the form of an essay following the research methodologies and critical tools developed during the course.


3)    Class participation and active discussion during the lessons (15%)





Recommended Reading:

  1. Harley, J. Brian - Woodward, David (eds.). The History of Cartography, Chicago-London: University of Chicago Press, 1987 (I), 1992 (II/1), 1994 (II/2), 2007 (III): Vol. I. Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean, Chapters 1, 17-19; Vol. II/1. Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies, Chapters 1 and 7; Vol. II/2. Cartography in the Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies, Chapters 2, 6, 7-8, 16-20; Vol. III. Cartography in the European Renaissance, Chapters 1, 2, 6, 11, 17, 20, 22, 29.
  2. Foltz, Richard. Religions of the Silk Road. Premodern Patterns of Globalization, New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999, 20102.
  3. Bentley, Jerry. 'Cross-Cultural Interaction and Periodization in World History'. American Historical Review 101/3 (1996), pp. 749-770.
  4. Beckwith, Christopher I. Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present, Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2009.
  5. Li, Q
  6. ingxin. Maritime Silk Road, translated by William W. Wang. Beijing: China Intercontinental Press, 2009 (Mandarin Chinese 2006: [版社 Hai shang si chou zhi lu]).
  7. van der Ploeg, J. - G. A. Persoon & H. Liu. A New Silk Road: science and society in Europe and Asia. Final report of the roundtable on science and nature in Europe and Asia: scientific traditions and new technologies. Leiden: International Institute for Asian Studies, 2011 (http://www.hss.ntu.edu.sg/Documents/NewSilkRoad.pdf).