The Belitung shipwreck, discovered off the coast of Indonesia in 1998, bears witness to a pivotal period in world history, the early ninth century, when the reach of global trade was being greatly extended to directly link the Middle East and China. The impact on both sides was profound. This talk explores just one fascinating part of this story: the development in the Tang Empire of the first large-scale industrial ceramics production for export. The Yangzi delta cities of Jiankang (3rd-6th centuries CE) and Yangzhou (beginning in the 7th century CE) were some of the world’s largest urban areas, and the gateway to much of the continent’s interior. As a result, they became the northernmost terminus of maritime trade routes from Southeast Asia and beyond. The arrival of long-distance trade expeditions from the Persian Gulf had a dramatic impact on the Chinese ceramics industry, leading to the development of new styles and just-in-time production methods at far greater scales than previously known. As both shipwreck and land-based archaeology confirms, these changes outlasted the end of direct Arab trade and became a hallmark of a new period of larger-scale maritime commerce that preceded, and likely precipitated, the direct entry of Chinese shipping into the maritime theater.
Author Bio: Professor Andrew Chittick received his PhD in History from the University of Michigan and is the E. Leslie Peter Professor of East Asian Humanities and History at Eckerd College, Florida. He researches the history of the Jiankang Empire, also known as the Chinese Southern Dynasties, and its wider global connections. His most recent book, The Jiankang Empire in Chinese and World History, was published by Oxford University Press in 2020. He authored the chapter on the Southern Dynasties in the recently-published Cambridge History of China, Vol 2: The Six Dynasties, 220-581, and will also contribute a chapter on China-Southeast Asian relations in the first millennium CE to the new Cambridge History of Southeast Asia. He has held research fellowships from the Institute of Advanced Studies at Princeton and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For 2022-23 he is a Visiting Research Scholar at NYU’s Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, where he is researching Sino-Southeast Asian maritime exchange in the first millennium CE.
This lecture is in partnership the NYU Westchester Alumni Society
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