China and Inner Asia

Organized Panel Session

2 - Musical Instruments as Travelers – Musical Imagery from Central Asia to Medieval China in the 4th century

Saturday, July 7
10:20 AM - 11:50 AM
Location: Jacaranda I, First Floor

With its unique geographic features and complex historical background, Central Asia has inspired countless instances of commercial trading, religious exchange, and cultural communication. The most significant examples can be seen on the Silk Routes, with oasis towns connecting Central Asia and medieval China. With the traveling of cultural elements, among other things, musical cultural centres, allowing musical instruments and performing styles to be transmitted from Central Asia to the East. This paper aims to analyse the transmission of musical instruments and performing styles throughout Central Asia based on evidence provided by images. 


The paper will first present musical imageries from the Buddhist sculptures and paintings in the Amarāvatī and Ajanta caves in India, and images from the murals in the Buddhist grottoes in Xinjiang province (China), such as the Kizil grottoes, which contain some of the oldest and most intriguing known images of musical instruments and music performers. Then, musical instruments such as short neck lute and arched harp will be compared with images from the Dunhuang Mogao grottoes (China). Thus, the paper will use these sources to investigate the types of musical instruments that spread in the region, and to investigate the significance of musical performance in Central Asian music history, with an emphasis on development or changes in Central Asian musical instruments as they reached Medieval China. The spread of this musical imagery will thus be used to draw a historical line defining cultural exchange on the Silk Routes.

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2 - Musical Instruments as Travelers – Musical Imagery from Central Asia to Medieval China in the 4th century



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