Education About Asia: Online Archives

The Silk Road

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FREER GALLERY OF ART AND ARTHUR M. SACKLER GALLERY,
SMITHSONIAN INSTITUTION, 2003.
WRITERS: KRISTINA GIASI, ELIZABETH BENSKIN, AND PHILIPPA RAPPOPORT
SILK ROAD STORIES CD, PROJECT DIRECTORS: RAY WILLIAMS AND
PHILIPPA RAPPOPORT
ART DIRECTOR: KATE LYDON
POSTER COURTESY OF THE SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR FOLKLIFE AND
CULTURAL HERITAGE

The Silk Road, a series of trade routes connecting the Mediterranean with the Far East for several millennia, was at its height from the first to twelfth centuries CE. Travel and commerce led to the diffusion of languages, religions, inventions (e.g., paper, gunpowder, and the compass), and expensive and prized goods (jade, rugs, spices, etc.). In a multicultural world and pedagogically, lesson plans that include the Silk Road are essential and provide a compelling platform for supplementary activities.

The Silk Road, a four-part set of curriculum materials on the fabled Silk Road, is designed for use predominantly by elementary school teachers but may be adapted to the secondary level. These materials include an eight-page brochure featuring classroom projects, a vocabulary and definitions of important terms, a lesson plan on sericulture (raising silkworms to produce silk cloth), storytelling, and resources (suggested books for young readers and adults, and a list of Internet sites). Six five-by-eight-inch color images on cardstock depict three ceramics (a Turkish plate, a Chinese amphora, and a tomb sculpture), a hunting dog carved in jade from China, and two Buddhist images (from China and Japan). The reverse provides a description, “fun facts,” and discussion questions. A CD, Silk Road Stories, has eight oral narratives by young volunteers from the Washington, DC area who tell a variety of tales from their homelands. The narrators (trained by a professional storyteller) are from China, Japan, Tibet, Bangladesh, and Turkey; the stories range from 1:05 to 11:39 minutes (total 64:44 minutes). A folded poster, “Museum Connections: Smithsonian Along the Silk Road” (34 by 22 inches) is a bicolor physiographic map of the region from Italy to Japan and depicts major overland trade routes. Superimposed on the map are seventeen color images of objects from various Smithsonian museums and one animal from the National Zoo. The associated captions ask: “What am I?” Among the artifacts are a glass bowl, postage stamps, coins, gems, ethnic dress, a porcelain jar, sword hilt, kites, and a Red Panda. The answers are on a Smithsonian Web site. These accurate materials are recommended for grades three through seven.