Much more than silk was traded along the Silk Roads. All kinds of luxuries and staple goods passed along the shifting network of roads, ocean routes and desert caravans that linked Asia, Africa, and Europe during the medieval period. Pottery, sometimes a luxury, sometimes a staple, was one of the most commonly traded goods. Chinese potters were among the first to make ceramics with high-temperature kilns, producing a very strong and hard type of pottery called stoneware. Early in the 7th century CE, dozens of styles of stoneware began flowing from Chinese kilns onto the Silk Roads. The Museum will highlight these ceramics by presenting Stoneware on the Silk Roads: Ceramics from the Changsha Kilns, opening on March 12. This year-long exhibit focuses on a single style of Chinese stoneware: Changsha Ware produced at the Tongguan Kilns in modern-day Hunan Province. Visitors will learn about the creation of stoneware at the kilns, the transportation routes that carried the pottery throughout the world, and the global consumers that bought and used it through vignettes illustrating each of these topics.
In conjunction with the exhibit, the MOA will hold a Silk Roads Open House on Saturday, March 23 from 1:00 to 4:00 p.m. Visitors will be able to meet a live Bactrian camel in the Museum’s parking lot before coming inside for a hands-on experience of the many goods traded on the Silk Roads across Asia. This all-ages event will also include craft activities, games, and food inspired by the Silk Roads. Admission is free.
Related to the MOA’s collection of Changsha Ware, the Museum recently developed a partnership with the Changsha Museum in Hunan, China. The Changsha Museum has the largest collection of colored porcelains from the Changsha kiln in the world with more than 7,000 pieces. The MOA has the largest collection of Changsha Ware outside of Asia with more than 625 pieces. The Museum of Anthropology has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Changsha Museum expressing aspirations to collaborate on research, education, and exhibition projects. The first step will be for their curatorial staff to visit Wake Forest this spring to conduct a detailed analysis of the MOA collection. This collaboration would not be possible without the work of WFU anthropology major Qianxu Ding (‘20) who helped arrange the partnership by traveling to Changsha last summer.
The Museum has also partnered with two other departments on campus who will exhibit works with connections to Silk Roads this spring. The ZSR Library Special Collections & Archives will present Paper Roads: Cultural Exchange in the Age of Print from February 5 to May 31, which traces the spread of paper along the Silk Roads and the many forms it took as a medium of cultural exchange. At the Charlotte and Philip Hanes Art Gallery, Gianni Cestari: City of Broken Shadows will feature works by Cestari that serve as metaphors for the Silk Roads as he interprets Calvino’s book Invisible Cities. That exhibit will be on display February 4 to March 31. Each campus partner will exchange featured pieces with the other exhibits, resulting in the MOA’s exhibition including both a Cestari painting inspired by Changsha stoneware and a work from the Special Collections & Archives.
The exhibits also coordinate with a multiple-day research conference, The Silk Roads: From Local Realities to Global Narratives, which will be held March 27-30 at Wake Forest. The conference will bring together leading scholars in multiple disciplines with a holistic approach to understanding ancient globalization, exchanges, transformations, and movements—and their continued relevance to the present.