The Department of Asian and North-African Studies, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy, has launched a call for a 12-month research grant on The Maritime Ceramic Road: Chinese Ceramics in Asia and Africa. 

The 21 st Century Maritime Silk Road – integral part of the monumental Belt and Road Initiative, which includes a direct connection between China and Italy (through Trieste) – is a major development plan that aims to connect China with the rest of Asia, Africa, and Europe. This strategic initiative broadly runs in the footsteps of the naval expeditions of Admiral Zheng He (1371-1433) and the maritime routes covered by the Portuguese at the beginning of the 16th century. However, an extensive seaborne commerce had developed since the 8th century, when the land routes across central Asia had become unsafe and when the demand for raw materials to import into China considerably increased. Among the goods exported from China to be traded along the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean, the Arabian Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Red Sea, there were huge quantities of ceramics, the first artificial material made by mankind, and the first to be globally exported. This research project, intended as the first step to build up a much wider international study, focuses on late Tang (618-907) and Song dynasty (960-1279) ceramics found along the maritime Silk Road. Its aim is to investigate several aspects of the presence of Chinese ceramics west of China: to understand whether, besides trade, there were other causes behind the circulation of Chinese wares; to define the value (not just in monetary terms) of these objects in the Middle East; to observe changes in the time of the exported types; to analyze the mutual influence between Chinese and early Islamic glazed ceramics; to identify correctly Chinese and Islamic wares. The ultimate goal is the creation of an online database mapping all the sites including Chinese ceramics: this will give a clear idea of the distribution patterns of Chinese ceramics in general and of each genre. Such a database is deemed essential by archaeologists working especially in the Middle East to date their sites, which usually lack reliable stratigraphic environments. The fellowship is intended to provide the successful candidate with the opportunity to pursue his/her own research while benefiting from the range of expertise at Università Ca' Foscari Venezia.

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