Religions of the Silk Road

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Author: Richard Foltz

Active ImagePaperback: 208 pages
Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan; New Edition (May 25, 2010)
Language: English
ISBN-10: 0230621252
ISBN-13: 978-0230621251

Ever since the label was coined in the late 19th century, the idea of the Silk Road has captivated the Western imagination with images of fabled cities and exotic peoples. Religions of the Silk Road looks behind the romantic notions of the colonial era and tells the story of how cultural traditions, especially in the form of religious ideas, accompanied merchants and their goods along the overland Asian trade routes in pre-modern times. As early as three thousand years ago Hebraic and Iranian religious ideas and practices traveled eastwards in this way, to be followed centuries later by the great missionary traditions of Buddhism, Christianity, Manichaeism, and Islam. But the Silk Road was more than just a conduit along which these religions hitched rides East; it was a formative and transformative rite of passage, and no religion emerged unchanged at the end of the journey.

This book traces the spread of religions and cultures along the trans-Eurasian trade routes over a period of more than two millennia. Indian, Iranian, Semitic, and Mediterranean ideas all followed the same trajectory through Central Asia to China and beyond, picking up additional elements and sometimes being radically transformed along the way. This age-old pattern shows how the transmission of culture and the development of economic networks have always been inextricably linked, laying a precedent for the globalizing trends seen today.

Editorial Reviews

Active Image"This brief but tightly packed book is a wonderful counterweight to romanticized notions of the so-called Silk Road . . . Foltz masterfully deals with disparate histories from one point of the compass to its seeming opposite, while weaving a wonderfully lucid story of merchants, pilgrims, and missionaries."--The Journal of Asian History
"Professor Foltz excels at concise explanations of the development of the many religions scattered throughout the central Asian area of the Silk Road . . . Throughout this excellent book Professor Foltz makes clear the importance of trade and cultural exchanges in the unfolding of history."--Journal of World History
"Foltz takes us on an instructive journey through time and space, revealing the fluidity of barriers, geographical and otherwise, on the historical trail and bypaths of the 'Silk Road,' which stretches from China in the East and across Central Asia to the shores of the Mediterranean in the West."--History: Reviews of New Books
". . . an absolute gem . . . well researched and well written, it brings together a huge amount of information in an attractive package."--Jerry H. Bentley, Editor, Journal of World History
"This was an extraordinary book when it first came out a decade ago; it is an even more impressive work in its revised second edition. What makes Richard Foltz's Religions of the Silk Road so unusual and valuable is that, despite its concise, compressed form and highly readable style, it is packed with an astonishing wealth of fascinating information based on a judicious combination of primary sources and secondary literature. For someone who wishes to learn about the transmission of religious culture along the Silk Road during the past two millennia -- including Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Manichaeism, Nestorian Christianity, Judaism, and Islam -- there can be no more convenient and illuminating guide than this extraordinary volume."--Victor H. Mair, Professor of Chinese Language and Literature, University of Pennsylvania
"To read this fascinating book is to journey through time, to ride those intriguing stretches of overland trails from Europe to Asia known collectively as the 'Silk Road.' There strands of Buddhism, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Christianity, Judaism, and Islam all intertwined and sometimes converged, making for a time eastern Central Asia the most multicultural region on the planet. Foltz brings to life this amazing history in an authoritative and engrossing way, and entices us into this wondrous early era of globalized religion."--Mark Juergensmeyer, University of California, Santa Barbara; Editor of the Oxford Handbook of Global Religion; President of the American Academy of Religion

Table of Contents:

Active ImageThe Silk Road and Its Travelers * Religion and Trade in Ancient Eurasia * Buddhism and the Silk Road * A Refuge of Heretics: Nestorians and Manichaeans on the Silk Road * The Islamization of the Silk Road * Ecumenical Mischief * A Melting Pot No More

About the Author:

Richard Foltz (b. 1961 Columbus, Ohio, USA) is a Canadian scholar of American origin. He is a specialist in the history of Iran and the history of religions, particularly Zoroastrianism.

A professor in the Department of Religion at Concordia University, Montréal, Canada, Foltz holds a Ph.D. in Middle Eastern History from Harvard University. He also holds degrees in Persian literature and applied linguistics from the University of Utah. He has taught at Kuwait University, Brown University, Columbia University, and the University of Florida.

Foltz is founder-director of the program in Iranian Studies at Concordia. He is also editor of the Iranian Studies book series at Laval University Press, and member of the advisory council of the European Institute of Iranian Studies. The author of eight books and over one hundred scholarly articles, his work has appeared in English, French, German, Spanish, Arabic, Persian, Turkish, Japanese, Indonesian, and Bosnian.

Foltz has emphasized the role of Iranians in the spread of culture in world history, particularly in the domain of religions. He has likened the importance of Iranians and Iranian ideas to "a finely crafted old table relegated to an over-stuffed storage room, for too long out of sight and underappreciated”. In particular, he sees the Silk Road as having arisen from the travels of traders who were mostly of Iranian background; in his introduction to the Persian edition of his book Religions of the Silk Road, he notes that for him "this book has always been about the role of Iranians in world history".

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