Monthly seminars

The project runs a series a monthly seminars, held at the School of Oriental and African Studies. The seminars feature a lecture by the project’s Principal Investigators, Research Assistants and Academic Collaborators, as well as invited scholars. Talks will usually be concerned with the regions of South Asia, Southeast Asia, Central Asia and China, on topics including religions, archaeology, languages, art history and numismatics. Details of the sessions are available here on the website of the South Asia Institute at SOAS.

Previous Conferences and Workshops

Asia Beyond Boundaries: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Primary Sources from the Premodern World

Held on 27 – 31 August 2018 at the University of Leiden

The 5-day international conference Asia Beyond Boundaries: Transdisciplinary Perspectives on Primary Sources from the Premodern World united a wide range of scholars—working in the fields of history, archaeology, religion, anthropology, art history, classics, and philology — to explore new perspectives and methods in the study of primary sources from the premodern world. This key conference of the Beyond Boundaries project featured presentations from all of the project researchers as well as other leading scholars in the field. For more information click here.


From Gandhāra to Gupta

Held on 12 to 13 May 2017 at The Courtauld Institute of Art

The very well attended conference brought together a range of disciplinary perspectives on late Gandharan art that complemented each other and contributed to a better understanding of this little researched time period. Of particular interest were the stylistic development of the Buddha image, instances and processes of localisation in text usage and narratives, the contribution of recent archaeological excavations, the relation to the Gupta coin production, and technical observations on stucco sculpture. While generally considered a period of decline, a number of contributions rather demonstrated that this may only be true for the dominating power structure while economic activity and art production continued to thrive.



Recent Advances in Old Chinese Historical Phonology

Held on 5 to 6 November 2015  at SOAS, University of London

The study of the Old Chinese language and early Chinese texts are both enjoying rapid progress. Nonetheless, these two currents of research seldom inform one another to the extent that is possible. The precise understanding of Old Chinese pronunciation assists in the identification of foreign influences on China and Chinese influences on Central and South Asian cultures. In addition, such as understanding is necessary for the use of Chinese in comparative studies of the Sino-Tibetan, and thereby contributes to efforts in other branches of the family, such as the decipherment of Pyu. Taking advantage of the recent publication of Baxter and Sagart’s Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction (Oxford, 2014) this workshop brought together historical linguists and philologists to consider the recent achievements and future prospects for research on Old Chinese. A brief report on the conference by Guillaume Jacques is available here.


Tangut Seminar

The project held a workshop on Tangut language and culture on February 27 at the School of Oriental and African Studies. Chung-pui Tai of the University of Hong Kong spoke about the difficulty of identifying the differences between subgroups within groups of character readings sharing the same rhyme in the Tangut lexicographical tradition. One type of subgroup was characterized by a medial -w-, but the traits of the others remain elusive.

Xun Gong of CRLAO in Paris presented a new interpretation of the three ‘grades’ (syllable classes) of Tangut: uvularized vs. pharygealized plus uvularized vs. plain. Uvular consonants and uvularized vowels are present in the living rGyalrongic and Qiangic relatives of Tangut, and pharyngealization plays a major role in Baxter and Sagart’s reconstruction of Old Chinese, another relative of Tangut, so these exotic features are not entirely unexpected.

Marc Miyake of the British Museum spoke about his reconstruction of the history of the Tangut numeral ngwy ‘five’ whose rhyme -wy is unlike the -a of its cognates in other classical Sino-Tibetan languages. The fourth talk was also linguistic albeit not phonological. Shintaro Arakawa raised the possibility that the Tangut verbal dual suffix -kI: might be a prefix.

The last three talks were cultural rather than linguistic. Imre Galambos of Cambridge University put forth a new interpretation of the title of a Tangut manuscript previously translated as the Altar Record of Confucius’s Conciliation.

Romain Lefebvre of Artois University compared Tangut prescriptions with those of Chinese medical texts to see if the Tangut had written about their own medical treatments.

Kirill Bogdanov of the Institute of Oriental Manuscripts in St Petersburg gave a page-by-page overview of a Tangut shamanistic text providing a rare glimpse at what may be the indigenous religious beliefs of the Tangut. Most known Tangut texts are translations from Chinese, so native Tangut culture is largely a mystery.

Shintaro Arakawa speaking at the seminar