Research Associate Karen Rubinson Participates in Conference of the European Association for Chinese Students

By Karen Rubinson

I recently returned from the 21st Biennial Conference of the European Association for Chinese Students, help in St. Petersburg, Russia.  At the conference I participated in a session Regional and Cross-regional Exchange in Pre-imperial and Early Imperial China chaired by Anke Hein (Oxford University) and Maria Khayutina (Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich). Participants in our session included Catrin Cost (LMU Munich), Sheri A. Lullo (Union College), and Alexey Kovalev (Institute of Archaeology, Russian Academy of Sciences).

My contribution was written and presented together with Katheryn Linduff (University of Pittsburgh). Our paper “On the Edge: The Politics of Death at the Ends of the Silk Road, c. 100 CE” afforded us a chance to look together at 

archaeological remains from Tillya Tepe in Afghanistan and the Cheshi Kingdom in Western Xinjiang, exploring expressions of cultural interaction along the Central Asian space as expressed through imported objects, foreign objects repurposed locally, hybridity in art, and technology transfer. One tantalizing class of artifacts that we presented was small ornaments with multi-colored inlays, many of which 

were excavated at Tilly Tepe, while only one example has come from burials of the Cheshi Kingdom. These, together with other evidence, demonstrate how local elites gather and express power by acquiring goods from remote regions and the opportunities afforded such local rulers especially at times when there are not dominant state powers in the regions.

When not at the conference, I spent my time at the Hermitage Museum, where many new Central Asian galleries have been recently installed which display, among the rich collections, materials from excavations from the region of the ancient Oxus that I am currently writing about. I also revisited the remarkable Siberian collections, which I had first visited in 1973, when they were deserted and dusty, in contrast with the splendid installation today. It was a delight to be in St. Petersburg in the summer; in contrast with my many winter visits, when I had to watch for ice underfoot, I was able to admire the architecture and sunlight in Peter the Great’s beautiful city.