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UNIT 7: The Spread of Religions

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READINGS

Reading 1

Candice Goucher, Charles LeGuin, and Linda Walton, In the Balance: Themes in World History (Boston: McGraw-Hill, 1998). Selections from chapter 5, "Religion and State: Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam."

Abstract: This essay focuses on the development of Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam as institutionalized religions, their relationships with rulers of states and empires, and their influence on societies in Asia, Europe, and Africa. Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam are sometimes referred to as universal religions, belief systems that transcended the particular cultures and societies where they began and spread across vast regions of the globe. As universal religions, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam crossed geographic, political, and cultural boundaries; over time, each developed a power structure that interacted with secular states in Asia, Europe, and Africa, sometimes dominating them.

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Reading 2

Liu Xinru, "Silks and Religions in Eurasia, c.a.d. 600–1200," Journal of World History 6, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 25–48.

Abstract: For more than a thousand years, long-distance trade in silk flourished over trade routes passing through some of the most inhospitable terrain on earth. Commerce in silk persisted for two main reasons. First, silk became a status symbol in several important states. Both China during the Sui and Tang dynasties and the Byzantine empire established dress codes in which silk indicated high status in bureaucratic and ecclesiastical hierarchies. Both states also enacted sumptuary laws banning the wearing of silk and other unwarranted clothing by commoners. Second, silk became a sacred object and a token of sacred objects among both Buddhists and Christians. Buddhist monks and merchants carried silk to India out of devotion. Meanwhile, silk costumes became necessary regalia for Christian priests, and silk fabrics served as ceremonial covers for the relics of saints. From the eighth century Islamic rulers brought sericulture and filature to the vast area from India to the Mediterranean basin. The Islamic textile industry produced large quantities of silk fabrics and made silk available in much of Eurasia.

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Reading 3

Hugh R. Clark, "Muslims and Hindus in the Culture and Morphology of Quanzhou from the Tenth to the Thirteenth Century," Journal of World History 6, no. 1 (Spring 1995): 49–74.

Abstract: This exploratory essay argues that China's maritime frontier, especially the coastline south of the Yangzi River, was an important site for the shaping of Chinese culture during the later imperial era. This frontier therefore deserves attention alongside the better known and more frequently studied "inner Asian" frontier of the north. Archaeological evidence demonstrates the presence of communities of Muslims from west Asia and Hindus from south and southeast Asia in the port city of Quanzhou throughout the Song dynasty. Those communities and the trade ties they represented influenced a range of cultural innovations, including the introduction of the Champa strain of rice, which transformed Chinese agronomy, and the conception of the monkey god popularized as Sun Wukong in the Chinese novel Journey to the West.

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