The Silk Road is an evocative name that, to many, conjures up images of camel caravans and bustling bazaars — an international highway of commerce where people and cultures from the East and West intermingled and traded goods.
But scholars say that this romantic image is only a sliver of what life might have been like on the ancient Eurasian trade routes. UC Berkeley is opening the P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for Silk Road Studies, the first institutionalized center in the U.S. dedicated to the study of the historical trading networks serially known as the Silk Road, thanks to a $5 million gift by two branches of the Tang family — Oscar Tang and his wife, Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang, who are based in New York City, and Bay Area Berkeley alumni Nadine Tang and Leslie Tang Schilling, with their brother Martin Tang in Hong Kong.
Chinese American philanthropist Oscar Tang founded the first Tang center for excellence in Chinese Humanities, the P.Y. and Kinmay W. Tang Center for East Asian Art at Princeton University in 2003. In 2015, he and his archaeologist wife founded the Tang Center for Early China at Columbia University. The new Tang Center at UC Berkeley is the latest addition for the advancement of the interdisciplinary study of the historical Silk Road.
Oscar Tang believes that the new Tang Center at Berkeley is “part of my family’s ongoing effort to enhance knowledge and understanding of the great Chinese civilization and its relationship to the rest of the world.”
The center, which launched April 29, will promote the research and teaching of the material and visual cultures that flourished along the Silk Road and formed a bridge between the many economic epicenters of Eurasia and China. A better understanding of the Silk Road’s history will also help contextualize its emergent geopolitical significance in the present time. Continue reading