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Influences of the Silk Road at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts

SALT LAKE CITY, UT.- What do jade, chess, horses and Hinduism have in common? Come to the Utah Museum of Fine Arts to find out! The UMFA is pleased to present "Influences of the Silk Road", a new exhibition on view from November 5, 2009 – April 25, 2010 in the Emma Eccles Jones Education Gallery. This alluring exhibition highlights images and objects from the Museum’s permanent collection that reflect the religions, technologies, and goods that were exchanged en route, or even traveled on the "Silk Road" themselves.

The "Silk Road" was a complex web of overland and maritime trade routes that linked Asia, the Middle East, and Europe from the first millennium BCE through the second millennium CE. The land routes were used extensively through the 1400s, and were complemented in the medieval period by sea routes. The length, cultural diversity, and political complexity of the "Silk Road" resulted in multi-directional trade, and while very few people traveled the entire route, the spread of goods and ideas went far beyond the established course.

To bring "Influences of the Silk Road" to fruition, the UMFA partnered with faculty members from the University of Utah Middle East Center and Department of Asian Studies. Together they identified roughly thirty objects from the permanent collection that were representative of exchange along the routes, including: materials and goods, such as a Kyrgyz saddle and an Ishaandy leopard skin hat; technologies and ideas, including a Korean printing block and Chinese umbrellas; religions, represented by objects like a 5th-century Byzantine cross, Hindu deity figure, and Islamic Hadith; and globalization, characterized by an English tea pot and Dutch oil painting.

"Influences of the Silk Road" aims to make learning about this crucial time in history fun for visitors of all ages. Families and students will enjoy a treasure hunt through the exhibition and other galleries, and get educational insight through an easy-to-use audio tour. Visitors will also have the opportunity to test their skills in a game of chess, learn to use a camera obscura and abacus, and test a variety of spices in a "Silk Road" sniff station.

Patrons interested in a more in-depth experience before or after their visit can explore the "Silk Road" through a virtual exhibition at This online program showcases images and information about some of the objects in the exhibition, tells the story of dangerous journeys made by "Silk Road "explorers, links to an illuminated 18th-century Qur’an from the collection of the University of Utah Marriott Library, and much more.

Utah Museum of Fine Arts | Influences of the Silk Road | Department of Asian Studies |

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