This talk focuses on an ontological shift in thinking of small-sized Silk Road talismans and amulets. The true value of them has been neglected by previous studies. Among them, the Ordos Bronze Crosses, problematically identified as “Nestorian Crosses,” are central. The argument here is that these objects are better approached from a stance of agential realism that acknowledges them as active actant entangled in the Silk Road network. It is suggested that, as palimpsests, they participated, and continue participating in processes of (de)materialization through means of archaization, nomadic habitual engagement, Christian appropriation, and different material registers, etc. Moreover, in the shamanic worlds of the Silk Road, they were considered “alive” because they possessed nonhuman personhood. In conclusion, these hidden treasures disclose a new paradigm that returns things to their own narratives, from which an ontologically different understanding of the Silk Road emerges.
ABOUT THE SPEAKER
Andrea Jian Chen (PhD graduate of HKIHSS) is a part-time lecturer and honorary research associate in the Divinity School of Chung Chi College at the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Her research areas include the material cultures of the Silk Road and Steppe Road from pre-historic to Chinese imperial periods. Her interdisciplinary project focuses on small daily objects that reveal intense cross-regional and intercultural communication between Tibet, Inner Mongolia, the Indus Valley, and Central Asia. Her project has yielded peer-reviewed journal articles, contributions to anthologies and conference books, as well as invitations to embark on research trips and deliver public lectures. She teaches courses in the field of religious material culture studies and biblical archaeology.