Khotan: A neglected Silk Road kingdom

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Khotan: A neglected Silk Road kingdom

November 4 @ 5:00 pm - 6:00 pm



Khotan: A neglected Silk Road kingdom

by Professor Susan Whitfield

In 1900 the archaeologist Aurel Stein (1862-1943) carried out preliminary excavations at sites in the Taklamakan Desert in eastern Central Asia dating to the period of the kingdom of  Khotan (first millennium AD). He was enticed by the possibility of finding Iranian, Indian and Chinese influences in the art, architecture and culture of this largely forgotten oasis trading kingdom. He was not to be disappointed, uncovering thousands of documents and artefacts which showed clear influences not only from these three neighbouring cultures, but also those of Turkic and Tibetan empires to the north and south respectively.  Yet these influences had been absorbed to produce a distinctive Khotanese art, culture and literature.

Stein coined the term ‘A Kingdom of Remarkable Diversity’ to describe Khotan and continued excavations on his following three Central Asia expeditions.  Since then, particularly in recent decades, other excavations have continued to reveal more of this rich and complex culture. Several important publications have included a PhD on Khotanese art, catalogues of thousands of Khotanese manuscripts with translations into English, articles discussing the chronologies of the Khotan kings based largely on coin evidence, timelines from Chinese and Tibetan historical sources and the excavated documents, and book chapters and journal articles on its language, history and art. Yet, this important kingdom still lacks a historical monograph.

This lecture will consider Khotan’s place in the history of the eastern Silk Road, in particular its role as a trading hub and a leader in new technologies (sericulture and paper-making). It will look at the history of the archaeology and discovery of sites in Khotan, using some examples to discuss further how little we understand about this oasis kingdom.

This research was largely funded by a Leverhulme Emeritus Fellowship (August 2018-August 2020) and the British Academy Stein-Arnold Exploration Fund and will result in a book-length history of  Khotan, in progress at the time of this lecture.


This event will be both in person at Burlington House and online. Please select the appropriate ticket below.

Attendance at Burlington House:

  • Open to anyone to join, Fellows and Non-Fellows.
  • Places in person will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The event will begin at 17.00 BST. Please arrive in plenty of time.
  • Tea/Coffee for Fellows is served from 16.30 BST
  • Registration is essential for non-Fellows but we encourage Fellows to register as well.
  • Fellows must ensure they sign the guest book and sign their guests in.
  • All attendees should scan the NHS QR code available at the entrance. For further details on the Government guidelines regarding COVID-19 and track and trace please visit their website here.

The schedule for the evening if attending in person:

  • Refreshments for Fellows are served from 16.30 BST in the council room.
  • The meeting begins at 17.00 BST with the lecture starting at approximately 17.10 BST.
  • Lectures run for approximately 45min and are followed by a short Q&A.
  • Sherry is served in the Foyer following the lecture.

Attendance by Live Stream:

  • Open to anyone to join, Fellows and Non-Fellows.
  • The event will be live-streamed to YouTube here
  • The event will begin at 17.00 BST.
  • You will receive an email reminder with the link to join the day before the lecture.

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If you have any questions, please contact us on [email protected]

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November 4
5:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Event Categories:


Society of Antiquaries of London
Burlington House, Piccadilly
London, W1J 0BE United Kingdom
020 7479 7080


Society of Antiquaries of London
020 7479 7080
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