Khotan: A neglected Silk Road kingdom

All of our lectures are live streamed and are open to anyone to join us online, Fellows and Non-Fellows.

To view any of our past lectures please visit our YouTube channel.

YouTube logo
Loading Events

« All Events

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.


Please note that due to COVID 19 restrictions this event may be online only. If we can hold this event at Burlington House tickets to attend in person will be released closer to the date of the event.  

Attendance by Live Stream:

  • Registration is essential.
  • Open to anyone to join, Fellows and Non-Fellows.
  • Once you have registered we will be in touch regarding how you can join via Zoom video-calling.
  • The event will also be live-streamed to YouTube here, so you can watch along if you prefer
  • Places through zoom will be allocated on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • The event will begin at 17.00 BST.
  • You will receive an email with the link to join the day before the lecture.
  • Attendees’ cameras and microphones will be off throughout

Please help the Society continue to deliver our FREE online Lecture Programme by making a donation to cover the cost of upgraded IT and software. We would really appreciate your support. Thank you! 

If you have any questions please contact our Communications and Events Manager on [email protected]

Get tickets online


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


United Kingdom


Society of Antiquaries of London
020 7479 7080
View Organiser Website