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Lecture | LIAS Lunch Talk Series

The China Pavilion (chīnīkhāna) of Ulugh Beg in Samarqand

Wednesday 24 May 2023

1.04 (Verbarium)


Cross-cultural artistic exchanges have always played an important role across Central Asia. In the Timurid period, in particular during the reign of Shahrukh (r. 1409–1447) and Ulugh Beg (r. 1409-1449), a series of embassies to the Ming court of Emperor Yongle (r. 1403–1424) resulted in an innovative revival and appropriation of Chinese designs. My paper discusses the architecture and interior decoration of the chīnīkhāna of Ulugh Beg in Samarqand from the 1420s based on the findings and artefacts collected by Soviet archaeologists in 1941. Special focus is paid to the exterior decoration of the chīnīkhāna based on polychrome and monochrome glazed tiles, and carved terracotta fragments kept at the Samarqand State Museum. The latter will be presented for the first time to the academic audience. The aim is to offer a full reconstruction of the chīnīkhāna based on a combination of archaeological artefacts, photographs from the 1940s, and detailed sketches and drawings by Soviet scholars.

About the speaker

Elena Paskaleva is assistant professor in critical heritage studies of Asia and Europe. Her current research focuses on the material culture of Central Asia, and in particular on the history and socio-political importance of Timurid architecture. She is the author of Silk Road Cities documented through vintage photographs, prints and postcards (Leiden: LUP, 2019), co-author and editor of the forthcoming volumes Memory and Commemoration across Central Asia: Texts, Traditions and Practices, 10th-21st Centuries (Leiden Studies in Islam and Society, vol. 17: Brill, 2023) and Exchanges along the Silk Roads. Urbanism. Landscape. Architecture (UNESCO, 2023). Dr. Paskaleva has published widely on the restorations of Timurid architecture in present-day Uzbekistan. In 2014 she was an associate at the Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture at Harvard University. At present, Dr. Paskaleva is a researcher in the NWO-funded project “Turks, Texts and Territory: Imperial Ideology and Cultural Production in Central Eurasia” (2017-2023). She has been a strong proponent of strengthening the study and teaching of Central Asia in Leiden within the framework of the Central Asia Initiative and LUCIS. Since September 2015 she is the coordinator of the Asian Heritage Cluster at the International Institute for Asian Studies (IIAS).

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