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The Straits of Malacca, a narrow passage between Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore that links the Indian Ocean to the South China Sea, has been one of the world's great trade routes from prehistory through the present day. In this illustrated talk, Lawrence Butler will highlight the medieval and early modern periods when the worlds of Islam and the Chinese diaspora met and mixed all along this strategic waterway. He will consider ancient sculptures and recent shipwreck archeology to understand the trade in luxury goods between Tang China, medieval India, and Abbasid Islam. Zheng He, a Chinese Muslim admiral, led his great treasure fleets through the Straits in the early Ming, promoting the spread of both Chinese culture and Islam along the way. We will explore the communities, luxury arts, mosques and temples of Malaysia and Indonesia that have resulted from these encounters, shaped in later centuries by Portuguese, Dutch and English colonialism and modern nationalism.
Dr. Lawrence Butler is Associate Professor of Art History Emeritus at George Mason University in Virginia. His training and research have focused on medieval, Islamic, Chinese and Silk Road art. He has taught a broad range of courses on global art and cultural history and encounters. His interest in Asia's maritime trade routes comes from teaching in the Semester at Sea program, while circling the globe. He has taught four summers in Shanghai, China, as well as lectured frequently at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC, where he serves as an expert with Smithsonian Journeys. Currently he is active with the East Hawaii Cultural Center in Hilo, Hawaii and has just started an experimental coffee farm on the Big Island of Hawaii.
Dr. Butler has provided a bibliography and sources of some of the images.
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