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8.3 Interactions Within and Across Cultures in South, East, and Southeast Asian Art

4 min readโ€ขjanuary 18, 2023

Minna Chow

Minna Chow

AP Art Historyย ๐Ÿ–ผ

34ย resources
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Throughout this unit, youโ€™ll see overlapping design features and artistic motifs in art from this region, both within this unit and between this unit and other units. This is because, unlike some other regions, Asia as a whole is very interconnected through trade and politics. Through trade routes, Asia was also connected to Europe. In this guide, weโ€™ll be roughly summarizing how Asia was so connected and what impact that had on the art of the region.ย 


The primary way that this region was connected to Letโ€™s begin by discussing two major trade routes: the overland Silk Route and the maritime trade. The Silk Route (or Silk Road) was an overland series of connecting trade routes that stretched from Europe, across the Indian subcontinent, and ended in modern day China. It was named for the trade of silk from China on one end, where silk production was kept a strict secret, to Europe on the other. However, not just silk was traded: spices and precious metals went from one side to another as well.ย 
For more information about the Silk Road, go here!ย 
Illustrative example: The cobalt that makes the David Vases as blue as they are came from what is now modern-day Iran.ย 
Maritime trade, or trade by boat, flourished in the Indian Ocean. Monsoon winds facilitated trade among North Africa, West Asia, South Asia, Southeast Asia, and south China.ย 
For more information about the Indian Ocean Trade, go here!
You wonโ€™t need to know every detail about the Silk Road or the Indian Ocean trade. The important thing to know is that these routes transmitted not only goods but also artistic mediums, ideas and practices and cultural ideas and practices, such as Buddhism, that would influence art.ย 


Besides trade, politics also led to cultural connections between regions, as different polities interacted with each other.ย 
An example of this is the Chinese practice of heqin, where Chinese emperors would offer their daughters or other female relations as wives to the rulers of neighboring states to seal alliances. This, in turn, led to the spread of Chinese culture and influence across these neighboring states. A famous example of this is the marriage of Princess Wencheng to a King of Tibet. She is said to have brought 184. Jowo Rinpoche, enshrined in the Jokhang Temple with her as part of her dowry.ย 
Other interactions include alliance building, trade agreements, marriage alliances, the paying of tribute (where one group pays homage to another by sending gifts), and war.ย 

Major Religious Exchange

A major focus of Unit 8 is the religious influence behind the pieces from this region. In this section, weโ€™ll be describing some of the major cross-cultural religious exchanges.ย 


Buddhism originated in India, but soon spread across Asia to Southeast Asia, Sri Lanka, Central Asia, China, Japan and Korea. (For a rough timescale, Buddhism is said to have been founded somewhere between the late 6th and early 4th century BCE, and it was imported to Japan, one of the latest places it spread to, from Korea and China in the 7th and 8th century CE.) Over time, different regional schools of Buddhism developed, such as Zen Buddhism in China and Japan. Pure Land Buddhism in East Asia, etc. Another influential religious exchange was that of Islam from West and Central Asia.ย ย 


Islam originated in the city of Mecca, modern day Saudi Arabia, by the prophet Muhammad in the 7th century CE, and Islamic art was the focus of our last Unit. However, it has spread from the Arabian Peninsula to this region. Today, South and Southeast Asia are home to the worldโ€™s largest Muslim populations, and Islamic influence is particularly strong in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, and Indonesia.ย 
In this unit, the pieces of art with the most Islamic influence are the Taj Mahal and Jahangir Preferring a Sufi Shaikh to Kings from the primarily Islamic dynasty Mughal India.ย 
For more information about the spread of Islam, go here!ย 
South, East, and Southeast Asia were also home to foreign cultures and religions that originated outside of this region, such as the Greco-Roman cultures and Christianity.ย 
Illustrative Example: The work 208. Jahangir Preferring a Sufi Shaikh to Kings depicts an English ambassador in the bottom left corner, and Emperor Akbar of the Mughal Empire frequently discussed and debated Christian ideas.ย 
Browse Study Guides By Unit
๐Ÿ—ฟUnit 1 โ€“ Global Prehistoric Art, 30,000-500 BCE
๐Ÿ›Unit 2 โ€“ Ancient Mediterranean Art, 3500-300 BCE
โ›ช๏ธUnit 3 โ€“ Early European and Colonial American Art, 200-1750 CE
โš”๏ธUnit 4 โ€“ Later European and American Art, 1750-1980 CE
๐ŸŒฝUnit 5 โ€“ Indigenous American Art, 1000 BCE-1980 CE
โšฑ๏ธUnit 6 โ€“ African Art, 1100-1980 CE
๐Ÿ•ŒUnit 7 โ€“ West and Central Asian Art, 500 BCE-1980 CE
๐Ÿ›•Unit 8 โ€“ South, East, and Southeast Asian Art, 300 BCE-1980 CE
๐ŸšUnit 9: The Pacific, 700โ€“1980 ce
๐ŸขUnit 10 โ€“ Global Contemporary Art, 1980 CE to Present
๐Ÿ™Exam Reviews

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