Our research focus lies on the investigation of interaction, communication and exchange relations in the macro-region of Eurasia, East Asia, the Asia-Pacific and Indian Ocean Worlds across both land and sea routes, with a main focus on China. We concentrate, however, especially on China’s multifold maritime relations. Major emphasis in this context is placed on the history of diplomatic relations, the transfer of science and technologies, commodity and product exchange, trade, cultural aspects in their widest interpretation, religions, as well as migration and the organisation and functioning of networks.
For this purpose, we have established a worldwide team of researchers who analyse continental and maritime exchanges and transfers of knowledge, ideas, products and people, including forms of migration, paying particular attention to unofficial, secret and illegal exchanges and movements. To this end, we particularly investigate forms of interaction that have been important in both the past and the present, focussing especially on illegal and private networks (smuggling, piracy etc.).
Of major importance to our research is also a critical analysis of China’s and other polities’ socio-economic structures, including the interrelationship between politics, ideology & morality, as expressed in cultural traditions, texts, and religious practices (such as for example tomb culture; Confucianism etc.).
Research includes, above all, commercial exchange and networks, the exchange of technologies and science transfer (such as geographical knowledge as portrayed in maps; navigation routes, distillation technologies, use of mercury for silver mining, medicinal knowledge and products, including diseases, etc.); diplomatic exchanges; aspects of culture (such as practices of Chinese-foreign encounters; food & drinks, music, tombs and tomb objects, including murals; ship cargoes) and religions (such as Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam); and historical naval enterprises and maritime commerce.
A milestone of our research lies in the parallel comparative analysis of both archaeological and textual evidence and a cross-cultural inter-disciplinary approach. In terms of archaeology, my own main focus lies on the analysis of both tombs and shipwrecks. The use of a wide range of sources from archaeological findings to texts, documents, and pictorial material, to linguistic evidence, constitutes a hallmark of the approach.
For a survey on actual research, publications etc. see also the website of its director Angela Schottenhammer.