The Silk Road - Key to China, Then and Now | Webster University

China, Beijing

Summer 2019 Silk Road- Key to China Then & Now

Camels crossing the Dunhuang Desert in China


Program Description
Students in this course will travel across northern China, after introductory classes in St Louis to prepare you for what we will see. For two weeks we will be taken on a custom-designed tour of the Silk Road from the oasis city of Urumqi in China’s far northwest via the artistic wonders of Dunhuang and other historic Buddhist sites to its ancient capitals of Xi’an and Luoyang in central China, including a couple of ‘rest days’ allowing for downtime and short work assignments. Then a bullet train will take us to Beijing where we will have 4-5 more days exploring history entangled with contemporary life in the modern capital. Prior to that travel, we will meet in-class in St Louis for two weeks, where Dr Parr will present introductory information about the Silk Road, and its importance to the intellectual and cultural history of China. Meeting for 2 ½ hours three days a week, each class will be divided in the same way: the first 1 ½ hours will cover a topic about the history and cultural realities on the Silk Road; then, after a 10 minute break, the class will spend 50 minutes on preparation for the trip through China itself, encouraging your pre-search, providing advice about what to purchase, pack, bring with you and leave behind, and telling you what you can expect en route.

Highlights will include: some of the Dunhuang Grottoes containing astonishing historic Buddhist artworks (and said to be permanently closed to the public soon); other remarkable Buddhist caves, rock walls  and temples; historic interactions with foreign nomads and their envied treasure - horses; the Muslim Quarter in Xi’an and other Muslim contributions; delicious restaurants; ancient dynasties’ efforts to protect the nation with a Great Wall and fortresses; imperial sacred sites in Beijing, and sacred sites of various religions in the capitals; night markets, a camel ride, & giant Buddhas; brand new highways, renewable energy sources, and the latest bullet trains! And of course the world-famous Terracotta Warriors, & the Great Wall.

Program Highlights

  • Travel along the Silk Road! Join Webster’s professor-expert on China’s religions, Chris Parr, on a trip of a lifetime, visiting parts of China that most Westerners never get to experience.
  • Learn about China from being IN China! Explore world heritage and sacred religious sites accompanied by experienced guides, earning credits for what you learn.
  • Experience contemporary CHINA – many different lifestyles, landscapes, resources, cities, and developments – through the country’s historic influences, extraordinary religious art, vivid maps of reality, and competing ideas about our past, present, & future…

Course Dates: May 27- June 28, 2019
Travel Dates: June 9 - June 28, 2019

ISTL 2500 / RELG 3605
Faculty Leader: Chris Parr

Course Syllabus (subject to change)
Course Itinerary (subject to change)

In this course you will travel along China’s famous Silk Road, south from the deserts of the northwest to the ancient capital cities in central China, and then to the modern capital of Beijing, experiencing China ‘then, and now.’ As we go, you will learn about important developments in ideas, cultures, and human history that can be traced through the extraordinary art and monuments that still survive along the Silk Road. (Additional valuable background will also be provided in two other courses I will teach in Spring 2019, ahead of this one.)

The course is designed for you to learn about 3 principal themes: (1) the key significance of the trading routes that became known as the Silk Road(s) for the development of China’s culture, economy and history; (2) the intersections of religious history and developments in shaping China’s culture; and (3) the interrelationship, along the Silk Road and in Beijing, between the past and present, discovering how a very long history influences a vibrant and re-emerging culture in our contemporary world. Being a hybrid course, it will begin with two weeks of classes in St Louis, introducing you to what we will see and also essential information for the trip; then two weeks traveling the Silk Road, followed by a week in Beijing; and as we go you’ll be given time and opportunity for research, personal reflection, and selections from the photos & other artifacts you gather to present as assignments for evaluation in the course.

Chris Parr has been teaching at Webster University about Chinese religious history and Buddhism for almost 30 years, including the Dunhuang Grottoes and Buddhist art in China. In 2017, with the assistance of the Messing Award, he went on much the same tour of the Silk Road and then exploration of sacred sites in Beijing that he is now offering to students.

ISTL 1000 is a prerequisite for students registering for ISTL 2500.

Program Flyer
Silk Road- Key to China Then & Now

Program Cost  
Program Fee: $3,395
What's Included: 
20 nights of accommodations, all organized academic and cultural activities, on-ground transportation to all organized activities, most breakfasts, Welcome and Farewell dinners, some other meals. 
What's is not Included: Airfare; some meals; personal expenses; visas
Study Abroad Fee: $175 (covers international insurance & ISIC card)
Webster Tuition: Students pay the undergraduate tuition rate

Students may be eligible for Webster study abroad scholarships. Please reference the Study Abroad website for more information.

Summer Break scholarship deadline-  March 15th

Application Process
Application Deadline: March 15th, 2019

To apply, follow these steps:
1) Ensure you meet the study abroad eligibility requirements
2) Start an application via the Webster online application system
3) The application will ask you to fill out a number of forms, pay the $100 study abroad deposit*, write a brief statement of purpose, submit a passport copy and a passport sized photos.

*The $100 application deposit is refundable to if ALL of the following conditions are met:
1) Student attends the program
2) Student completes the pre and post-study abroad surveys 3) Student does not have any outstanding program charges.

Information Session:
Summer 2019 Silk Road - Key to China Then & Now (ISTL 2500 / RELG 3605)
Friday, March 1st
SOC Media Lab- Sverdrup (112)

Summer 2019 Silk Road - Key to China Then & Now (ISTL 2500 / RELG 3605)
Tuesday, March 5th
Location: 263


Altar of Heaven - Beijing
Buddha Tableau
Confucius Temple - Beijing
Happy Panda restauant - Beijing