Synopsis of Research in Shanghai (September 4 - December 1)：
Fan Zhang’s dissertation, entitled "Cultural Encounters: Ethnic Complexity and Material Expression in 5th century Pingcheng, China," addresses the issue of identity in the ancient world through an investigation into material remains left by people of divergent ethnic and cultural backgrounds. This research project focuses on the city of Pingcheng, one of the capitals of Northern Wei Dynasty (386-535 CE), a regime established by a non-Han ethnic group called Xianbei. During the course of the 5th century, more than one million immigrants and travelers arrived in Pingcheng from the Eurasian steppes in the north, the Korean Peninsula in the northeast, Central Asia in the west, and the regions ruled by Han Chinese in the south. The multiple waves of mass migration brought people of diverse backgrounds together and created an unusually fertile ground for vigorous cultural exchanges. Zhang’s research is intended to articulate how material culture served as an effective vehicle for an individual to express his or her newly found identity in a multi-ethnic society. Methodologically, this project takes an interdisciplinary approach that calls for analytical skills in art history, archaeology, and history. While at NYU Shanghai Zhang will conduct research on ancient China and on the issue of cultural interaction. She plans to access to publications in Chinese and work with professors and specialists at the Center of Global Asia, whose vision on connections and communications will be an asset to her research project.