The weekly model and format of the proposed Institute will build on the successful 2014 and 2016 NEH College and University Summer Institutes conducted by Morris Rossabi titled The Mongols and the Eurasian Nexus of Global History, and Modern Mongolia: Heritage and Tradition Amid Changing Realities, with plenary sessions along with discussions and small group work on special interest topics. The Institute’s expert presenters will again spend extra time with the group of participants, in order to address new questions and ideas that participants may have. Each Friday will be totally dedicated to engaging participants to follow up on the week’s material when Professor Rossabi and principal speakers from the week will open the floor for questions, discussion, and ideas.


The first week of the program will provide participants with a framework for understanding the rises of steppe empires and the Genghis Khan. Institute academic lead and Co-Director Morris Rossabi will present general background on Mongolia including information on its environment and geography, as well as the Institute’s goals on the first morning. In the afternoon, David Dettmann will introduce Summer Scholars to the University of Pennsylvania’s campus and take them to get campus identification cards and campus Wi-Fi access.Christopher Atwood will introduce Summer Scholars to the life and times of Genghis Khan through one of the oldest surviving and most famous bodies of Mongolian literature discussing the early Mongol Empire: The Secret History of the Mongols. Themes explored in the morning session will be touched upon with a critical viewing of the Wednesday afternoon film Mongol (a film adaptation of The Secret History). On Wednesday, Professor Rossabi will set the Eurasian world stage with the status of China and Persia at the dawn of the Mongol Empire.Archaeological finds from Mongolia and Central Asia will be highlighted in William Fitzhugh’s session on Thursday, including recent finds in DNA and linguistic studies that illustrate the impacts of the Turks and Mongols, from the Bronze Age to the Silk Road and beyond—including the early peopling of the New World. Thursday’s session will be supplemented with a trip to the University of Pennsylvania’s Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, for a visit with the East Asia collection curator Adam Smith. Dr. Smith will highlight Chinese and Khitan museum holdings that illustrate connections and influences of steppe cultures.


Week two will begin with Daniel Waugh’s session on Mongol expansion westward into Eurasia and ultimately into Slavic lands. Professor Waugh will highlight several primary source translations of people writing about the Mongol conquest from an observer prospective and end with enduring Mongol legacies and influences for Slavic areas and Turkic-speaking Central Asia. On Tuesday Christopher Atwood returns with a primary source-based discussion of religious tolerance and pluralism during the Mongol Empire, highlighting Mongolian perceptions of holiness and historical expansion of Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity in the Mongol Empire. On Wednesday, Professor Rossabi will discuss how the Mongols influenced contemporary Chinese dynasties and later how life in China was directly under the Mongol Empire, and on Thursday, Timothy May will discuss how military strategies and technologies led to Mongol successes throughout their campaigns in Eurasia, and how those and many other ideas and technologies were transmitted throughout the empire during the Pax Mongolica.


Week three will highlight cultural influences of the Mongols on a global scale. Nancy Steinhardt will begin the week with a discussion focused on Mongol cities and the grand structures that were constructed in the Mongol Empire: palaces, monasteries, and observatories. Her talk will be supplemented by a film in the afternoon called The Craftsman, in which a Mongol carpenter is shadowed over several days in building a traditional Mongolian home from materials in nature.  On Tuesday and Wednesday, the focus will be depictions of Mongols and Mongol Empire. Professor Steinhardt will discuss Mongols and Mongol influences in painting, and Professor Rossabi will discuss popular writings by Marco Polo and Ibn Battuta, and how those works influenced travelers and scholars elsewhere in the world. On Thursday, Sunmin Yoon will present on what we know about music and dance from the time of the Mongol Empire, and will feature video performances of music is rooted in rural life on the steppe. Other video examples will highlight present-day Mongol performers identifying with the past and with the period of the Mongol Empire. This presentation will be prefaced by a live musical performance on Wednesday evening, by a horsehead fiddle player and “long song” singer from Washington D.C.’s Mongolia Cultural Center. Finally, on Friday, a bus will be chartered from the Penn campus to take participants to New York City museums. Mongolian and Tibetan artwork of Zanabazar’s workshop will be featured among the collections of the Rubin Museum of Art. In viewing the museums religious art we will discuss Indian, Nepali, and Tibetan artistic and religious influence on the Mongols. In the afternoon, we will visit the Metropolitan Museum of Art to consider Mongol influences on Chinese and Central Asian arts. Friday evening will end with a dinner at Professor Rossabi’s residence in New York City.


For the fourth and final week, we explore the overarching influences of the Mongol Empire on global history with William Honeychurch, and Bettine Birge will present more specifically on the role of women in shaping Mongol Empire history. These themes will be combined with reflective discussion of other themes from the prior three weeks and Professor Rossabi will lead a final discussion on Wednesday. In the afternoons and evenings of week four, teachers will be working together with our visiting experts and Professor Rossabi on lesson plans, which will be presented over two days on Thursday and Friday.

National Endowment for the HumanitiesAny views, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this program do not necessarily reflect those of the National Endowment for the Humanities.