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Sandeep Das playing tabla, kneeling on a platform in front of schoolchildren at the Art Institute of Chicago


Unique Musical Experiences
Silk Road Ensemble member Sandeep Das (above) demonstrates the tabla to a group of schoolchildren at the Art Institute of Chicago. The Silk Road Project is committed to providing educational opportunities for audiences of all ages.

One of the many percussion instruments played by the Silk Road Ensemble.

One of many percussion instruments played by the Silk Road Ensemble


Silk Road Encounters Education Kit

As a symbol of the crossroads between civilizations, peoples, and cultures, the Silk Road offers rich materials for students to explore diverse but interrelated topics on geography, trade, art, music, religion and history. This free teachers guide and sourcebook, which you are welcome to download, supplements traditional classroom materials with interactive activity plans and reference materials. These materials are adaptable for students from elementary school through high school.

Silk Road Encounters Education Kit Components

Sourcebook: The easy-to-read sourcebook provides the background material you need to familiarize yourself with the Silk Roads as you plan your activities on this theme. The Sourcebook is organized into six sections:

  1. Geographical Setting
  2. Historical Background
  3. Belief Systems
  4. Arts of the Silk Road
  5. Travel of Ideas and Techniques
  6. Music of the Silk Road

Lesson Plans: Six model lesson plans bring together activities that reinforce students' basic knowledge of the Silk Road with concepts on the diversity of exchanges in the arts, belief systems and ideas.

Students will:

  • Learn about the geography, economics, and history of the Silk Roads
  • Reflect on the similarities and differences of perspectives in the religions and the world views represented in the ancient and contemporary regions touched by the Silk Roads
  • Create musical instruments modeled after those used on the Silk Roads.
  • Reflect on the history and culture in northwest China through their own experiences and knowledge.

Start with the map and trade lessons so that your students first become familiar with the physical geography and the historical context in which the cultural and artistic exchanges occurred.

The beliefs systems, art, and music activities need not be used sequentially because they each touch on a different facet of the Silk Roads.

The activities are tiered for different educational levels with variations suggested for extensions and adjustment for younger or advanced students.

Handouts for activities are included directly following the activity they support.

References: Sources for further research are included in the sourcebook and teacher’s guide:

  • Musical instrument glossary
  • Suggested readings and resources


The supplementary CD sampler, video and slide packet mentioned in the materials lists are no longer available; however, the sourcebook and teacher’s guide remain a valuable resource for teachers, and we will continue to provide them at no cost. When excerpting from Encounters materials please use the following credit line:

Excerpted from Silk Road Encounters, a project of the Silk Road Project, Inc. Silk Road Encounters is made possible by Ford Motor Company. Educational materials developed by the Silk Road Project with additional resources from the Asia Society.