Event Detail


Asian Divas: The Movement of Women, Art and Culture along the Silk Road

David Chaffetz
Monday, 4 Nov 2019
Complimentary Drinks Reception 6.30 pm; Talk 7.30 pm
Hill Dickinson, Suite 3205 Tower Two, Lippo Centre, 89 Queensway, Admiralty
In this talk, David Chaffetz looks at the Silk Road through the lens of the cultural exchanges between Iran, India and China along the road. He looks at the characteristics of the female performer “diva culture” and shows how these were shared among these three different countries, transmitted from country to country along the Silk Road.

The performing diva is a well-nigh universal phenomenon. Wherever poetry, music and mime have been practiced with virtuosity, great women performers have taken centre stage in almost all cultures. Traditional Asian divas are often, however, less understood than the great singers of the West.

Mr Chaffetz argues that the movement of diva culture along the Silk Road has left a lasting legacy. He shows that this art, which is centuries old, resounds as powerfully today as when first performed, from the lively productions of Chinese and Western opera houses to the vibrancy of cinema screens in Bombay and Shanghai.

Whether from Shiraz at the court of the Atabegs, from Delhi during the twilight of the Moghuls, or from Yangzhou under the last Ming emperors, he also argues that these Asian divas constitute perhaps the first identifiably modern women. Through practicing classical and tradition-bound arts, they were economically and socially independent, and paved the way for the rise of the modern woman in Asian societies.

David Chaffetz hails from the United States and studied Persian, Turkish and Arabic at Harvard University. He then spent a 40-year career in the technology industry, but continued to study the languages and literatures of Asia, including Chinese. He worked on the publication of the Encyclopedia Iranica and is also the author of A Journey through Afghanistan, a study of its varied people, social classes and religious sects. He has lived in Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, and travelled extensively in India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Kirghizstan, Russia and China.


Members of the RGS, their guests and others are most welcome to attend this event, which is HK$150 for RGS Members and HK$200 for guests and others, including a complimentary glass of white or red wine. This event is free of charge for our Student Members.

The Royal Geographical Society – Hong Kong wishes to express its thanks to Hill Dickinson as our Venue Sponsor for this talk.

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