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Museum Hours
Thurs: 1 PM–8 PM
Fri–Mon: 10 AM–5 PM
Tue–Wed: Closed
Cafe Hours
Fri-Mon: 10 AM—4:30 PM
Thurs: 1—7:30 PM
Location
200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
415.581.3500
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Region

The Persian World & West Asia

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Background Information

An Introduction to Sufism

Islamic mysticism, or Sufism, was a distinct tradition within Islam that aimed to cultivate inner spiritual life. Sufism probably derives from the word suf, meaning wool, a reference to the woolen clothing worn by early Sufi mystics. The focus of Sufism changed over the centuries as Islam grew and expanded. Initially moved by the fear of God, Sufism eventually adopted an affirming doctrine of love, and later the concept of the spiritual journey of the individual towards God.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12), College and Beyond

Lesson

Mapping the Silk Road

Students analyze objects from South Asia, West Asia, and China to connect to the travel experiences of ancient merchants and traders, develop an understanding of the breadth of the land and sea trade, and explore how art and ideas travel and change over time and place.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School (6-8)

Activity

Zoomorphic Calligraphy and Virtuous Qualities

Turkish calligraphers were skillful at transforming words and phrases into the shapes of animals. This was done by elongating, wrapping, and rotating letters to create the contour (outline) as well as details of the animal. Favorite animal shapes include the lion, peacock, and stork. Students will write a descriptive sentence about an animal that they believe has virtuous qualities. They will create a zoomorphic pen and ink drawing composed of this sentence.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)

Activity

Archaeology Inventory Project

To expose students to terminology used by archaeologists and to heighten awareness of the rich discoveries in Afghanistan. Students make visual observations, write clear, succinct descriptions, form hypothesis on the function of the artwork, and investigate the influences of different cultures on art found along the Silk Road in Afghanistan.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)

Video

Afghanistan!

The Bay Area’s own Ballet Afsaneh, a dynamic ensemble whose repertory focuses on Silk Road regions in Central Asia, will perform colorful, kinetic traditional dance.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12), College and Beyond

Lesson

The Rituals of the Hajj

Lesson on the individual rituals performed by Muslim pilgrims during the hajj, the pilgrimage to Mecca.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12)

Video

Cup with calligraphic inscriptions

Hear the inscriptions on this rare drinking cup in white jade from the Timurid period (1370-1507) read aloud. The first inscription is in Arabic and the second is in Persian.

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School (6-8), High School (9-12), College and Beyond

Video

Exploring American Qu'ran with Artist Sandow Birk

“If the Qur’an is indeed a divine message to all peoples, what does it mean to an individual American in the 21st century?”

This is the question that artist Sandow Birk contemplated during his extensive travels through the Islamic world, which ultimately led to his nine-year project to transcribe and illustrate the entire Qur’an. Birk will present his project, American Qur’an, which finds connections between the universality of the messages in the sacred text and contemporary American life.

Birk will be joined by Bay Area artist Ala Ebtekar; Qamar Adamjee, Malavalli Family Foundation Associate Curator of Art of the Indian Subcontinent; and Jeffrey Durham, Associate Curator of Himalayan Art, to discuss the roles art has played in religious and political contexts.

GRADE LEVEL: College and Beyond

Video

Great Power, Great Choices

Asian Art Museum Storyteller, Leta Busyhead, tells a story about Cyrus the Great and the Cyrus Cylinder in the Cyrus Cylinder and Ancient Persia exhibition at the Asian Art Museum (August 9–September 22, 2013).

GRADE LEVEL: Middle School (6-8)