Language Diversities, Food and Cultural Exchange on the Silk Road

Dr Sunyoung Oh1

1University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Australia

The ancient Silk Road contributed to the development of the civilizations by opening long-distance economic interaction along the routes. This paper explores the cultural connection between Central and East Asia in quest of the origin of food and philology of ‘Ssanghwa’ from the popular songs of Koryŏ, dated in the 12-14th centuries. Kayo is a literary genre emerged in the Koryŏ period which denotes popular songs transmitted orally by commoners. It is also referred to as Sokyo, secular songs, for its style distinct from the Sinicized poems and prose and for its vulgar and satirical content. Ssanghwajŏm is a satire which sings the variety of indecent acts as a social epidemic. Most Koryŏ songs were anonymous, and many survived into the Chosŏn period. They were collected for music and performance in the early Chosŏn but later criticized for containing a direct and provocative expression of love. Although much study has been done on Ssanghwajŏm with respect to text analysis focusing on its narrators, tone, mood, and theme, little study has speculated on the word Ssanghwa and its origin. Introducing a Chosŏn cookbook in the 17th century, this paper discusses the linguistic derivation and cultural diversity evident in the foods cognate with ‘ssanghwa’ and ‘mandu’ along the Silk Road.


Sunyoung Oh is a Senior Lecturer in Korean Studies in the Asia Institute, University of Melbourne. Before joining U of Melbourne, she worked as Assistant Professor at the City University of Hong Kong. Her research includes Korean linguistics, cultural studies and language education. She is also a bilingual poet.


The Asian Studies Association of Australia (ASAA) is the peak body of university experts and educators on Asia in Australia. Established in 1976, we promote and support the study of Asia in Australian universities and knowledge of Asia among the broader community. Our membership is drawn mainly from academics and students, but also includes industry and government Asia experts. We take a strong interest in promoting knowledge about Asia in schools and in contributing to state and Commonwealth government policies related to Asia. We provide informed comment on Asia to a broad public through our bulletin, Asian Currents, and specialist research articles in our journal, Asian Studies Review. Four book series published under our auspices cover Southeast Asia, South Asia, East Asia and Women in Asia.

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