Acta Via Serica

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Central Asian Studies

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Original Articles Home > Acta Via Serica > Archives > Original Articles
Title Polo: A Cultural Code for Understanding
Volume Vol. 4 No. 1
Pages pp. 125~146 (all 22 pages)
Publication Date June, 2019
Keyword Polo, Origins, Process, Silk Road, Civilization
Abstract This paper deals with the question of the origin of polo. Although it is a sport that has been mainly active in the West since the nineteenth century, it is well known that British troops in the northern part of Pakistan learned about the sport from the local people there. Most agree that the origin of polo is Iran. However, in this paper, rather than specifying a specific area as the birthplace of polo, it is argued that polo was a cultural phenomenon commonly found on the Silk Road. This is based on the fact that polo has been known for centuries in China, the Korean Peninsula, and Japan, as well as throughout Iran, northern India, Tibet, Central Asia, and the Uighur Autonomous Region. Yet, the transmission of polo cannot be traced chronologically according to the supposed propagation route. This cultural phenomenon has changed over a long period of time according to the local environment, and the change was caused by mutual exchanges, not by one party. Therefore, there are limitations to interpreting cultural phenomena linearly. Thus, the origin of polo could also be identified with another area, namely Baltistan in modern day Pakistan, instead of Iran. These results support the argument that to understand Silk Road civilization, a process-centric approach based on ‘exchanges’, not a method of exploring archetypes to find ‘the place of origin’, should be utilized. Polo is undoubtedly an important cultural artifact with which to read the Silk Road as a cultural belt complex, as well as an example of the common culture created by the whole Silk Road.