BUDDHISM ARRIVES IN CHINA
Buddhism arrived in China toward the end of the Han dynasty, roughly during the first or second century A.D. Prior to this time, there had been no major form of Chinese thought that viewed life, the concrete world, and the human body in so pessimistic a way as Buddhism. One of the earliest Chinese Buddhist meditation texts, dating from the third century, instructs mediators to ponder the corrupt and painful nature of life in a human body: The ascetic engages in contemplation of himself and observes that all the noxious seepage of his internal body is impure. Hair, skin, skull and flesh; tears from the blinking of the eyes and spittle; veins, arteries, sinew and marrow; liver, lungs, intestines and stomach; feces, urine, mucus and blood: such a mass of filth when combined produces a man. It is as if a sack were filled with a leaky bag. (Quoted in Wm. Theodore de Bary, ed., The Buddhist Tradition in India, China, and Japan [New York: The Modern Library, 1969], p. 129.) [Source: “Topics in Japanese Cultural History” by Gregory Smits, Penn State University figal-sensei.org ~]
According to the Asia Society Museum: “Although Buddhism was known in China during the Han dynasty, it was only after fall of the Han that it began to gain widespread popularity. A continuous stream of Buddhist missionaries from India and Central Asia found eager converts at every level of society and powerful patrons among the new nomad rulers of North China. The practice of Buddhism proved a potent stimulant to trade, with a growing demand for precious objects from afar, including incense from Central Asia, jewels and precious metals, coral, pearls, and lapis lazuli, all destined to adorn Buddhist temples, images, and reliquaries. [Source: “Monks and Merchants, curated by Annette L. Juliano and Judith A. Lerner, November 17, 2001,Asia Society Museum asiasocietymuseum.org == ]
“The form of Buddhism that became dominant in China was Mahayana ("The Greater Vehicle"). Mahayana Buddhism emphasized the potential salvation of all living beings and the concept of compassion. The embodiment of this ideal of universal compassion was the bodhisattva, beings who have attained enlightenment but who defer their entry into nirvana to aid others. A popular Mahayana scripture, the Lotus Sutra, taught that making holy images was an act of the highest merit on the road to enlightenment. Mahayana converts became China's greatest art patrons, supporting the building of cave temples and pagodas, the carving of statues and stelae (stone tablets), and the translation and copying of Buddhist sutras.” ==
Good Websites and Sources on the Silk Road: Silk Road Seattle washington.edu/silkroad ; Silk Road Foundation silk-road.com; Wikipedia Wikipedia ; Silk Road Atlas depts.washington.edu ; Old World Trade Routes ciolek.com; Buddhist Art: Victoria and Albert Museum vam.ac.uk/collections/asia/asia_features/buddhism/index ; Buddhist Symbols viewonbuddhism.org/general_symbols_buddhism ; Wikipedia article on Buddhist Art Wikipedia ; Guimet Museum in Paris guimet.fr ; Buddhist Artwork buddhanet.net/budart/index ; Asian Art at the British Museum britishmuseum.org ; Buddhism and Buddhist Art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org ; Buddhist Art Huntington Archives Buddhist Art dsal.uchicago.edu/huntington ; Buddhist Art Resources academicinfo.net/buddhismart ; Buddhist Art, Smithsonian freersackler.si.edu
RELATED ARTICLES IN THIS WEBSITE: SILK ROAD factsanddetails.com; SILK ROAD EXPLORERS factsanddetails.com; SILK ROAD: PRODUCTS, TRADE, MONEY AND SOGDIAN MERCHANTS factsanddetails.com; SILK ROAD ROUTES AND CITIES factsanddetails.com; SILK ROAD AND RELIGION factsanddetails.com; CHINA’S GIFTS TO THE WEST factsanddetails.com; IDEAS INTRODUCED FROM CHINA TO THE WEST factsanddetails.com; SILK, SILK WORMS, THEIR HISTORY AND PRODUCTION factsanddetails.com; MONGOLS, CHRISTIANITY, NESTORIANS AND THE SILK ROAD factsanddetails.com
Early Spread of Buddhism on the Silk Road
According to the Asia Society Museum: “Alongside the merchants and diplomatic envoys of the Silk Road traveled disciples of the Buddha, obeying his exhortation to spread his teachings. The political turmoil of the time offered Buddhist missionaries, many of Indian, Central Asian, or even of nomad stock, opportunities to convert local rulers. In exchange for the monks' services as magicians, fortune tellers, and political, military, and diplomatic advisers, Buddhism gained powerful patrons willing to support image making, cave temples, and translation centers. [Source: “Monks and Merchants, curated by Annette L. Juliano and Judith A. Lerner, November 17, 2001, Asia Society Museum asiasocietymuseum.org == ]
Tansen Sen wrote in Education about Asia: “The spread of Buddhist doctrines from India to China beginning sometime in the first century CE triggered a profusion of cross-cultural exchanges that had a profound impact on Asian and world history. The travels of Buddhist monks and pilgrims and the simultaneous circulation of religious texts and relics not only stimulated interactions between the Indian kingdoms and various regions of China, but also influenced people living in Central and Southeast Asia. Indeed, the transmission of Buddhist doctrines from India to China was a complex process that involved multiple societies and a diverse group of people, including missionaries, itinerant traders, artisans, and medical professionals. [Source: Tansen Sen, Education about Asia, Volume 11, Number 3 Winter 2006 ]
“Chinese pilgrims played a key role in the exchanges between ancient India and ancient China. They introduced new texts and doctrines to the Chinese clergy, carried Buddhist paraphernaliafor the performance of rituals and ceremonies, and provided detailed accounts of their spiritual journeys to India. Records of Indian society and its virtuous rulers, accounts of the flourishing monastic institutions, and stories about the magical and miraculous prowess of the Buddha and his disciples often accompanied the descriptions of the pilgrimage sites in their travel records. In fact, these travel records contributed to the development of a unique perception of India among members of the Chinese clergy. For some, India was a sacred, even Utopian, realm. Others saw India as a mystical land inhabited by “civilized” and sophisticated people. In the context of Chinese discourse on foreign peoples, who were often described as uncivilized and barbaric, these accounts significantly elevated the Chinese perception of Indian society.
“Faxian, Xuanzang, and Yijing were among hundreds of Chinese monks who made pilgrimages to India during the first millennium CE. The detailed accounts of their journeys make them more famous than others. These travel records are important historical resources for several reasons. First, they provide meticulous accounts of the nature of Buddhist doctrines, rituals, and monastic institutions in South, Central, and Southeast Asia. Second, they contain vital information about the social and political conditions in South Asia and kingdoms situated on the routes between China and India. Third, they offer remarkable insights into cross-cultural perceptions and interactions. Additionally, these accounts throw light on the arduous nature of long-distance travel, commercial exchanges, and the relationship between Buddhist pilgrims and itinerant merchants.
Monks and the Silk Road
Heather Colburn Clydesdale wrote: Silk Road “trade routes were also by Buddhist pilgrims. The most famous was the Chinese monk Xuanzang (602–664), who, in defiance of the emperor Taizong's prohibition against travel beyond China, departed Chang'an in 629 and walked to India. He returned triumphantly more than sixteen years later, accompanied by a caravan laden with sutras, statues, and relics, which he bestowed to the emperor. He chronicled his journey, describing the climates, peoples, and customs he encountered, in his book Record of the Western Regions. \^/ [Source: Heather Colburn Clydesdale, Metropolitan Museum of Art metmuseum.org \^/]
There was great contact and interest in India as a hub for Buddhist knowledge. Xuanzang managed to bring back valuable Sanskrit texts to be translated into Chinese. There was also a Turkic–Chinese dictionary available for serious scholars and students, while Turkic folksongs gave inspiration to some Chinese poetry. [Source: Wikipedia]
Xuanzang wasn’t the first Chinese monk to travel on the Silk Road, The Chinese monk Faxian (Fa-hsien) left China around A.D. 399 to study Buddhism and locate sutras and relics in India. He traveled from Xian to the west overland on the southern Silk Road into Central Asia and described monasteries, monks and pagodas. He crossed over Himalayan passes into India and ventured as far south as Sri Lanka before sailing back to China on a route that took him through present-day Indonesia. His entire journey took 15 years.
According to the Asia Society Museum: “In these centers, teams of non-Chinese and Chinese monks collaborated on the translation of Buddhist sutras (scriptures) in Indian and Central Asian languages into Chinese. Huge numbers of the population entered religious orders. The monastic ideal, indeed, became an important theme in Buddhist art. Figures of Ananda and Kasyapa in simple monastic dress, such as those shown here, often flanked the main images, as if a reminder of the vital role of monks in the spread of Buddhist teachings.” ==
In Vinaya-pitaka, II, the Buddha says: “Go, Monks, preach, the Noble Doctrine... let not two of you go in the same direction.” Jason Neelis of the University of Washington wrote: "Great caravan leader" (mahasarthavaha) is a popular epithet of the Buddha in Pali and Sanskrit literature. This epithet refers to the Buddha's role as a teacher, protector and leader of his followers during the journey from the worldly realm of the cycle of continuous rebirth to the "other shore" of enlightenment and cessation of the cycle of death and rebirth. The Buddhist teacher Nagasena explains to King Menander of Bactria that the Buddha "is like a caravan owner to men in that he brings them beyond the sandy desert of rebirths."1 Xinru Liu observes that "Abundant experience with long-distance trade provided the inspiration for these images of the Buddha as a guide for travelers and merchants." [Source: Jason Neelis, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/silkroad ]
Yijing’s Account Shows Lots of Chinese Buddhist Monks Traveled to India
Yijing’s "Memoirs of Eminent Monks" was written around A.D. 530. Tansen Sen wrote in Education about Asia: “The biographies of Chinese pilgrims in Yijing’s "Memoirs of Eminent Monks" reveal that, despite the perilous nature of the journey, Buddhist monks from China visited India frequently and in considerable numbers during the seventh century. Some of these monks used the overland routes through Central Asia and Tibet to India. Others, similar to Yijing, took the maritime route via Southeast Asian ports. Some returned to China after their pilgrimages, others either decided to stay in India or died before they could embark on the return voyage. [Source: Tansen Sen, Education about Asia, Volume 11, Number 3 Winter 2006 ]
These biographies are short accounts of pilgrimages of Chinese monks who have left no records of their trips to India. In the biography of the monk Xuanzhao in fascicle one, for example, Yijing gives Xuanzhao’s genealogy and narrates his experience learning the Buddhist doctrine, the long journey he took to India through Tibet, the education he received at Indian monasteries, and his return to China through Nepal and Tibet. Shortly after reaching China, Xuanzhao was ordered by the Tang Emperor Gaozong to return to India to procure for him longevity drugs and physicians. Yijing reports that Xuanzhao accomplished his objective but died before he could return to China. Together with fifty-five other biographies, this account demonstrates the resolute and fervent desire of the Chinese clergy to visit Buddhist sites and study in India.
“Addressing the large number of Buddhist followers unable to undertake the perilous journey to India, Yijing wrote the following in his introduction to "The Record of Buddhism": “If you read this Record of mine, you may, without moving one step, travel in all the five countries of India.” He ends the work by stating, “My real hope and wish is to represent the Vulture Peak in the Small Rooms [peak of Mount Song] of my friends, and to build a second Rajagrha City in the Divine Land of China.”
“These two statements represent the wishes of all other Chinese pilgrims, including Faxian and Xuanzang, who returned to write narratives of their pilgrimages to India. Through their narratives, they sought to provide the followers of the Buddhist doctrine in China an opportunity to envision the sites and events in the life of the Buddha that they considered sacred and miraculous. Additionally, these pilgrims, by returning with Buddhist texts, relics, and other paraphernalia, tried to recreate in China an Indic world where the followers could perform pilgrimages without embarking on the arduous journey to India and, at the same time, dispel their feeling of borderland complex.
Buddhism and Trade
Jason Neelis of the University of Washington wrote: “The close relationship between Buddhism and trade is largely due to the reliance of the Buddhist monastic community on donations from lay supporters. Ideally, Buddhist monks and nuns were required to reject all worldly possessions and thus to depend on the lay community to supply all of their necessities, including food, clothing, shelter, and medicine. In practice, donations to Buddhist monasteries extended to a wide range of materials that were necessary to maintain resident communities of monks and nuns. Significant economic surpluses were needed to sustain large-scale Buddhist institutions, where, in return for donations, monks and nuns were available to give religious instruction. [Source: Jason Neelis, University of Washington, depts.washington.edu/silkroad *]
“In return for their material donations to Buddhist monasteries, donors received religious merit (punya), which was often shared with relatives, teachers, political supporters, and "all beings" (sarvasattva). Donations establishing the presence of the Buddha at particular places in the form of stupas, relics, images, and texts generated special merit, since such sacred gifts provided opportunities for more devotees to worship the Buddha's body or teachings. Wealthy merchants and powerful rulers were particularly encouraged to be very generous in return for practical benefits, such as refuge and protection from real and perceived dangers while traveling, and status or legitimacy by acting as patrons of religious institutions. Epigraphic records of donations to Buddhist stupas and monasteries in India attest to the importance of commercial and political patronage of Buddhist institutions. *\
“The earliest donors and some of the most important patrons of the Buddha and his followers were caravan merchants and wealthy bankers. Buddhist literature contains many epithets, stories, examples, and rules related to long-distance trade. In one of the most important episodes, two merchants named Trapusa and Bhallika approached the Buddha in the seventh week after his enlightenment at Bodh Gaya and offered rice cakes and honey. After offering these gifts, Trapusa and Bhallika became the first lay disciples and received relics of the Buddha's hair and nails, which the Buddha instructed them to enshrine in stupas in their home countries. This event establishes a pattern for the prominent role played by merchants in the patronage and transmission of Buddhism. Anathapindika, a wealthy businessman, became a lay disciple after meeting the Buddha during a business journey to Rajagriha, and subsequently invited the Buddha and his followers to spend the rainy season in a monastery, which he donated at great expense. As the foremost early donor to the Buddhist community, Anathapindika is idealized for giving away everything he had. Based on the model of extreme generosity of Anathapindika, commercial patrons were encouraged to donate liberally to the Buddhist community in order to sustain the further expansion of monastic networks. *\
“In Ancient India and Ancient China, Xinru Liu also proposes that Buddhist demand for the "seven jewels" (saptaratna) stimulated long-distance trade between northwestern South Asia, Central Asia and China.3 The seven jewels consisted of luxury commodities that were high in value but low in volume, such as gold, silver, crystal, lapis lazuli, carnelian, coral, and pearls. While such materials are intrinsically valuable and suitable for long-distance trade, ritual values associated with the establishment of Buddhism may have augmented their economic worth. Since Buddhist devotees sought these items as suitable donations, the nexus between long-distance trade and Buddhist monastic networks was strengthened. As the commodities forming the seven jewels became standardized and their religious value increased, Liu argues that "Buddhist values created and sustained the demand for certain commodities traded between India and China during the first to the fifth centuries AD."4 The processes of expanding lucrative long-distance trade networks and the long-distance transmission of Buddhism were mutually reinforced. *\
Buddhist Art and Trade Routes
According to the Asia Society Museum: “Trade routes, both maritime and overland, were the primary means by which Buddhist thought and imagery were conveyed from India, the birthplace of Buddhism, to other Asian countries. These ancient connecting routes provided an avenue for the religious, cultural, and artistic influences of Buddhism to reach the distant corners of the continent and beyond. [Source: Asia Society Museum asiasocietymuseum.org |~|]
“Buddhist images are remarkably recognizable, regardless of their country or period of origin. They are usually made according to descriptions found in Indian texts intended to help the practitioner mentally invoke the form of the deity. These texts provide the artist with the basic schema of the image, detailing what an image should look like, from the posture, gesture, and color of the deity, to the attributes (objects he or she holds that symbolize specific powers or knowledge). Further similarities stem from the tendency of artists working elsewhere to emulate Indian models. Coming from the homeland of Shakyamuni Buddha and his teachings, such models held religious authority. The most prominent differences of period or culture of origin are usually seen in the images' details of costume, hairstyle, jewelry, body type, and facial characteristics. However, as is evidenced by the array of styles, artists working outside India did not simply copy Indian models-they created their own distinctive works. The artistic result of a religion that spread thousands of miles across a multiethnic landscape is a corpus of images based on a similar set of beliefs but marked by regional personalities. |~|
“The far-flung regions of Asia have been linked by trade routes for millennia. Buddhism spanned the Indian and Chinese cultural realms of Asia by moving along these trade routes—across deserts, mountains, and oceans. Contributing to this dispersion was the fact that Buddhism, unlike Hinduism, did not view commercial activity negatively, and many Indian merchants became Buddhists. By the first century C.E., trading ships and caravans from India were transporting Buddhist missionaries along with their primary cargos of goods such as textiles, ivory, sandalwood, and spices. Itinerant monks and teachers traveled from India to promote the religion, or to India to seek instruction from a learned master. Later, numerous pilgrims made the perilous voyage to India as well. Material Buddhist culture, in the form of manuscripts, images, and other portable icons, also traveled along the trade routes, carried abroad by those who needed religious objects for protection, veneration, or for proselytizing purposes. Travelers were often forced to spend extended periods of time in a port or an oasis, waiting until the following season's weather permitted a journey on to the next stop or back home. In the case of long-distance maritime traders, these stops could easily last three to five months. Cultural influences, religious ideas, and arts were readily exchanged in market towns, and new ideas were then disseminated to other regions of Asia.
“Although established networks have linked Asia since prehistory, archeological and written evidence extends back only to the first centuries of the common era. Recent finds include shards of pottery belonging to a Vietnamese tradition dating from about 750 – 200 B.C. in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia, and Indonesia; shards of Indo-Roman pottery from the first century C.E. on the north coast of Java; an Indian ivory comb dating from the first to third century C.E. in central Thailand; and Indian beads and "Indianizing" coins from the first to fifth century C.E. in central Burma. It should also be pointed out that although commerce was one of the most important activities performed along these routes, the concomitant spread of religions demonstrates that other types of transactions were also important. Studies by anthropologists have shown that ritual, religious, and social considerations often overshadowed material motives in the exchange of goods.
Buddhist Cave Art in China
According to the Asia Society Museum: “The practice of excavating clusters of rooms or niches into the sides of cliffs and mountains to create cave temples originated in India and spread with Buddhism via Central Asia to China. Within China, Gansu is home to more Buddhist caves than any other region of Chinaóa testimony to its importance in the history of early Chinese Buddhism. “Dedication of Cave 4, Maijishan,” by the poet Yu Xin (513–581) reads: ‘It is as if one were to mount a carriage and pierce the mountain, carving out great niches, bestriding the peak, an infinite medley of stars overhead and all the land spinning around far below.’ [Source: “Monks and Merchants, curated by Annette L. Juliano and Judith A. Lerner, November 17, 2001, Asia Society Museum asiasocietymuseum.org == ]
“Buddhist cave sites were often chosen for their scenic beauty, sometimes by passing monks who had seen Buddhist visions at a particular spot or were entranced by the spiritual aura of the sites. Cave temples were the focus of worship and meditation, not only for the communities of monks who resided there, but also for visiting pilgrims and traders. Indeed, cave temples were often located along the trade routes and were used by merchants as banks or warehouses. ==
“Buddhist images were arranged in the caves according to a strict iconographic program. At some sites the images were carved directly from the rock within the cave, but at many Buddhist cave sites in Gansu, the stone of the cliffs is too friable for carving. Instead, most images in the caves were crafted from mixture of clay and straw built up around armatures of wood or metal. A finishing layer of fine clay was applied in which the details were modeled. Both images and walls were brilliantly painted, but in many cases, the pigments have not survived. ==
“In Mahayana Buddhism, the concept of compassion is manifested in the image of the bodhisattva, or "enlightened being." The Sanskrit word "bodhisattva" denotes a human being who has attained enlightenment but has elected not to enter Nirvana, choosing instead to remain in the world to ensure the ultimate salvation of all sentient beings. Compassion is much more than sympathy and extends even to giving one's own life to save another. A bodhisattva actively helps others, sharing intuitive wisdom, understanding, and strength with all those who are seeking enlightenment. A Bodhisattva vow in Mahayana scriptures goes: ‘My happiness is incomplete as long as there is a single unhappy being in the world.’ ==
“Aspects of Buddhahood are embodied in the most important bodhisattvas such as the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara (compassion), the Bodhisattva Manjusri (wisdom), and Maitreya (the future Buddha). Although they are enlightened beings, bodhisattvas appear very different from Buddha. Buddhas are portrayed wearing plain monastic robes to denote their disavowal of earthly ties. Bodhisattvas are depicted as very human, with graceful bodies, full hips, and long hair; they wear crowns, skirts, scarves, and jewelry, and often hold lotus flowers, religious implements, or other symbolic objects.
Buddhist Vestiges along the Silk Road
According to the Shanghai Museum: “Hotan Prefecture in southern Xinjiang was known as "Khotan", an ancient Buddhist kingdom joining China and the West. In its eastern section between Kunlun Mountains at south and Taklamakan Desert at north locates Qira County, which contains 7 townships and 1 town, with an area of about 32,000 square kilometers. Damago Township is located in the south-eastern Qira County, with an area of about 420 square kilometers. [Source: Shanghai Museum shanghaimuseum.net /+\ ]
Between 2002 and 2010, Buddhist ruins were uncovered during the excavations held by the Institute of Archaeology, Chinese Academy of Social Sciences at Topulukdong, Damago, Qira, including No. 1 Site of a stupa, No. 2 Site of a Buddhist sanctuary, and No. 3 Site of a monastic dwelling. Judging from the layout of the ruins, the archaeologists believed the three sites were components of a single temple complex dating 7-9th centuries. Among all the Buddhist sites discovered in the region, Topulukdong site lies the most south. The previously excavated Buddhist sites in the area are all located in its north along the Damago river system./+\
“Topulukdong Buddhist temple ruins endowed us with numerous murals. Though unfortunately remained as fragments, the murals shed lights on the Khotanese Buddhist paintings of around 8th century. The exhibition particularly focuses on the murals from Topulukdong and its nearby Buddhist sites. As an important media once drew Khotan residents into the religious world, the murals now welcomes visitors to experience the art of the long lost kingdom.” /+\
Mogao Grottoes (17 miles south of Dunhuang) — also known as Thousand Buddha Caves — is a massive group of caves filled with Buddhist statues and imagery that were first used in the A.D. 4th century. Carved into a cliff on the eastern side of Singing Sand Mountain and stretching for more than a mile, the grottoes are one of the largest treasure house of grotto art in China and the world.
All together there are 750 caves (492 with art work) on five levels, 45,000 square meters of murals, more than 2000 painted clay figures and five wooden structures. The grottoes contain Buddha statues and lovely paintings of paradise, asparas (angels) and the patrons who commissioned the paintings. The oldest cave dates back to the 4th century. The largest cave is 130 feet high. It houses a 100-foot-tall Buddha statue installed during the Tang Dynasty (A.D. 618-906). Many caves are so small they can only can accommodate a few people at a time. The smallest cave is only a foot high.
Brook Larmer wrote in National Geographic, “Within the caves, the monochrome lifelessness of the desert gave way to an exuberance of color and movement. Thousands of Buddhas in every hue radiated across the grotto walls, their robes glinting with imported gold. Apsaras (heavenly nymphs) and celestial musicians floated across the ceilings in gauzy blue gowns of lapis lazuli, almost too delicate to have been painted by human hands. Alongside the airy depictions of nirvana were earthier details familiar to any Silk Road traveler: Central Asian merchants with long noses and floppy hats, wizened Indian monks in white robes, Chinese peasants working the land. In the oldest dated cave, from A.D. 538, are depictions of bandits bandits that had been captured, blinded, and ultimately converted to Buddhism."Source: Brook Larmer, National Geographic, June 2010 ]
“Carved out between the fourth and 14th centuries, the grottoes, with their paper-thin skin of painted brilliance, have survived the ravages of war and pillage, nature and neglect. Half buried in sand for centuries, this isolated sliver of conglomerate rock is now recognized as one of the greatest repositories of Buddhist art in the world. The caves, however, are more than a monument to faith. Their murals, sculptures, and scrolls also offer an unparalleled glimpse into the multicultural society that thrived for a thousand years along the once mighty corridor between East and West.
A total of 243 caves have been excavated by archaeologists, who have unearthed monk's living quarters, meditation cells, burial chambers, silver coins, wooden printing blocker written in the Uighar and copies Psalms of written in the Syriac language, herbal pharmacopoeias, calendars, medical treatises, folk songs, real estate deals, Taoist tracts, Buddhist sutras, historical records and documents written in dead languages such as Tangut, Tokharian, Runic and Turkic.
See Separate Article MOGAO CAVES: ITS HISTORY AND CAVE ART factsanddetails.com
Cave Art in the Kizil Grottoes
According to Silk Road in Rare Books: “The Kizil Grottoes run along the Cliffs on the northern shore of the Muzalt River, 67 kilometers west of the city of Kucha (in Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang Province). Because written records or dated inscriptions have not been found providing hints as to when the grottoes were begun, there is no standard theory on this point. A wide range of theories exist from those positing the earliest activity to have started in the third century, to those suggesting the fifth century. However, researchers generally agree that the caves were probably abandoned sometime around the beginning of the eighth century, after Tang influence reached the area.” The site was and studied by a German Team, which also stripped the caves of some of their best painting and took them back to Germany. [Source: Silk Road in Rare Books ||||]
The Kizil caves are located in the present districts of Kuche and Baicheng, located in what was once the ancient kingdom of Kucha (Qiuci). The Kingdom of Kucha was one of the great Buddhist kingdoms located along the Silk Road’s Northern Route and was known for its many temples and monks. The fourth century manuscript, Chu Sanzang Jiji (Collected Records from the Tripitaka), records that there were “over ten thousand monks in Kucha,” “countless extravagantly decorated temples,” and “palaces adorned with images of the standing Buddha, just like those seen in temples.” Furthermore, the manuscript records that there were three nunneries in Kucha in which were present the daughters of kings and nobles. The document describes the city as one of the great Buddhist centers of Central Asia. ||||
See Separate Article BUDDHIST CAVE ART IN CHINA factsanddetails.com
Image Sources: 1st Buddhist monk, Silk Road Foundation; Wikimedia Commons; Mogao Caves: Dunhuang Research Academy, March 23, 2014 public.dha.ac.cn ^*^
Text Sources: Robert Eno, Indiana University indiana.edu /+/ ; Asia for Educators, Columbia University afe.easia.columbia.edu; University of Washington’s Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization, depts.washington.edu/chinaciv /=\; National Palace Museum, Taipei \=/ Library of Congress; New York Times; Washington Post; Los Angeles Times; China National Tourist Office (CNTO); Xinhua; China.org; China Daily; Japan News; Times of London; National Geographic; The New Yorker; Time; Newsweek; Reuters; Associated Press; Lonely Planet Guides; Compton’s Encyclopedia; Smithsonian magazine; The Guardian; Yomiuri Shimbun; AFP; Wikipedia; BBC. Many sources are cited at the end of the facts for which they are used.
Last updated November 2016