In the modern day, connectivity is something that we take for granted. We can simply source for information through the internet, and trade or shopping can be done via online transactions. However, in the past, trade and information exchange were conducted by travelling and meeting people from various regions. The Silk Road is a great representation of how people came together to spread goods and information.
This topic is closely related to our previous blog post where we discussed the spread of Buddhism within the Mauryan Empire while under Ashoka’s rule. If you would like to read more about how the Mauryans came to embrace Buddhism, here’s a link to our earlier blog post. We learnt that both locals and visitors of the Mauryan Empire were often curious and interested about Buddhism, often from the various edicts and pillars that were present at that time. Therefore, in relation to that, it is significant to learn about how Buddhism is linked to the Silk Road.
We know what you're thinking: the Silk Road was probably a place where people used to trade or produce silk. Well you're right, but you're wrong too. Contrary to its name, the Silk Road is not just a route where people used to trade goods such as silk and spices, but it was also a major catalyst to the spread of Buddhism in Central Asia. Interestingly, Buddhism was not only preached or disseminated through books and word of mouth, but it was embodied through art - illustrations, carvings and sculptural representations. As they always say: a picture speaks a thousand words. Indeed, Buddhist art speaks thousands of words.
In our video, we will be talking about the earliest representations of Buddhist art along the Silk Road and how it evolved as it spread to other regions. The development of Buddhist art suggests how the people used to live and thrive in those days. It also shows how devoted the Buddhists were in revering Buddha and how they preserved those teachings through art.
Click here for the link to our script (with citations)! With that, enjoy our video!
Barnes, Gina. An Introduction to Buddhist Archaeology. (1995) Publication info: Taylor & Francis Limited
Beach, Milo. The ear commands the story: Exploration and imagination on the Silk Road. (2007) Publication info: The Art Institute of Chicago
Hastie, Paul. "Silk Road secrets: The Buddhist art of the Mogao Caves". (2013) BBC Arts & Culture.
Montgomery, Robert L. The spread of religions and macrosocial relations. (1991) Publication info: Oxford University Press
Rowland, Benjamin Jr. Gandhara and late antique art: The buddha image. (1942) Publication info: Archaeological Institute of America
Thapar, Romila. Ashoka - A Retrospective. (November 7-13, 2009). Publication info: Economic and Political Weekly
Topping, Audrey Ronning. China’s heritage on the old Silk Road. (2008/2009). Publication info: Duke University Press
Wang, Michelle. Buddhist art and architecture on the “Silk Road”. (2011) Publication info: Oxford Bibliographies
Additional Media References
“Ancient Religions”. Asian Civilizations Museum. (2017, April 17).
Connor, Eric (PericlesofAthens). Mogao Cave 61, painting of Mount Wutai monasteries, by Chinese artist(s) from the 10th century (23 July 2008) Public Domain. (3rd image in video)
Clker-Free-Vector-Images, Van, Camper, Vw (2014) Public Domain.
Daderot, Four Scenes from the Life of the Buddha (2013) CC0 1.0. (2nd image in the video)
Owner’s own work. Buddha teaching, 3rd/4th Century, from The Asian Civilisations Museum (April 2017) Public Domain. (1st image in video)
Owner’s own work. Buddha flanked by two bodhisattvas, 581-618, from The Asian Civilisations Museum (April 2017) Public Domain. (4th image in video)
Owner’s own work. Buddha’s brainy bites, created with Canva.com (April 2017) Public Domain. (Opening title of video)
Redfern, Lisa. Crickets chirping at night sound (2015). Public Domain [Audio]
Sophonic media. Feeling good. (n.d.). [Audio]