Dialogue  April-June, 2010, Volume 11 No. 4

The Role of the Silk Road on the Development of Mahayana Buddhist Arts

Dinh Hong Hai*



Over the long span of Asian history, trade played a crucial role in the   development of medieval-ancient Asian civilization. At that time, trading was done either on road or by sea. However, low maritime proficiency prevented people from discovering cross-ocean routes during that period. Therefore, merchants had no choice but to use roads to conduct business with other civilizations. The Silk Road was the path that connected the Eastern and Western culture areas. The height of importance of the Silk Road was from the early to the end of the first millennium. Many civilizations were born during that period as a result of the process of goods transportation and cultural exchange on the Silk Road. Many kingdoms and religious centres were also formed along that road.

    The name Silk Road was given to the East–West trade route by Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen, a well-known German geographer of 19th century, who had taken up residence in China. According to Von Richthofen the Silk Road was a trade route that existed for the purpose of trading in silk. However, the name Silk Road was only appropriate to the road from the second half of the first millennium C.E. because silk did not appear in Europe until the fifth century C.E. In fact, silk was only one of countless other commodities that was traded on this legendary route. In this research, I decided to study the role of the Silk Road in the initial movement of Buddhism from India to China which led to the formation of the great Buddhist Art centers and Civilizations in Asia.

     Buddhism originated in the Indian sub-continent 1 in the second half of the first millennium B.C.E, and quickly became a powerful religion in the area. Yet Buddhism was only a “local religion” which existed in the Indian sub-continent and neighboring areas until the early first century C.E. Buddhism was first propagated in a wider area by the King Asoka. It was only when Buddhism reached the Silk Road that it flourished as an international religion. Along sea routes, Buddhism first appeared in Sri Lanka, crossing over the Indian ocean to Southeast Asia, and grew as Theravada Buddhism, or Southern Buddhism. Along land routes; another branch of Buddhism spread to Northern India and the Himalaya, it became Vajrayana Buddhism, or Esoteric Buddhism. Another  branch, Mahayana Buddhism grew in strength in Northwest India; via Afganistan, Pakistan, Middle Asia and the Taklimakan desert reaching Chinese civilization. This is the largest branch of Buddhism, and it is the one which I will examine in this study.

     Mahayana Buddhism and  Hinayana Buddhism both originated in Buddha but they differ in practice. Hinayana Buddhism practices on enlightening of each person, his or her self while Mahayana seeks to enlighten all living beings. Despite of having existed in the primitive Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism was not an independent branch. Its doctrines were improved by Nagarjuna, Asanga, and Vasubandhu. Mahayana as a result has risen in influence in  large areas of China, Northeast Asia, and Vietnam. It was the aggressive development of Mahayana Buddhism, together with the demand of international trading, that made the Silk Road as an effective missionary tool. The network of routes linked Buddhist centers from India to Central Asia, crossed Himalaya ranges, and Taklimakan desert to the Chinese continent. There were many Buddhist centers formed along the Silk Road such as, Bamiyan (Afghanistan), Khotan, Kucha, Turfan, Dunhuang, Pengcheng, Luojang, Longmen (China) etc. during Buddhism’s religious development and they mark the golden era of Mahayana Buddhist art. However, at present there are only four centers left in  Bamiyan, Dunhuang, Yungang, and Longmen left from Mahayana Buddhism’s expansion period.

   While Hinayana Buddhist art appeared in a fairly simple form, Mahayana Buddhism was devised into many different branches and small groups which has made Buddhist works various and plentiful. Particularly, after being adopted into China, Mahayana Buddhist art and Chinese culture combined together to form a Chinese line.. Buddhist philosophies integrated with the long-standing Chinese culture to create a new way of Buddhist art in China via the Silk Road, Mahayana Buddhism not only had its strongest influence in China but it also spread to Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, which have become Mahayana Buddhist countries since then.  There is further evidence that Mahayana Buddhism also influenced some European countries. In the development process of Mahayana Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhist Art affected almost all areas touching the Silk Road.

     Mahayana Buddhist art developed strongly not only in Asia but also in the West and in North America due to the growth of  transportation networks overland, by sea and in the air. Mahayana Buddhism brings to the West not only profound philosophies and humanistic values of the East but the new trends of the Eastern Art also.

The birth of the Silk Road in the cultural exchanges

   During human evolution, cultural exchange has produced and motivated civilizations. These exchanges depended mainly on the existence of roads which were key to its development. The Silk Road is one of crucial roads.  Before the Christian era. great civilizations arose in  Europe, Mesopotamia, the Near-East, China and India. Despite being relatively highly developed, there were few exchanges among those civilizations. In this period, maritime knowledge was so limited that they were not able to cross the oceans in order to trade. Furthermore, roads were interupted due to extremely complex terrain and severe weather conditions.

     In 330 B.C.E Alexander the Great2 conquered Bactrian Kingdom setting off the greatest expansion thus far in the world history towards the east. Following his invasion, Greek culture influenced a large area from Babylon, across Hunza valley to Karakarum, which now is in Pakistan, and to culture centers on the bank of Indus river. Gods, legends, cultural symbols and other civilizational elements belonging to ancient Greek culture had a large influence on areas where Alexander's conquests passed through. After his death, his empire collapsed, but the culture of the ancient Greeks was merged and developed in those conquered lands. One of the most important products of the combination between Greek culture and local one was Greeco-Buddhist Art, which was born in Gandhara which used to be the point which Buddhist Art was transported to China from India. In China. It grew as a great Buddhist branch and became one of the three greatest religions in the world.

     In 221 B.C.E, Qin Shi Huang unified China, establishing a huge state. The capital was in Changan (Xian now), which rapidly developed into the center of government, trade and culture. The Great Wall of China was built to prevent the invasion of the Xiongnu (Huns) from the north at that time. When the Qin's rule collapsed, the Hans continued to reconstruct this defensive wall and promoted their links to other tribes and countries from the west in order to counter the Xiongnu. In 140 B.C.E Han Wuti dispatched Zhang Quian to the Dayuezhi’s (or the Yuezhi3) kingdom with a diplomatic delegation of a hundred members in order to form an alliance against the Xiongnu. Unfortunately the delegation headed by Zhang Quian was captured by the Xiongnu and detained for ten years. After being released he continued his journey to the Dayuezhi’s kingdom. It took him twelve years to return to his capital Changan. During that journey Zhang Quian passed through eight countries to Gandhara, but he did not achive the diplomatic goals of the trip. In return, however, Han Wuti was much interested in what they found from western countries. And over the following years, Han Wuti sent out Zhang Quian and other deligations towards the west to obtain strange things in these mysterious lands. Since then, trade routes which connected the East and the West were formed and as a consequence  the Silk Road was born. Owing to this road, the Chinese approached the culture of the  Greeks through Greeco-Buddhist Art in Gandhara for the first time. Despite  being called a road, the Silk Road  was in fact only a system of paths passing through high mountains and deserts which started in Changan and finished in Gandhara via Bezeklik, Bukhara, Dunhuang, Ferghana, Gaochang, Guici/Kucha, Jiaohe, Kashgar/Kashi. Khotan, Loulan, Samarkand. Turfan, Urumqi, Yanguan, Yotkanm, and Yumenguan.4 

     It can be said that the Silk Road is one of the greatest human creations in the development of historical civilization. Due to this, significant cultural influences from the far away West reached the civilization center of the Hans, The Silk Road was not only a trading route but a flow of culture from the west to the east, from Indian culture centers to Chinese culture centers as well, and vice versa. Cultural exchange enhanced the growth of many civilizations along the Silk Road in the early centuries C.E. The transmission of Buddhism from India to China during that period marked the Golden Age of internationalization of Buddhism. 

 The role of the Silk Road in dissemination of Mahayana Buddhism

      As written earlier Buddhism was born in the middle of first millennium B.C.E., and spread over Indian subcontinent after that. Over the following centuries, Buddhism did not expand beyond Indian subcontinent apart from Sri Lanka, which is located close to the south.. Although many missionaries were sent out toward Southeast Asia by the kings of Maurya5 dynasty, they were not able to internationalize Buddhism. It was only when international trade routes appeared that Buddhism extended its frontier. Buddhism developed historically in three ways:

       Along sea-routes, Buddhism was transferred to Southeast Asia from the south of India and Sri Lanka, and flourished as Hinayana. This branch originated in Theravada, which was a primitive Buddhism in India. Along land routes, another branch was adopted in the north of India and Himalaya and grew as Vajrayana. At the same time the third strand was carried into China via Central Asia and Taklamakan desert along the Silk Road6. In this study, we only focus on Mahayana because it has a close relationship with the Silk Road.

   During the development of Mahayana Buddhism in Asia, its appearance continuouly changed within local civilizations. This made it different from Hinayana Buddhism which maintained the same characteristics over the last thousands years. This might be “the key” for Mahayana Buddhism to approach local civilizations along the Silk Road which used to be self-contained. During this localization process, it was Chinese culture which aggressively affected both Buddhism and Buddhist Art. Chinese culture contributed to the development of Buddhism, and it has been not only an international religion but also one of the greatest religions of the world.

    Before being adopted into China, Buddhism consisted of many systems of religious theories and philosophies. Among those, the most famous theories are Humanistic governance of Kungfu, Yin-yang and Five basic elements, which were the background of Taoism. However, Taoism did not have influence on Indian culture which was the home country of Buddhism while Buddhism seemed to have an easier time advancing in China, one of the largest civilizations, and subsequently became the most popular religions in this continent. It  is difficult to explain why Taoism7 was not as popular as Buddhism, because in fact, cultural exchange was never a one way process. This phenomenon is  beyond the scope of this study, however.  After developing to its height during Kushan dynasty, Buddhism helped stabalize the country’s spiritual life. As a result, culture, particularly art, was encouraged to flourish. During that period, the most advanced type was Greeco-Buddhist Art. Many neighboring countries envied the prosperity of Kushan Empire. As a result the development of Gandhara art became a form that many neighbouring countries desired to imitate. A series of Buddhist centers and Buddhist countries were born during that period, at which marked a high point of Buddhism in the first Millennium C.E. This was the period of internationalization of Buddhism. China was also impacted by this trend. Due to the far distance and treacherous terrian, however, the development of Chinese Buddhism came later than in other areas.  

     The Silk Road was the key motivator which helped Buddhism cross frontiers into China. Even more than silk or other products, Buddhism was one of the most crucial elements which stimulated the development of the Silk Road itself. It was only when the Silk Road achieved its highest points serving the role of connecting India, Mesopotamia, China with centers in  Europe and Africa ( the Silk Road reached Africa in the second half of the first millennium C.E.), material goods exchange officially became the main goal of the caravans on the road. From the Near-East  to Asia, Europe, and Africa, Islamic merchants made the road a conduit for spreading  Islam during the latter period.

      In contrast to the spread of Islam in the final half of first millennium CE, Buddhism declined along the Silk Road. Many Buddhist centers were damaged and monks were killed. As Buddhism’s principle was non-violence, it quickly lost its highest power in civilizations along the route and a series of Buddhist centers were gradually replaced by mosques. Yet Islam only gained dominance near desert and most of the people in China still followed Buddhism, Taoism, and other local religions. Particularly, the identical three religions' (Kungfucianism, Taoism and Buddhism) phenomenon was one of the most significant causes that helped Buddhism to survive extinction and flourish durably in China. The Identical three religions were thought to be one of the specific characteristics and strength of Chinese culture. By contract, Buddhism failed in India and many Buddhist countries in Central and Southern Asia floundered This perfect combination between Identical three religions and other factors made no other religion in the world able to surpass the spiritual background of Chinese culture, not even Islam, Christianityy, and other religions which have had considerable historical impact.

The role of the Silk Road in the development of Mahayana Buddhist Art

     While a strength of Islam was in its harsh rules and the strength  of the Christian religion was in its tight organizational structure, art gave Buddhism power. So why could that be? Although Buddhist doctrines are aggressively attractive to its followers, understanding its physiological and practical languages is complicated because they are abstract and beyond many people’s knowledge. Therefore art and symbols were the most effective language to spread Buddhist doctrines widely among all social classes. This explains why there was a close relationship between Buddhism and Buddhist art. Buddhism depended on its art in order to flourish.Thus far, the Silk Road  served  not only as the main conduit for propagating Buddhism but as a bridge to bring  art from the west to the east, and vice versa. This road was the connection of culture between those areas during the cultural exchanges.  In the beginning, this exchange took place because the Macedon emperor imposed it on his country. But this process has been completely voluntary since then. It seems that the Western (Indian) culture was so interesting and  attractive that it became influential easily and quickly as it moved towards East. In Gandhara, Buddhist Art, in particular Greco-Buddhist Art, still maintained its attraction for neighboring civilizations, and from here this art had an impact on China, which through its values was a great civilization.  For instance, Han Wuti was much interested in the symbols that Zhang Qian brought back.

     As we all know, during the Early Buddhism, the image of Buddha consisted of  only aniconic symbols such as foot print, stupa, dharma wheel, etc.  This period was given the name  aniconic phase by scientists. It was when Greek Art arrived from the west via the Bactrian kingdom to Indian sub-continent that there was a boom in iconic symbols in Buddhist Art. Thus it was called the Iconic phase. Since than, Buddhist Arts opened a new stage of development with plentiful ways of manifestations and various symbols. Still, with a system of profound and abstract philosophy and theories, expressing artistic symbols was never easy to understand. Nevertheless, Gandhara artists, with excellent creativity, gave their works a sense of incarnation of gods and Buddha who had great grandeur. Particularly, each symbol matched positions and roles of each god or Buddha, and all images above were arranged into a logical order.

      After researching many Buddhist centers, which were formed along the Silk Road, I realized that the common basic feature of Buddhist art was that all symbols were “classified”. This is due to the social classification during this period. Because of his important position Buddha was portrayed as a Greek Emperor with his robe and Bodhisattava was often described as an Oriental-Asian prince. Only Maitreya was like both Buddha and Bodhisatva, so this God’s image appeared in both as an emperor and a prince. These specific features were used to separate and identify Buddhist symbols. Maitreya was thought to be the Savior, who would be Buddha in the future. The widely held belief that Maitreya would appear in the future explains why Maitreya’s image had been described in the icons of the colosal Buddha8 symbols. Besides Buddha and Bodhisatva icons, there were also many senior-gods, who were indigenous gods and were adopeted into Buddhism because  Buddhism flourished along the Silk Road. Traces of these symbols were found in China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam . 

       Further I examine Chinese culture, the more we see that Buddhist symbols were classified profoundly due to the impacts of Confucianism and Taoism. Factually, Confucianism didn’t mean “worship”; it consists of a system of theories of humanistic governance, which was invented by Kungfu. Theories of Confucianism always respected the Three feudal relationships and the Five cardinal virtues, and so on. People must respect social classification and do as their responsibilities. Confucianist ideals were based on culture of Chinese Confucianism. Particularly, they were applied as the social moral standards and also the standards of relationship in Chinese dynasties governing relations between king and his residents, father and sons, husband and wife, etc. Because of these standards, feudal dynasties in China kept the society unified and stable for thousands of years. This form and its ranks has affected Buddhism, in particular the clarification of Buddhist symbols. Under these circumstances, Mahayana Buddhism inherited a convenient environment in China to take roots and flourish into one of the great religions in the world.  

     Distinct from Confucianism, Taoism was one of the greatest religions in China before the appearance of Buddhism. As a result, the two religions were in conflict.. Buddhism, however, obeyed the nonviolent policy; hence, there was no occurrence of violent actions. But there were clashes to gain support of kings, or that of the whole dynasty. After many vicissitudes for centuries, eventually the Chinese did find a solution, which was rich in humanism, to solve the conflicts between the  religions. This concept became the  Identical three religions. This solution, helped Chinese religions avoid conflict and made them stronger and more durable while confronting other religions.

      After being merged into Chinese culture, Buddhist art was heavily influenced by the local culture though it still maintained the background of Indian Mahayana9 and the primitive features of Gandhara art. This localization was represented through Chinese feudal prototypes with pagodas, Buddhist temples, and many Taoist images of gods. If we  compare symbols of Mahayana Buddhist art and those of Hinayana and Vajrayana Buddhism, it’s easy for us to realise a clear difference between these three Buddhist branches. These distinguishable features help us in understanding why it was Mahayana, not Hinayana or Vajrayana that flourished in China10 .

      From China, one of the main centers of Buddhism, Mahayana Buddhism expanded to almost the entire Asian continent, crossing China’s frontiers to countries such as Korea, Japan and Vietnam. All the countries which imported Mahayana from China were Mahayana Buddhist countries hed the same Chinese cultural style11. Mahayana Buddhism in countries which had the same Chinese cultural style existed for a long time and more and more developed whereas in Southeast Asia in places  such as Angkor (Cambodia), Borobudur (Indonesia), Dong Duong (Vietnam), and so on, all declined and disappeared after their existence for hundreds of years. This raised a question about whether the growth of Hinayana Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam is encroaching upon Mahayana Buddhism? This question has been a mystery uptill now, and it is beyond the goal of this study, so we hope that we will come back to this complicated but very interesting matter in the future.

     Yet, from the point of view of Mahayana Buddhist art, we all see that  the system of Mahayana Buddhist gods fits in the structure of culture, politics and society of these countries. It is therefore, not difficult to see how it could be accepted and merged with the local religions easily. Moreover, Mahayana Buddhist symbols merged well with those of Taoism, which used to have the greatest influence in China before Buddhism arrived in this land, so there was an acculturation between them. The evidence of this harmony was that there have been a lot of sculptures of the two religions being worshiped in the same pagodas or the same Buddhist temples. 

     The Silk Road was too harsh for human beings to thrive, but was a fertile land for Mahayana Buddhism and its art to flourish. As the structure of the local cultures was well matched for Mahayana Buddhist images, it was welcomed as a perfect social prototype. In return, Mahayana Buddhist art  propagated a new form of Buddhist civilization, which at its height was an improvement to all civilizations. In addition, Mahayana Buddhism and its art gave local cultures along the road a fresh outlook about the arts. For example, a blend of the highly academic standards of Greek, Indian and Bactrian cultures  formed an artistic environment which was appreciated in value. This blend had a large effect on a chain of civilizations lasting from the east to the west along the Silk Road. Bamiyan, Dunhuang, Yungang, Longmen, and so on, known as cultural heritages of the world, illustrate Buddhist art-works that were created on this road. Those cultural heritages  not only contain particularly artistic values but are a symbol of a high development of Asian civilization during a crucial historical period.  The Buddhist Art  encouraged cultural exchanges and contributed to the flourishing of Asian society which was based on wisdom and compassion of Buddhism.

The Silk Road in modern time

     For many centuries of its existence and development, the Silk Road  promoted the exchange of trade and culture until  the fifteenth century when the Ming dynasty closed the route to avoid invasion of the Uighurs12. Through cultural transmission occurred from the east to the west and vice versa, this route played an extremely crucial part during the ancient and medieval time, particularly during the period of flourishing of Mahayana Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhist Art. Although many Buddhist art centers were being destroyed by Islamic soldiers, the remaining Buddhist sitescenters such as at Dunhuang, Longmen, Yungang survived illustrating the durability of Mahayana Buddhism and Mahayana Buddhist Art. Buddhism itself and its art were able to recover and have been growing uptil now.

     After being closed, it seemed that the Silk Road would have been fallen into obscurity. However, the great values of artistic works along the route contributed to its revival in the twentieth century. According to historical and geological documents, there were many adventurers who reached this mysterious land to discover history, and they deserve recognition for their efforts. In 1895, following the writings of Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen, a Swiss adventurer Sven Hedin carried out  surveys of the Taklimakan desert. He discovered many ancient architectural styles, and excavated a lot of archeological sites and other meaningful objects. After Sven Hedin, Marc Aurel Stein, a Hungarian young explorer, sponsored by the English Authority in colonial India started his study. He excavated abundant relics of Sui dynasty and Tang dynasty scattered from Xinjiang to Gandhara. Thousands of high-value antiques and more than 6,500 ancient manuscripts were carried back to England. These objects are being kept in museums in England and the rest of Europe. During the final one hundred years of the Qing dynasty, European explorers discovered and took away a large quantity of antiquities of the Silk Road. This was a considerable material loss to the Chinese. Nevertheless, owing to their discoveries, people all over the world are aware of these  masterpieces and cultural relics. Exploring Buddhist relics, especially the 429 caves and thousands of Buddhist symbols in Mogao (Dunhuang, Gansu province of China) was appreciated as one of the greatest discoveries of the world archeology in the 20th century. This has cultivated new interest in the past and the Silk Road has seen a period of revitalization. The road has become bustling again. There has been not only tourists and archeologists but plenty of loyal Buddhist pilgrims as well. They try to reach the land to express respect for their religion. 

     To meet the demand for transportation on the Silk Road during the new era, many highways were built to link Buddhist artistic centers, religious relics and modern cities together. A cross Euro-Asia railway has been constructed so that transportation along the road has become much easier and convenient. Caravans with horses and camels are now images of the past. Camels now are used only by local people and tourists. Despite the advances in aviation and shipping, land-routes are still the main means of traveling. Thus, the Silk Road still keeps its importance as a key channel of the world transport system. The Chinese government and Southeast Asian countries reached an agreement on a Euro-Asia highway linking the Southeast Asia, China, Central Asia, Russia, and Europe together. The new Silk Road, after being finished, will open a new channel for commercial and cultural exchanges between Europe and Asia, or between the West and the East. 

     The road was known as an achievement of transportation, and a way to transmit cultural values, in particular Mahayana Buddhist art, giving major attraction to what has been called “the dead land”. Tourism services with hundreds of travel agencies and thousands of package tours on the Silk Road have drawn more and more tourists from all over the world during the past few years. The road doesn’t play the role of propagating religions any longer but  now functions as an important channel of culture from the West to the East via tourism. Because of this, people from many religions, nations, and areas around the world have been able to appreciate Buddhism, Buddhist art, and the Silk Road.

     Mahayana Buddhist art was profoundly influenced by western culture during the last two thousand years. It already has impacted  the culture of the West in return via Buddhist symbols, which are rich in philosophy and art of Orient. With globalization, those effects are making the West change their mind about the East. Many people from the West have left  wealthy lives, as they are lacking mental peace and coming to Asia for meditation and have become monks. Therefore symbols of Buddhism, have been internationalized through religious propagation13 and become popular all over the world.


  1. To summarize, the Silk Route was one of the most crucial routes  for conducting  trade and exchanging culture.

  2. Mahayana Buddhism flourished in Central Asia, China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam  via the Silk Road.

  3. The Silk Road  was the gate exporting Buddhism into Chinese culture and helping it expand over Northeast Asian countries and Vietnam. Buddhism was one of the most essential reasons which contributed to  the development of the Silk Road. Still silk and other trading products were transported to Europe and the road helped Islam's spread over Central Asia.

  4. Mahayana Buddhism imported into China not only  helped Buddhism to flourish but also produced a special cultural event which hadn’t been seen in the world religious history before. This was the phenomenon of Identical three religions in China and Vietnam. Because of this event, there was no war between the largest religions similar to those taking place in Europe or in Middle East.. Morover, it helped Buddhism gain a solid position in Chinese culture and gaining standing as the greatest religion in the most populous country of the world.

  5. Mahayana Buddhist art played foremost role in the propagation of this religion. The symbols of Mahayana Buddhism carried Buddhist doctrines to people of all social classes easily than other Buddhist scripts. It was also a deep reason leading to the birth and development of Jingtu zong.14 

   6.  Like a river, the Silk Road carried cultural symbols from the west to the east during the ancient and medieval time. So far, it has been in the period of renaissance. The eastern cultural values have been influenced to re-interact with that of the west. More and more Buddhist followers are coming from the west. They have crossed long-distances to journey to Asia. Many giant Buddhist centers have been built in developed countries in Europe and North America. The Silk Road not only established civilizations in the past but is making major contributions to the economy and culture of Asia at the present time. This trend  is likely to continue into the future.


1 Sub-continent India is including Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and a part of Nepal. Lumbini, where Buddha was born, is the former land of King Asoka.

2 One of the most well- known empire in the ancient history of the Macedon spreading from Europe to Asia.

3 This tribe originated in the north of desert Taklimakan, immigrated to Gandhara, and set up Kushan empire.

4. See more detailed on Appendices.

5 This is a famous dynasty in Indian history for unifying the Indian kingdom and arranging Buddhism as a national religions.

6 At the beginning it included both Mahayana and other branches;  but they gradually disappeared and only Mahayana flourished  and had a large influence on vast areas over China continent, North Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

7 Theories of yin-yang and the five elements existed in Chinese culture for along time, but  Laozi was recognized to be the founder of Taoism.

8 More detail on “Maitreya Images in Aisan Buddhist Fine arts'' on my reports of the annual meeting in Bangkok, Thailand in July, 2006   at the website: www.asian-scholarship.org.

9 The basic of Mahayana Buddhist doctrines were born in India about the second century CE by Nagarjuna and then were developed by Asanga and Vasubandhu. These theories were recorded in Sanskrit, so was called Mahayana Sutras.

10  A specific characteristic of Mahayana was influenced by Greek culture while Hynayana was much impacted by Hindu and Varjayana depended on other exotic religions in India and Hymalaya.

11 Countries which had  the same Chinese cultural style, including Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. All of those were profoundly affected by Confucianism first and then by Buddhism.

12 Because of this closure, China lost the role of a great political center of the ancient and medieval world, and could not able to keep up   cultural exchange with the West. Cultural exchanges had been very aggressive in previous dynasties.  This was also the reason why China lagged behind western countries during the pre-modern time and yielded to eight country coalition in the later Qing dynasty. Still, there was another reason, which almost nobody aware of, was the excellent achievements in the world maritime standards. Particularly, Columbus and Vasco da Gama discoveries of  over-ocean routes. Therefore, the Silk road stopped being the primary choice for trade and cultural exchange.

13 Reference to statements in the Conference of traditional culture 2005, organized in Hanoi, about the topic: The socialize phenomenon of the Maitreya image in Asian Buddhist art via images of Cloth Bag monk.

14 According to Jingtu zong doctrines, the Buddhists only need to practice meditation and thinking about Pure Land and calling the name of Amita Buddha to be in the Pure Land after dead. By an easy way to practices like that, the number of Buddhists developing speedly. So far, Jingtu zong is the largest branch of Mahayana Buddhism.    


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32. Woodward. F.L., Pictures of Buddhist Ceylon and Other Papers. Reprint. First published by Theosophical Publishing House, Madras in 1914. 1999

33. Yu, Hong-June. Smiles of the Baby Buddha. Changbi Publishers, Inc., 1999

34. Zhang Yiping, Story of the Silk Road, China Continental Press, 2005  

35. Zürcher, Erik. The Buddhist Conquest of China: The Spread and Adaptation of Buddhism in Early Medieval China, 2 vols. Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1959  

Dialogue (A quarterly journal of Astha Bharati)

                                               Astha Bharati