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THE BUDDHIST HERITAGE ON THE SILK ROAD: FROM GANDHARA TO KOREA

  • KHAN, M. ASHRAF (Taxila Institute of Asian Civilizations, Quaid-i-Azam University)
  • Published : 2016.12.15

Abstract

The Silk Route in ancient times served as a link between the World's greatest civilizations and as a source of knowledge, art, religion and philosophy. This network of ancient caravan paths formed the first bridge between East and West, where two different civilizations came in contact with their respective cultural traditions and religious beliefs, as well as their scientific and technological achievements. One of the main routes of the Great Silk Route passed through the Karakoram, linking Kashgar with Kashmir and the Gandhara regions. The Karakoram Highway connects the Chinese province with Pakistan and follows the ancient Silk Route, which connected the Heartlands of Asia with the Western fringes and further beyond the entire continent of Europe. Evidences of the history of humankind, ranging from Pre-historic times to the spread of Buddhism from South Asia to China and the Far East, is depicted in the rocky cliffs on the waysides and on rough boulders scattered in the upper valley of the Indus River and its tributaries. The ancient trade routes also carried scholars, teachers, missionaries and monks of different beliefs and practices, who met and exchanged ideas. The Buddhists as well as Zoroastrians and other missionaries all followed the Silk Route, leaving permanent footprints of their passage. The ancient greater Gandhara is situated in the North-West of the Indian Sub-continent, with the steep mountain ranges of the Karakoram, the Pamir and the Hindu-Kush bordering it and the dry areas of Central Asia to its rear. A number of races from Central Asia migrated to Gandhara because of its mild climate and plentiful farm products and fruits. This area was an entry point of Western Culture into India and at the same times the exit point of Indian Culture, including Buddhism, to the West. In Gandhara, the diffusion of different cultures developed an art form, during the 1-7th centuries CE commonly known after its geographic name as "Gandhara Art". The Buddhism's route of introduction into China originated in Gandhara, then reached in Korea and Japan and other countries. The fame of Gandhara however, rested on its capital, "Taxila" which was a great centre of learning. From the time of the Achaemenians, down through Muslim period, Gandhara continued to establish and maintain a link between East & West, as shown by material evidences recovered from Taxila and other Buddhist centres of Gandhara during the course of archaeological excavations.

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