The BuddhistRoad Project: Research Agenda and Recent Results
- Friday 22 April 2022
2311 BD Leiden
The presentation will provide an introduction to the BuddhistRoad Project and its results so far. At the core of the research programme of the BuddhistRoad Project is the idea to create a new framework to enable understanding (i) of the dynamics of cultural encounter and (ii) Buddhist networks of transfer in pre-modern Eastern Central Asia and beyond. I conceive it as a collaborative research project across disciplines and ancient Central Asian languages. Various local people—be they Tibetan, Chinese, Khotanese, Tangut, or Uyghur—were part of the multi-cultural and multi-linguistic medieval societies that shaped localisations of Buddhism in Eastern Central Asia and adjacent regions along an ancient, local political-economic-cultural system, often referred to as the ‘Silk Roads’, thereby participating in the grandeur of a pan-Asian Buddhist civilisation. The BuddhistRoad Project investigates, on the basis of multi-lingual textual primary sources, visual evidence, and archeological remains, how these multi-cultural societies living in and around the Tarim Basin and in adjacent regions between the 6th and 14th centuries contributed to the emergence of distinct local forms of Buddhism which we may regard as integrated systems in themselves and collectively refer to as Central Asian Buddhism. Local appropriations occur as political circumstances change, which in turn shape material culture, whereby doctrines, ideas, objects, or ritual systems become entangled with local politics and individual or special needs. The novelty of the project is a network approach in order to move away from territorial assumptions towards more relational, multiscale perspectives to analyse the spread of Buddhism in the region.