China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
To many, the Silk Road is the route of a caravan of camels carrying silk, paper and spices for trade. In fact, the Silk Road was not just for the exchange of goods, but more importantly, it was a road for transmission of religions, ideologies, technologies, books, arts and architecture. It was a road of cultural clash, acceptance, exchange and integration.
The art and architecture of Yungang, a 5th-century court cave complex, and UNESCO World Heritage site, exemplifies the infusion of various cultural, material, and religious exchanges between the west and east, north and south, as well as religious and secular influences, all into a Buddhist rock-cut cave temple complex. The art, architecture, and liturgical rituals in Yungang are the result of rather complicated cross-cultural phenomena. Such intricacy does not appear in any other Buddhist cave temples in China, or even the whole of Asia. The architecture, imagery, and liturgy in Yungang all bear marks of multicultural origins.
Archaeological excavations above the caves in 2009, 2010 and 2012 have shed significant new light on the architectural configurations of monastery ruins in Yungang and in the Northern Wei capital Pingcheng.
These findings triggered my inquiries into the sacred areas and monastery ruins at Takht-i-Bāhī in the Peshawar Basin, Pakistan, as well as the monastery ruins of Mekhasanda, Jaulian, Dharmarajika and Thareli since they demonstrate similarities of architectural configurations with those in Yungang. This paper therefore examines the art and architectural dissemination and integration of different cultures through the Silk Road.