Thursday, 21 June 2012

Buddhism along the Silk Road at the Metropolitan

Buddhism along the Silk Road

5th–8th Century

June 2, 2012–February 10, 2013

Drawing together objects from India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and the western reaches of Central Asia—regions connected in the sixth century A.D. through trade, military conquest, and the diffusion of Buddhism—the exhibition illuminates a remarkable moment of artistic exchange. At the roots of this transnational connection is the empire established the end of the fifth century by the Huns (Hunas or Hephthalites) that extended from Afghanistan to the northern plains of India. Although this political system soon disintegrated into chaos, over the next century trade routes connecting India to the western reaches of the Central Asian Silk Road continued to link these distant communities, facilitating ideological exchange and financing the production of Buddhist imagery of great artistic sophistication.
By the fifth century, Buddhism had been thriving in Gandhara and the Swat Valley (northern Pakistan) for six hundred years, financed by the extensive trade that flowed through the Khyber and Karakorum passes. Trade with the Mediterranean began with an overland route established by Alexander the Great in the fourth century B.C. By 50 B.C. maritime routes allowed merchants to sail down the Red Sea and to take advantage of monsoon winds to cross the Arabian Sea and reach ports along the west coast of India. Trade goods were transported along the Indus River up to Gandhara and then to China via routes passing through Afghanistan or over high Himalayan passes and then through Central Asia.

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