Born in North Central India in around the 5th or 4th century BCE, Buddhism began to spread already during the lifetime of the Buddha through the Indian subcontinent. We know that within several centuries it was well-established in the Northwest, in areas that are now Pakistan and Afghanistan, and from there, through mountain passes, it spread along the trade routes, primarily eastward, ultimately to China, but also westward, into Iranian Central Asia. The history of the expansion of Buddhism along these trade corridors--what we call the Silk Routes, although much, much more than silk was traded along them--is traceable through material culture, through artifacts, through texts and through languages. Long ruined cities buried for centuries under the sands have given up objects as well as fragments of scriptures, through which we can read the history of Buddhism across Asia. This lecture will explore some aspects of this fascinating history.
Jonathan A. Silk is Professor in the study of Buddhism at Leiden University. Trained in the United States and Japan, Prof. Silk focuses his research and teaching on Buddhist scriptures, and the history of Buddhism. He has published extensively, and is among other things founding general editor of Brill's Encyclopedia of Buddhism.