This seminar will introduce the discovery of the rich Buddhist remains of the Eastern Silk Road — the art, architecture, artefacts and manuscripts — including some of the most recent and exciting finds. It will consider how they have informed scholarship over the past century and, most especially, our understanding of Buddhism.
This seminar will then raise the question of whether long-distance prestige trade — the so-called ‘Silk Roads’ — was an essential or even a necessary condition in the development of Buddhism, looking in particular at Buddhist stupas and cave temples. If trade is seen as a factor, what can the Buddhist remains tell us about the nature and extent of trade?
Dr. Susan Whitfield is an historian of medieval China and the Silk Road and curator of the Stein and related collections of 50,000 Central Asian manuscripts from Dunhuang and other Silk Road sites at the British Library. She directs the International Dunhuang Project (http://idp.bl.uk), a collaboration to make all related material freely accessible online. She has curated several major exhibitions, lectures internationally and has published many books and articles. She also travels regularly along the Silk Road.