Volume 59 Number 3, March 2008
Kizil on the Silk Road: Crossroads of Commerce and Meeting of Minds
|Specifications:||140 pages, 96 illustrations|
|Dimensions:||305 x 241 mm|
This book focuses on the startlingly beautiful Buddhist Cave complex of Kizil, an important conduit in the transmission of Buddhist art and thought along the Silk Road from India to China. The work brings together the writings of eminent scholars who have studied the images of Kizil as well as artefacts and manuscripts in various institutions across the globe. The printed material on Kizil remains scattered in obscure publications in different languages. This volume includes the work of scholars whose contributions are not readily available in English.
Rajeshwari Ghose is a scholar of sacred art with a special interest in mural paintings.
Introduction: Kizil on the Silk Road
The Geography of Transmission: The “Jibin” Route and the Propagation of Buddhism in China
Towards a More Reliable Chronology for the Site of Kizil
The Kizil Caves: Date, Art, and Iconography
Maitreya in Literature and in the Art of Xinjiang
The Ceiling Murals of Kizil as a Symbol of the Buddhist Universe
In Quest of Literary Sources for the Narrative Paintings of Kizil Caves
Legendary, Historical, and Canonical Personae in the Murals of Kizil
The Great Controversy: Vairochana in a Predominantly Hinayana Context
A Study of the Murals in Cave 114
Jia Yin Yi
The region boasts 14 Buddhist cave complexes with almost 240 caves and newer caves still being identified. The idiom of rock-cut architecture was crucial in Buddhist art. The ancient kingdom of Kucha was the most important of the states in the region with temples and stupas. By the 3rd century monks were cultural brokers between Indian, Central Asian and Chinese Buddhism. Renowned 4th-century teacher Kumarajiva's biography provides insights into the state-monastery relationship. Here Hinayana, Proto-Mahayana, and Mahayana co-existed. The literary texts were preserved in Indian languages. The present day Uighurs are followers of Islam
This communication route is of great importance to understanding the transmission of Indian Buddhism via Central Asia to China. With the aid of maps, the places along the routes are detailed. The Jibin route was one of the most important land links between Kashmir and Kucha from the 2nd century BCE to the 7th century CE. From the Tang dynasty onwards, the route fell into decline and this affected the fortunes of Kucha and Kizil.
The lack of a reliable chronology is a major obstacle for the study of the caves of Kizil. In the 1980s archaeological method was applied to the study of the site for the first time, a step forward from earlier inquiry based mainly on stylistic analysis of the paintings. As part of the archaeological task, carbon-14 testing was used on samples collected from the caves, aiming at an approximate chronology for the site. In the last 25 years, although solid archaeological work has inexcusably stopped, extensive radiocarbon testing has been carried out, apparently aimed at dating the paintings of the caves, encouraging thus an unjustified reliance on this dating technique and giving rise to much confusion. This essay, far from proposing a new chronology, indicates the correct application of archaeological method to the particular conditions of Kizil, insists on the steps necessary to arrive at the setting up of a sound chronology, and points out the shortcomings of chronologies for Kizil proposed to date.
An examination of the cycle of legends portrayed in the Kizil chaityas dealing with the parinirvana of the Buddha show the influence of the Mulasarvastivadin texts in the choice of subject matter of the murals. A study of the iconography of the caves helps identify the school to which it belonged. Dating controversies, typical architectural features, the iconographic programming of the murals and sculpture styles, and the cross-cultural discourse are analysed here as also the themes in the murals - the parinirvana; multi-headed, multi-armed figures; meditating monks with skulls; donors. Today the paintings are in a poor state of preservation.
The bodhisattva and future Buddha Maitreya is one of the most popular figures in Asian art. Maitreya worship was widely, prevalent here. Though there is hardly any corroborative iconographical information available from the texts, the relationship between the many literary texts and visual sources is presented here. The iconography of Maitreya in Chinese Central Asian and Gandharan murals, wooden sculptures, temple banners is analysed as also the role of Maitreya in the Theravada-Mahayana discourse.
The article aims to prove that the drawings of celestial figures on the ceilings of the Kizil caves are a representation of the Buddhist concept of the universe. Building on previous scholarship, this article studies the depiction of the Buddha and Wind, Rain, Sun, Moon deities and the garuda based on statistical data and analyses of the contexts in the context of the imagery in the sutras. This helps to comprehend the meaning of these paintings in the context of Buddhist thought. These are compared to similar paintings in other areas to see the mutual influence.
The Sutra of the Wise and the Foolish has 69 stories. In the Kizil murals, 35 stories correspond with the record of them. Through study and verification, three types of corresponding stories are found amongst Kizil caves and this Sutra. Type 1: stories which are exclusively found in this Sutra. Type 2: recorded in other scriptures though the story scenario reflected in the murals is exactly the same as what is described in this Sutra. Type 3: hard to find the source. Following the study of the relations between stories recorded in this Sutra and stories reflected in the Kizil caves, the conclusion is rendered that close relations exist between this Sutra and the murals of Kizil.
Many visual representations of historical and semi-historical persons can be found in the Kizil murals. Among them, some are present only in Kizil. In this article, the author points out those who played an important role in Buddhist history, such as Bimbisara, the Six Heretics, Ajatashatru, Devadatta, Subhadra, Drona, disciples of Buddha and the Shakya clan. These representations are not only important material for visual studies of Buddhist history, but they also provide rare examples of Buddhist iconography.
In 1906, the German expedition found a strange wall painting of standing Buddha in whose body were images of mountains, small Buddhas, bodhisattvas, animals, asuras, devas, hungry ghosts, hell, and so on. Some scholars believed that it is Vairochana Buddha, but others suggest that it is Shakyamuni Buddha. In this article, the author selected similar images from different sites, especially two images newly found in recently in China, and they support the theory of this being Vairochana Buddha.
Cave 114 is noticeable in Kizil because of the wall paintings inside it. The author discusses the cult of Maitreya, who is the main image in cave 114, and suggests that ideas of Mahayana and Hinayana have been reflected in the same cave based on the contents of the murals. It is surprising that 12 bhikshuni figures, rare images in Kucha grottoes, have been represented in the cave. The presence of the Thousand Buddhas, Vairochana, and the visual depiction of the First Council which occur in the Mahayana sections of the Mahaparinirvanasutra are evidence of the presence of Mahayana in Kizil.