Spread of Buddhism map

"There one sees a structure of an elevation prodigious in height; it is supported by gigantic pillars and covered with paintings of all the birds created by God. In the interior are two immense idols carved in the rock and rising from the foot of the mountains to the summit.One cannot see anything comparable to these statues in the whole world."
-Yakut describing Bamiyan in his geographical dictionary in 1218

Besides silk, paper and other goods, the Silk Road carried another commodity which was equally significant in world history. Along with trade and migration, the world's oldest international highway was the vehicle which spread Buddhism through Central Asia. The transmission was launched from northwestern India to modern Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia, Xinjiang (Chinese Turkistan), China, Korea and Japan. Buddhism not only affected the lives and cultures on those regions but also left us with a world of wonders in arts and literature. (Figure on the right: Princes from Central Asian states in Lamentation, Dunhuang Cave 158. After Sakyamuni entered nirvana, princes of different Central Asian states gathered to express their grief, crying, beating their chests, piercing themselves with swords or knives, or cutting off their noses or ears. This painting not only depicts their devotions to Buddha, but also accurately presents the appearances, garments and customs of different nations along the Silk Road and the history of cultural exchange between them.)

Birth of Buddha and the Development of Buddhism in India
According to legend, the Buddha (The Awakened), or Gotama (Sanskrit) lived in northern India in the 6th century BC. Gotama was his family name and his personal name was Siddhattha in Pali language. He was born in a noble family and ancient lineage, the Sakyas. A title by which Siddhattha came to be known as 'the Sage of the Sakyas', Sakyamuni. To the West, he is known as the Buddha.

What is known of the Buddha's life is based mainly on the evidence of the canonical texts, the most extensive and comprehensive of which are those written in Pali, an ancient Indian language. According to the canon, Buddha's birth place was Lumbini, near the small city of Kapilavastu on the borders of Nepal and India. In his twenties, he renounced his life in the palace and left home in search of enlightenment after witnessing sights of suffering, sickness, aging and death. He achieved Enlightenment at Bodh Gaya and gave the first sermon at Sarnath. He spent his remaining life in travelling, teaching and spreading Buddhism.

It is not clear when the first Buddhist community was established in India. By the time of Buddha's death at the age of 80 he had become a famous and respected figure and had allies and supporters among rich and poor. In 484 BC, seven days after the Buddha's death at Kushinagara (modern Kasia), his body was cremated and the relics were divided equally among eight clans. Each of these built a sacred cairn over the relics, a form of memorial known in India as a stupa, which later became the focus for Buddhists' devotions. For the next two centuries, there was a steady growth of Buddhism in India.

Not long after the Buddha's death, the followers gathered at Rajagriha for the first general council. The second council was held in Vaishali one hundred years after the death of Buddha. The third one is said to be held in Pataliputra in the time of the Mauryan king Ashoka.

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Popular Q&A

What was the condition of Buddhism in the period between the Han and the Sui dynasties

it was not a native religion but it adpted to Chinese ways and thrived during this period.

HOw did buddhism spread north during the Han dynasty?

For hw.

The silk road, which brought contact with the The Kushan Empire of northern India - Afghanistan.

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