During the end of the first millennium B.C. Buddhism began to spread into Central Asia. Travelling along older land and sea trade routes that were newly secured under the Kushan Empire, it encountered a time of great political, economic and cultural efflorescence, as these routes—today collectively known as the ‘Silk Roads’—brought cultures into contact and acted as a catalyst for the development of new forms. This was the case for all manifestations of Buddhism, not least its architecture.
This lecture will explore the archaeology and art of the stupa, looking at the complexities of tracing its development as the form travelled from India along the land routes across Central Asia and into China.
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 has curated several major exhibitions, lectures internationally and has published many books and articles. She also travels regularly along the Silk Road.
Using technology, old and new, to ensure that the collections are preserved for future generations while made fully accessible for this generation has always been an essential part of her work at the British Library. In 1994, along with colleagues worldwide, she was instrumental in establishing an international collaboration to achieve these aims. Although named ‘The International Dunhuang Project’ (IDP, http://idp.bl.uk) its remit includes all archaeological artefacts from sites throughout Chinese Central Asia, many of which are Buddhist.
Most recently, Dr. Whitfield has started work with British Library colleagues on developing projects with institutions and scholars in Afghanistan. She is currently working on several articles and two books.
Silk Road Buddhism Lectures. Co-sponsored by the Silk Road Foundation and the Stanford Humanities Center
Free and open to the public