Buddhist Serindia
4th - 14th cent

For each section there exists a Google-Earth.kmz file which locates the places on the globe. These files open only in GE, which you must have on your hard-disc.
Buddhist Serindia

The art of Chinese Turkestan, Xinjiang today, is refered as the art of Serindia in Westrn literature, because of its strong sources in Indian art. The meriad of archeological Buddhist sites in the Taklamakan Desert is so large that I can present only a small selection

Dunhuang Magao Caves
4th - 13th cent

The caves of Dunhuang

flourished 900 years starting around 366 AD. It is an assembly of 900 man-made caves all painted in glorious colors: the largest open-air art gallery in the world. Besides being magnificent in themselves, the frescoes give a full account of the development of Central Asian Buddhist painting and the changes in Buddhist doctrin from Theravada to Mahyana to the Yuan Vajrayana.

Buddha Maitreya and Attendants, Cave 248, Western Wei Dynasty, around 450 AD

Buddha's Paranirvana — the historical Buddha's death
Cave 428, Nothern Zou, around 560 AD

The faces of his disciples who at later times assume grotesque expressions is accomplished by minimal, abstract means. What looks to us like a Romanesque mural, is in fact 800 years older! - The Western Wei and Northern Zhou were Central Asian people not Han Chinese. In the 15 centuries of its existence Dunhuang has gone through a dozen of different occupations each contributing to its murals.


Meditational visions on the ceiling of the Western Wei Cave 249, 450 AD
For an illustrated description of the Magao Caves see my website

Sir Aurel Stein's Dunhuang Scrolls
See the detailed Google Earth Post of Aurel Stein's Journeys

Block print scroll of the Diamond Sutra, 10th cent AD

Aurel Stein, Albert von LeCoq, Albert Grünwedel and others laid the archeological foundations for our understanding of Serindia. Stein's great coupe was a trove of scrolls from the Tang Dynasty which he acquired in Dunhaung in 1911. The scrolls, mostly Buddhist scriptures, were written in a bewildering number of languages, attesting to the importance of the area to the transmission of ideas and religions. Today Stein is defamed in China for removing so many valuable objects, but without his researches this knowledge would be lost.
The above referenced GE essay describes Stein's expeditons and findings.

Khotan
Southern Silk Road
Serindia, Chinese Turkestan

200-900 AD

Painted panel from the Aurel Stein collection 8th cent
Photo idp.bl.uk

Khotanese Mahayana Buddhism strongly resembled that of India. The Prajnaparamita sutras, and Cittamatra ("mind-only") philosophy were both important. An original Mahayana treatise, The Book of Zambasta, written in the Khotanese language, still exists.
In the 5th-10th cent AD Khotan had a large thriving community of Buddhist monks, described by several Chinese travelers (e.g., Fa Xien). It was destroyed by the Qarakhanid Qaghans after a long siege at the end of the 10th cent. It never recovered, in part because the southern part of the Taklamakan was drying up.

Kizil Caves near Kucha
Northern Silk Road, Serindia
6th - 9th cent AD


Painted Boddhisattva from Kucha, 6th-7th cent AD, Musee Guimet, Paris.
Photo answers.com


Tokharians, frescoes from the Kizil Caves near Kucha, 7th cent,
Berlin-Dahlem, Photo from the LeCoq collection.

In the 6th - 9th cent AD Khucha, on the Northern Silk-Road was a Buddhist kingdom of apparently red-haired, blue-eyed princes. Recovered manuscripts show that they spoke a Western European "centum" language - not an Indo-Iranian "hatem" dialect. Their language is called Tokharian, after a mythical tribe Herodot mentions. This seems to indicate that they migrated to the Tarim basin from Northern Europe during the late Indo-European Migrations. They may be the last descendants of the blue-eyed “Mummies of Ürümchi” (700 BC) recently excavated south of the Lop Nor region on the Southern Silk Road. Our understanding is incomplete.
Several translators of Buddhist scriptures came from here. The most famous was Kumarajiva (344-413 AD) who was born to Indian parents in Kucha.