Trade routes have always been more than just the means of transporting goods and services to neighboring regions. These routes serve as a way to spread culture, art, religion, and many other things amongst countries. One of the most outstanding trade routes in the past was the Silk Road found in China. It was a route used by many people to travel and transport goods such as silk, paper, livestock, jewels, and much more, from East to West China. It consisted of land and sea routes, which made transportation and traveling convenient for man in that time period. There were many items traded along the Silk Road that had a profound impact on the development of the cultures, religions and other components. Religion was one thing that was successfully spread amongst those who lived and traveled along the Silk Road. One religion that had a profound impact on the Silk Road was Buddhism. Most religions have a belief in a higher power and a founder, which made Buddhism no different from others. Buddhism is based on the teachings of Gautama Buddha. It is impossible to discuss Buddhism without mentioning its impact on the development of Asian Artwork. As Buddhists traveled along the Silk Road they would leave their lessons behind in the shape of artwork for others to follow and worship the Buddha. Buddhist art followed believers as the dharma spread and adapted to new countries. The religion of Buddha spread quickly along the Silk Road and with the help of the artwork, allowed its followers to be comfortable worshipping while traveling. The art created by these Buddhist people left the world the most pristine and beautiful monuments, which includes Buddha Statues, monasteries, shrines, paintings, murals and cave paintings along the Silk Road area. Religion is an important factor of inspiration for designing artwork everywhere, and much of the art found along the Silk Road, was religious in some shape or form.
There were many pieces of artwork that had an impact on the Silk Road and those who traveled along it. One gift that Buddhists and artists left for people today to gaze upon was The Cave of the Thousand Buddhas. To the southeast of the main oasis of Dunhuang, lies the valley of the Thousand Buddhas, which forms a system of 492 temples, 2000 statues and 45,000 murals, . It gained its name from the legend of a monk who dreamt he saw a cloud with a thousand Buddhas floating above one side of the valley . This area had become a busy desert crossroads on the route of the Silk Road. Traders, pilgrims and other travelers were known to stop at this oasis to stock up on supplies, pray for the journey ahead or give thanks to current survival status. Wandering Buddhist monks carved the first caves into the long cliffs that stretched along the oasis near the Daquan River. From the fourth century AD until the Yuan Dynasty, this valley was a center for Buddhist pilgrims and many caves that were used as shrines in this time period had been carved from the gravel conglomerate of the slopes. From the time of the Northern Liang in the early fifth century, the caves were decorated with wall painting, and by the Tan dynasty, more than a thousand caves had been completed . The Caves of a Thousand Buddhas consisted of shrines and temples that were carved out of the very stone to provide a sacred haven in which to lodge and meditate while following the teachings of the Buddha. The caves were used and decorated with hand painted clay figures, and murals on the cave walls depicted scenes of different incarnations Buddha. Many of these caves were living quarters to massive worship halls for monks and Buddhists of that time. The caves contain some of the finest examples of Buddhist artwork throughout the Silk Road time period. Many sacred texts have even been found within the caves. A vast collection of thousands of paper manuscripts and printed documents dating from five to eleven AD were discovered. The Caves of a Thousands Buddhas had a profane...
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