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Traces Of The Silk Road In Han -Dynasty Iconography: Questions And Hypotheses

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Chapter Summary

This chapter discusses aspects of the transmission to China of visual knowledge through the Silk Road during the Han dynasty (206 BCE?220 CE). The Han dynasty covered two periods: the Western or Former Han dynasty (206 BCE?25 CE), and the Eastern or Later Han dynasty (25?220 CE). It is mostly for the Later Han that we have visual evidence of relations between China and Central Asia. Before addressing the question of the transmission of visual knowledge along the Silk Road into Han China, the chapter presents a few words about textual evidence because the Han people left texts on the area, unlike most ancient communities living along the Silk Road. The traces of Buddhism in Chinese art raise problems of dating, attribution, and interpretation. To illustrate these difficulties, the chapter examines a couple of Han-dynasty representations that relate to Buddhism.

Keywords: Buddhism; Central Asia; Chinese art; Han dynasty; Silk Road; textual evidence; visual knowledge



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