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1 The Rock Monasteries of Ancient Kuča

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Chapter Summary

The most important Buddhist temples and monasteries in the ancient Kingdom of Kuča were likely those in the capital. The virtually exclusive focus of previous research on the style and iconography of cave murals has resulted in a flawed understanding of Kuča's rock monasteries. In these monasteries, responding to the fulfillment of the diverse needs of the residing community, only the caves used for worship were embellished with didactical scenes. In contrast, the majority of the caves, residential and meditation cells, lecture hall and deposits, were kept plain and unadorned. Therefore, studies which emphasize the decor alone may bring about an unbalanced understanding both of the sites and of Kuca Buddhism. The author describes main rock monasteries of Kuca by focusing on their layout and the typology of caves they contain; when possible, the author points out elements indicative of how the site developed through time.

Keywords: Buddhist temples; Kuča's rock monasteries; typology of caves



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