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Center and periphery: The expansion and metamorphosis of Han culture

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image of Frontiers of History in China

The cave reliefs of Mahao in Leshan City, Sichuan Province, have been world-famous for containing an early Buddhist statue. Yet, little attention has been paid to the co-existent stone reliefs sharing the tomb cave and the cultural significance thereof. Through the Qin and Han dynasties (221 BC–220 AD), the ancient Ba and Shu civilizations in what is Sichuan today gradually merged into the Chinese civilization, of which the Han civilization is the main body, on the one hand, the Han civilization exerted a strong influence on its south-western counterparts, as is revealed by the stone reliefs in the tomb cave; on the other hand, the south-western region was apparently assimilated into the Chinese civilization while concurrently absorbing elements of even farther civilizations (e.g., those in Central and South Asia). The early image of Buddha appeared against a wide cultural background.


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