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Spread of Religion through the Silk Road
Transcript of Spread of Religion through the Silk Road
Named in the 19th Century by German scholar Baron Ferdinand von Richthofen, The Silk Road started in the old capitals of Luoyang and Xian, to the Yellow River at Lanzhou, along deserts and mountains until a 3 way divide at Dunhuang. Not only was it an effective means of transporting goods, but it was also an information super highway, transmitting knowledge between the great lands of east and west. Buddhism For 2,000 years, the Silk Road became a network for travel of religious beliefs. This was because it was one of the most important and deeply held aspects of personal identity, and people were reluctant to go where they could not practice their own faith. Shrines and temples were built along travel pathways, while missionaries of all faiths accompanied caravans of trade seeking to convert others to their faith. Religions were generally of 2 kinds - proselytizing or non-proselytizing. Proselytizing religions were those who actively recruited and incorporated new followers to their faith, and these include Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. Non-Proselytizing religions allowed religious membership only through birth right or in some cases marriage, and these include Hinduism and Judaism. Buddhism was arguably the most prominent of religions spread, and came as early as the 2nd Century BC from India. Buddhist merchants built temples and shrines along the Silk Road, and the priests and monks who staffed these establishments preached to the local populations and travelers. Monks, art, and paintings trickled into China, along with the emergence of cave temples. Missionaries from Central Asia began a program of translating sacred texts into Chinese, and it retained a dominant position in China until the decline of the Tang Dynasty in the 9th Century where it became more private. Christianity Christianity was spread from east to west primarily as the form known as Nestorianism, and introduced to China through the Silk Road in 635. It spread to Persia and India as well, along with its Syriac language and script. Many Nestorian churches were built along the Silk Road, although there were certainly less followers than Buddhism. Manichaeism Manichaeism, just like Christianity, was another middle eastern faith that was established by the Persian prophet Mani in the 3rd Century CE. It incorporated Zoroastrianism, Christianity, Hindusim, Buddhism, and other faiths. It did not have much impact in China, and it's spread was mostly due to persecution from Persia. It's influence elsewhere declined in the 6th century. Islam From the 7th Century AD, Arab Muslims traveled through the Silk Road in order to propagate Islam. A significant number of conversions took place, and their traditions, influences, and schools of thought all flourished among the Silk Road. In the Tang dynasty, Guangdong Province and Quanzhou were Islamic strongholds. In the countries spanned in the old Silk Road, it represents the majority of people today. In "Religions of the Silk Road," Richard Foltz provides 3 main reasons for the spread of Islam into Central Asia. 1) Politics. Because the government supported Islam, then it was easier to accept the government's rule rather than go against it (Foltz 96). 2) Economics. It was less complicated to conduct trade with the local businessmen as a Muslim rather than a Buddhist because they were usually treated better (Foltz 96). 3) Assimilation. It was easier to conform to the government's demands than possibly being killed or hurt for going against their beliefs (Foltz 97). Zoroastrianism Zoroastrianism spread into the western regions of China in the 5th Century to the 1st Century. It was one of the earliest religions in the area, and once the state religion of Persia. It developed rapidly during the Southern and Northern Dynasties (420-589) and the Tang Dynasty (618 - 907). After the Song Dynasty (960-1279), Zoroastrianism began to fade. Chinese M183 Project
Ziyaad Motala References Cited Foltz, Richard. Religions of the Silk Road: Premodern patterns of globalization. Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
Klimkeit, Han-Joachim. Gnosis on the Silk Road: Gnostic Texts from Central Asia. Vol. 15. HarperSanFrancisco, 1993.
Liu, Xinru. "The Silk Road: overland trade and cultural interactions in Eurasia." Agricultural and Pastoral Societies in Ancient and Classical History (2001): 151-79.
Whitfield, Susan. The Silk Road: trade, travel, war and faith. Serindia Publications, Inc., 2004.