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Dr. des. Satomi Hiyama


Coexistibility of Buddhist Culture:
In the Case of the Rock Monasteries in Kucha

This project aims to research two different cultural entities, which seem to have been coexisted in the Buddhist rock monasteries in the Kucha region.
Situated along a branch of the Silk Road, which ran across the northern edge of the Taklamakan desert and connects Central Asia with the Western edge of China, the ancient Kucha Kingdom enjoyed great prosperity as a cultural crossroads of the West and the East. Kucha was the largest centre of the Tocharian Buddhism; numerous rock monasteries found in the territory of the Kucha Kingdom bear witness to its heyday, that are decorated with the wooden and clay sculpture and mural paintings of the Buddhist Late Antique.
Since the time of the German Turfan-Expeditions (1902-1914) it has been known that the rock monasteries in Kucha are decorated with the murals of three different artistic styles: the First Indo-Iranian style, the Second Indo-Iranian style and the Uyghur style.
The First and the Second Indo-Iranian styles are the indigenous artistic styles of the Kucha region, which tend to have been regarded as just showing earlier and later phases of the same artistic style.
However, Hiyama’s dissertation revealed that the First and the Second Style paintings can be differentiated by the repertoire of pictorial motifs and also of illustrated stories in the murals. Namely, the First Style paintings include some specific elements with Greco-Roman and Iranian origins, that show a clear connection to the expansion of Hephthalite power over Kucha during the first half of the 6th century, while the Second Style paintings seem to lack of them. Furthermore, the details of the representations of narratives illustrated in the First Style paintings show a closer relationship to the textual tradition of the Sarvāstivadins, while those of the Second Style are mostly related to the Mūlasarvāstivadins. These observations indicate that these two painting styles seem to be related to different textual traditions and different groups of the patronage, and most likely have served for different types of rituals.
Through the iconographical analysis of the wall paintings in combination with the archaeological and Buddhological approaches, cultural identities of these two different artistic styles will be investigated.