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Gandhara art inspires legends

Exhibition in Beijing introduces visitors to ancient Central Asian cultural heritage, Wang Ru reports.

By Wang Ru | China Daily Global | Updated: 2023-03-23 08:33

A gold stupa-shaped Buddha reliquary on display at the ongoing exhibition.[Photo provided to China Daily]

In 399, not long after the Roman Empire split into its western and eastern halves, Chinese Buddhist monk Faxian embarked on an arduous journey from China to India by foot to acquire Buddhist sutras. He traversed the deserts of Central Asia and trekked through the mountain passes in what is today northern Pakistan, visited major centers of Buddhist learning and returned home via sea with a priceless trove of Buddhist classics.

His footsteps were later followed by pilgrims like Song Yun, Huisheng and Xuanzang, who built on Faxian's work, translating Sanskrit texts and popularizing Buddhism, which spread across East Asia. Their arduous journeys in search of mysterious learning, often memorialized in their writings, constitute a memorable chapter of early communication between Chinese and other civilizations.

The historical roots of these tales can be traced in an ongoing exhibition, Gandhara Heritage Along the Silk Road, in the Palace Museum in Beijing, also known as the Forbidden City.

Organized by the Palace Museum and the Department of Archaeology and Museums of the National Heritage and Culture Division of Pakistan, the Pakistan-China joint exhibition kicked off in Beijing on March 15, and will run until June 15.

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