SOAS University of London

Department of Religions & Philosophies, School of History, Religions & Philosophies

Buddhism in Central Asia

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2017/2018
Year of study:
Year 2 or Year 3
Taught in:
Term 1

The content of this course covers two areas of instruction. The first segment, taking primarily a historical approach, focuses on Buddhist developments in Central Asia , beginning with its first phase of expansion from the end of the Kusana period onwards.

Particular emphasis will be laid on various forms of Mahayana Buddhism that came to dominate the Buddhist cultures thriving in the oasis towns along the Silk Roads. A significant proportion of this part of the course will be based on archaeological, art-historical and literary sources that have survived from that period.

In addition, instruction will include an examination of a number of specific hierarchical and organisational traits Buddhism developed in Central Asia as a result of the cross-cultural interpenetration along the trade routes of the region. In geographic terms, the course will cover the Buddhist civilisations that emerged along the Silk Road, in Sogdiana, Khotan and Mongolia .

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

  • Aims to provide a comprehensive overview of the penetration,expansion and subsequent historical developments of Buddhism in Central Asia from the third century AD onwards.
  • At the end of the first segment, students should be able to give a historically accurate account of the developments of Buddhist cultures in Central Asia, taking into account religious, archeological, art-historical and historical sources.

Method of assessment

1 essay (3000 words) (40%), 2-hour exam (60%).

Suggested reading

  • Foltz, R (1999) Religions of the Silk Road: Overland Trade and Cultural Exchange from Antiquity to the Fifteenth Century , New York : St Martins Press .
  • Whitfield, Susan (1999) Life along the Silk Road , London : John Murray.
  • Frye, RN (1996) The Heritage of Central Asia from Antiquity to the Turkish Expansion , Princeton : Markus Wiener Publishers.
  • Francke, IM & Brownstone, DM (1986) The Silk Road: A History, Facts on File, New York .


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules