Buddhism and Islam on the Silk Road

Johan Elverskog, Southern Methodist University

Monday, May 09, 2011
12:00 PM - 1:30 PM
6275 Bunche Hall
Los Angeles, CA 90095

The meeting of Buddhism and Islam is often conceived as one of violent confrontation. Indeed, the Taliban’s destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas in 2001 readily confirmed our preconceived imaginings: Islam is bad and violent, while Buddhism is good and peaceful. Yet, how accurate are these stereotypes? Moreover, how do these contemporary views shape our understanding of the past? The aim of this talk is to explore these questions by exploring the cultural exchanges that took place between Buddhists and Muslims in medieval Central Asia.

Johan Elverskog is Altshuler University Distinguished Professor and Professor of Religious Studies, Southern Methodist University

Religions of the Silk Road: Transformation and Transmission in the Heart of Asia, is a lecture series co-sponsored by the UCLA Program on Central Asia and the Center for the Study of Religion

Before the rise of the maritime empires of Europe, the ancient trade routes of Central Asia served as one the world’s most vital thoroughfares of religious traffic. From the goddesses of prehistoric Eurasia through the Iranian religions of Zoroaster and Mani, to the Buddhism transferred from India and the Judaism, Christianity and eventually Islam carried in from the Mediterranean west, almost all of the major religions of Asia were imported into the oasis towns that lined the route between Persia and China. Yet if the monks, books and relics who moved along the ‘silk road’ point to a history of religious transmission both into and through Central Asia, important questions remain about what happened to these religious forms in their long periods in transit. Placing the question of transformation alongside that of transmission, the current series of talks excavates the neglected history of Central Asia’s own contributions to the religions of the old world.


Sponsor(s): Center for Buddhist Studies