I would like to concentrate on three topics, which are quite closely interrelated.
- Buddhism and Buddhist art in Sogdiana: the Sogdians as transmitters of Buddhism from India to the East. On several occasions we hear and read that there were numerous traces of Buddhist influence in Sogdiana. Numerous iconographic borrowings can be observed in Sogdian artifacts; a collection of Sogdian Buddhist texts coming both from the mainland Sogdiana and from the colonies has been studied and published by the linguists; there is evidence of the existence of Sogdian Buddhist monks and monasteries attested by historians and archeologists. Sogdiana, a country on the crossroad of two big Mahayana Buddhist civilizations, China and India, although being mostly Zoroastrian, absorbed numerous religious traditions, including Christianity, Buddhism, Manichaeism and Hinduism (not to mention the later Islam). I will look into the history of the transmission of Buddhist ideas and iconography to Sogdiana, the absorption of Buddhism in Sogdian culture (analyzing preserved artifacts and texts) and the transmission of Buddhism from Sogdiana to the further East.
- My next topic focuses on Hindu and other Indian influences on Sogdian art and culture. The Sogdians had contacts with the Indians on their territories (numerous inscriptions in Sogdian language were found along the South and Southeast routes of the Silk road, especially in the Upper Indus and in Ladakh, then a part of the Kushan Empire), they also were engaged together in trade in Chinese provinces. There is evidence of a cult dedicated to Hindu deities on the territory of Sogdiana, namely in Panjikent where statues of Vishnu and Pārvati alongside with a Chinese Avalokiteshvara were discovered. The multihanded Kushan goddess Nana, perhaps the most widely venerated deity in the Sogdian oases cities, may have direct connections with the Hindu goddess Durga (Saraswati). I will analyze iconographic interconnections, and textual materials consisting in Sogdian translations of Sanskrit and Prakrit texts.
- The last topic covers the Sogdian language. It is a part of the Iranian group of languages, and by the 10th century AD had totally disappeared from circulation. The largest number of texts in Sogdian were found on the territory of Sogdiana itself and on the Chinese territory, although numerous written artifacts were discovered along the different routes of the Silk road. According to Sogdian scholars, only a small part of the Sogdian texts are dealing with trade, while the most of them are religious. Interestingly, different scripts were used to transcribe different kinds of document. For example, the Sogdian script was used for secular and Buddhist documents, the Manichean script to transcribe Manichean but also middle-Persian and Parthian religious texts, Christian scholars used a kind of Syrian Nestorian script, medical texts would be transcribed in Brahmi script etc. This translingual diversity correlates exactly with the cultural diversity of Sogdiana, and can constitute an interesting supportive case witnessing the importance of the Sogdian civilization in transmitting cultural heritage along the Silk Road. Here I may include a passage about the Sogdians as translators.
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