Object Proposal

March 19th, 2016|0 Comments

For my object study I would like to concentrate on objects connected with two of the religions practiced by the Sogdians: Buddhism and Hinduism. Although the artifacts are not numerous and rather sketchy, the influence of these two major world religions on Sogdians in Sogdiana and in the Sogdian colonies is undisputable. Most of my objects are either representations of the Buddha or Hindu deities or epics, or else images of native Sogdian deities which were directly influenced by the Hindu iconography.

This is connected with two of my research topics, Buddhism and Buddhist art in Sogdiana: the Sogdians as transmitters of Buddhism from India to the East, and Hindu and other Indian influences on Sogdian art and culture. One of my objects is more broadly connected with the importance of the Sogdian civilization in transmitting cultural heritage along the Silk Road.

I picked nine objects, seven of which are definitely of Sogdian origin, and two others seem to be closely connected with Sogdiana and Central Asian Buddhism. During my research, I hope to narrow this list down to six or seven objects.

Buddhism-connected objects of Sogdian origin:

Item #386 “Pendant in the Form of Buddha Sakyamuni”

Item #369 “Fragment of a Statuette of Buddha Making the Abhaya Mudra”

I will look into the dissemination of Buddhism in Sogdiana, and which evidence these objects present in this context. Does their presence mean that the Sogdians were Buddhist?

Hinduism-connected objects of Sogdian origin:

Item #373 ”Goddess on a Lion”

Item #374 “Goddess with Sun and Moon in Her Hands”

Item #364 “Deity with a Peacock”

Item #243 “Fragment of a Wall Painting with a Scene from Mahabharata”

Using these objects I will analyze the amount of Indian influence over the Sogdian art and other Sogdian practices. India was a neighbor, but rather inaccessible, because of the mountain range. Via which routes Indian ideas, practices and the bearers of all of above, Indian people, could access Sogdiana?  What kind of influence stayed and developed in Sogdiana, and which of them moved further, to China, and eventually, to the Far East? What were the interactions between the Sogdians and the two major Indian religions, Buddhism and Hinduism? Which influences exerted Indian art and literature on Sogdian art and literature?

Buddhism-connected objects of Central Asian origin from the Hermitage collection:

Item #299 “Two-headed Buddha”

Item #278 “Prandhi”

One of the items is connected with the fact that Sogdians were transmitters of various cultures and beliefs through the whole length of the Silk Road, including the maritime routes to and from Japan:

Item #69 “Sandal Wood in the Huryu-ji Temple”

I will investigate how it may have arrived to Japan, which road it took, and what say the inscriptions. I will also analyze where the sandalwood came from, and which use it may have had in the Middle Ages.

Provisional bibliography:

Sims-Williams, N. 1996. The Sogdian merchants in China and India. Cina e Iran da Alessandro Magno alla dinastia Tang, ed. A. Cadonna & L. Lanciotti. Florence, 45–67.

De la Vaissière, Étienne. 2005. Sogdian Traders. A History. Leiden: Brill.

Yoshida, Y. 2009. Buddhist Literature in Sogdian. The Literature of Pre-Islamic Iran, 288–329.

Provasi, E. 2013. “Sanskrit and Chinese in Sogdian garb: the transcription of Indic proper names in the Sogdian Buddhist texts.” Multilingualism and History of Knowledge. Vol. 1. Buddhism among the Iranian Peoples of Central Asia, ed. M. de Chiara, M. Maggi, & G. Martini. Vienna: Verlag der ÖAW 2013, pp. 191-308.

Yoshida, Y. 2013. “Buddhist texts produced by the Sogdians in China.” In Multilingualism and History of Knowledge. Vol. 1. Buddhism among the Iranian Peoples of Central Asia, ed. M. de Chiara, M. Maggi, & G. Martini. Vienna:Verlag der ÖAW 2013, pp. 155–180.

Behl, Benoy K. Northern frontiers of Buddhism: Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Kalmykia, Tibet, China, Mongolia and Siberia, 2014.

Heirman, Ann. The Spread of Buddhism, Brill, 2007.

Compareti, Matteo. Iranian Elements in Kashmir and Tibet. Transoxiana, 14. Agosto, 2009.

Nath Puri, Baij. Buddhism in Central Asia. 1987

 

Buddhism, Hinduism, and Multilinguism

March 2nd, 2016|0 Comments

I would like to concentrate on three topics, which are quite closely interrelated.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Provisional bibliography:

Jakubovich, Ilja. 2009. «Problemy sogdijskoj etimologii (Problems of Sogdian Etymology), PhD dissertaion, Moscow, 201 p.

Sims-Williams, Nicholas. 1996a. “The Sogdian Manuscripts in Brahmi Script as Evidence for Sogdian Phonology”. Turfan, Khotan und Dunhuang: Vorträge der Tagung “Annemarie von Gabain und die Turfanforschung” veranstaltet von der Berlin-Brandenburgischen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Berlin (9.-12. 12. 1994). Ed. R. E. Emmerick et al. Berlin: Akademie Verlag. Pp. 307-315.

Livshits, Vladimir A. & A.L. Chromov. 1981. Sogdijskij jayzk [The Sogdian Language]. Osnovy Iranskogo jazykoznanija, ed. V.S. Rastorgueva et al., vol. II 347–514.

Sims-Williams, N. 1996. The Sogdian merchants in China and India. Cina e Iran da Alessandro Magno alla dinastia Tang, ed. A. Cadonna & L. Lanciotti. Florence, 45–67.

De la Vaissière, Étienne. 2005. Sogdian Traders. A History. Leiden: Brill.

Yoshida, Y. 2009. Buddhist Literature in Sogdian. The Literature of Pre-Islamic Iran, 288–329.

Sims-Williams, N., F. Grenet, & A. Podushkin. 2007. Les plus anciens monuments de la langue sogdienne: Les inscriptions de Kultobe au Kazakhstan. CRAIBL, 1005–1034.

Sims-Williams, N. 1989/1992. Sogdian and other Iranian inscriptions of the Upper Indus. 2 vols. London: SOAS.

Livshits, V.A. 2008. Sogdijskaja èpigrafika Srednej Azii i Semireč’ja [Sogdian Epigraphy from Central Asia and Semirechya]. Saint Petersburg.

Benveniste, Émile. 1940. Textes sogdiens. Paris: Geuthner.

Benveniste, Émile. 1946. Vessantara Jataka: texte sogdien. Paris: Geuthner.

Yoshida, Y. 2000. The form of the Manichaean Sogdian Letters from Bäzäklik. Tulufan xinchu Moni, pp. 250-279 [in Chinese].

Grenet, F. 2006. “La plus ancienne inscription sogdienne.” Ērān ud Anērān, Studies Presented to Boris Il’ič Marshak on the Occasion of His 70th Birthday, ed. M. Comparetti, P. Raffetta & G. Scarcia. Venice: Libreria Editrice Cafoscarina 2006, pp. 223-230.

MacKenzie, D.N. 1971. “Buddhist Terminology in Sogdian: A Glossary.” Asia Major n.s. 17/1, pp. 28-89.

Provasi, E. 2013. “Sanskrit and Chinese in Sogdian garb: the transcription of Indic proper names in the Sogdian Buddhist texts.” Multilingualism and History of Knowledge. Vol. 1. Buddhism among the Iranian Peoples of Central Asia, ed. M. de Chiara, M. Maggi, & G. Martini. Vienna: Verlag der ÖAW 2013, pp. 191-308.

Yoshida, Y. 2013. “Buddhist texts produced by the Sogdians in China.” In Multilingualism and History of Knowledge. Vol. 1. Buddhism among the Iranian Peoples of Central Asia, ed. M. de Chiara, M. Maggi, & G. Martini. Vienna:Verlag der ÖAW 2013, pp. 155–180.

Yoshida, Y. 2013. “When did Sogdians begin to write vertically?” Tokyo University Linguistic Papers 33, 375–394.

Mariko Namba Walter, “Sogdians and Buddhism,” Sino-Platonic Papers 174 (November 2006).

Sims-Williams, Nicholas. 1996. “The Sogdian Merchants in China and India,” in Cina e Iran da Alessandro Magno alla dinastia Tang, ed. A. Cadonna & L. Lanciotti (Florence: Leo S. Olschki Editore), pp. 45-67.