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Traces of the Sarvāstivādins in the Buddhist Monasteries of Kucha (Leipzig Kucha Studies 3)

Giuseppe Vignato (Author) Satomi Hiyama (Author) Petra Kieffer-Pulz (Author) Yoko Taniguchi (Author) Leipzig Kucha Studies

The innovative approach to the study of Kuchean Buddhism presented in this book examines the material remains in order to identify the type of Buddhism practiced in the region, which left its traces in the rock- and surface monasteries. In addition to drawing upon as yet unpublished data from in situ fieldwork, this study also undertakes a detailed reading of the records and photographs of early 20th century international expeditions, and the artefacts which were taken from the caves and are now held in museums around the world.


The interdisciplinary collaboration of the two main authors has permitted the identification of four successive phases of the Kuchean Sarvāstivāda tradition based on the archaeological and art-historical analysis of the sites, districts, cave groups, cave types, layouts of the décor, the narrative contents and iconography therein, and the source texts. The results of this study are supported and further extended upon by the contributions of two guest scholars. The appendixes focus on the Vinaya texts unearthed in the Kucha region and on the materials and techniques of the wall paintings, respectively.


Our study focuses specifically on a single phase of the Kuchean Sarvāstivāda tradition, which is herein referred to by the unbiased term ‘Tradition A’. This tradition can be clearly distinguished from other traditions present in the caves of Kucha. Part One offers a comprehensive catalogue of ‘Tradition A’ caves, while Part Two presents a typological analysis based on the ‘sense of place’ of each of the caves, as well as a study of the features of their primary and secondary décor, before moving to the contextualization of the spatial context of these caves within the monasteries. Based on these data ‘Tradition A’ emerges as an early phase of Kuchean Sarvāstivāda Buddhism which may be closely related to the Shisonglü. This phase was then followed by ‘Tradition B’, another Sarvāstivāda tradition which contains more elements related to the Mūlasarvāstivā­da-vinaya.

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About the authors

Giuseppe Vignato

Giuseppe Vignato, Professor of Archaeology, Peking University, has been involved with the study of the Buddhist sites of Kucha for over 20 years.

Satomi Hiyama

Satomi Hiyama, Assistant Professor, the Hakubi Center for Advanced Research and Institute for Research in Humanities, Kyoto University, and an external colleague of the research centre “Buddhist Murals of Kucha on the Northern Silk Road” at the Saxon Academy of Sciences and Humanities in Leipzig, is an art historian focusing on the wall paintings of Buddhist caves in Kucha and Dunhuang in the 5–6th centuries.

Yoko Taniguchi

Yoko Taniguchi, Associate Professor, Faculty of History and Anthropology, University of Tsukuba, is a conservation/ archaeological scientist.

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Bibliographic information

Title Traces of the Sarvāstivādins in the Buddhist Monasteries of Kucha (Leipzig Kucha Studies 3)
Format Hardcover
Date published: 08.01.2022
Edition 1st ed.
Language: English
isbn 9789387496750
length 464p., Plates and Illustrations; 29cm.