Kushan Dynasty

By Qi Xijia Source:Global Times Published: 2018/1/2 19:08:39

Shanghai Museum organizes exhibition about ancient Silk Road

Shanghai Museum recently organized an exhibition titled Crossroads: The Beliefs and Arts of Kushan Dynasty featuring 39 fine distinctive cultural relics from Shanghai Museum, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region Museum, Lüshun Museum and Hotan Museum.

As an import trade route linking Asia and Europe, the ancient Silk Road played a major role in promoting economic and trade relations between countries in the Euro-Asian continent. Kushan, which included Central Asia and parts of South Asia, spanned the 1st to 4th centuries, one of the four biggest Asian empires.

A hub along the ancient Silk Road network, Kushan occupied a vital geographical place between China's Han Dynasty (206BC-AD220), the Parthian Empire of ancient Iran and Iraq, ancient Rome and ancient India. Thus, whether Kushan was inclusive or exclusive to foreign cultures and communication determined the fate of the Silk Road.

Eventually transforming itself into an open and inclusive spirit, Kushan's acceptance of various cultures and beliefs from all peripheral regions not only promoted cultural exchange between East and West but also helped populate Kushan with ethnically diverse communities.

"Through this exhibition we want to reveal the most important cultural spirit of the Silk Road, a spirit of openness and inclusiveness," Yang Zhigang, director of Shanghai Museum, said at the event.

Continuous cultural integration

The exhibition revolves around three themes of the Kushan Dynasty: "Power of Monarch," "Faith and Culture," and "Economy and Lifestyle."

A highlight from "Power of Monarch" is the display of 12 ancient coins from the Kushan Dynasty, which reveals the continuous cultural integration of the empire with other regions.

The change in patterns forged on each coin, from the ancient Greek-Roman style (side profile of a king) to the front-facing Kushan style, demonstrates the inclusive attitude of Kushan toward foreign cultures and religions, according to Wang Yue, a vice research fellow at Shanghai Museum and the curator of the exhibition.

"As a mirror of credibility and stability, a country usually will not alter the look of its currency. However, dramatic changes took place on Kushan coins, which mirrored the empire's flexibility," Wang said.

Interestingly, on one coin, one side features the profile of a Kushan king wearing a round Kushan-style crown with an Iranian robe. The other side of the coin features a bull and Shiva, the Hindu god.

Belt and Road themes

The all-inclusive atmosphere of the Kushan Dynasty is also portrayed in its architecture. When the Kushans ruled this region, they integrated architectural styles from various countries.

One building component collected by Lüshun Museum shows the fusion of Buddhism from India and art from Greek, with the Buddha sitting in the center of a pavilion decorated by the Corinthian order, which is usually only seen in ancient Greek and Roman architecture.

"This distinctive style offered a better way for people to understand the meaning of Buddhism and played an important role in the spread of Buddhism to China," said Wang.

According to Yang, the director of Shanghai Museum, the museum has paid close attention to Belt and Road-themed exhibitions and will continue to explore the cultural communication and exchange that contributed to the ancient Silk Road.

Cultural relics at the exhibition Photos: Courtesy of Shanghai Museum

Cultural relics at the exhibition


Cultural relics at the exhibition

Cultural relics at the exhibition

Cultural relics at the exhibition


Cultural relics at the exhibition



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