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A Study of Bodhisattva Belief System in the Kizil Grottoes
Mao Jianbo Jian Zhidong
China Academy of Art
Buddhism was introduced to China through the Silk Road. Kucha was an ancient Buddhist kingdom located on an important transit branch of this trade route. The belief in Bodhisattvas formed the basis of Chinese Buddhism, also known as Mahayana Buddhism. Mayahana Buddhism in the Kucha region influenced the way the Buddhist sutras were translated and spread throughout China during that period of time. The Kizil grottoes are the largest Buddhist ruins in the Kucha area. These grottoes display images and characteristics from Matreiya Buddhism with an emphasis on bodhisattvas. This article classifies and statistically analyzes different types of murals in the Kizil grottoes, using information from translated Buddhist sutras as well as from the study of relics from the Kizil ruins. In conclusion, Maitreya was the mainstream bodhisattva belief system at that time. Therefore, well-known masters from Kucha and surrounding areas presumably delivered Buddhist sutras and beliefs to inland China via the Silk Road. Among these masters, the great master Kumarajiva was particularly significant, as his contribution ushered an era of Buddhism.
Keywords: Silk Road, Kizil, Buddhist, bodhisattva, Kumarajiva