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Debate and Truth Behind the History of Han-style Buddhism in Ancient Kucha
——An Investigation into the Buddhist Sites of the Tang Dynasty in Ancient Kucha
Zhang Ping
The Command of the An-xi Frontier (安西都护府), re-assigned as the Great Frontier Command of An-xi(安西大都护府)in the 3rd year of the Xian-qing period of Tang Dynasty, and in 658 AD was moved to the Capital of the Ancient state of Kucha. The Commnad oversaw the four Military Towns and protected the Western Regions.
The Great Frontier Command of An-xi has been located in Ancient Kucha for about 150 years. Populations from central China migrated here or were garrisoned here, influencing the politics, economics, and culture of the Western Regions. According to historical documents, the connection between the Central Government in Chang-an and the local government of the Western Region was cut off after the An Lushan-Shi Siming Rebellion (安史之乱). Nevertheless, the Central Government still continuously took military and political action in the An-xi Region (ancient Kucha) until the end of the 8th century.
According to the historical traditional text, Ancient Kucha (Qiuci) became a center of Hinayana Buddhism (小乘佛教), which spread from Pamir to the East. When the An-xi Frontier Command was established here, Han-style Buddhism replaced Hinayana Buddhism in Ancient Kucha and began playing a central role in the Western Regions. The interaction and coexistence of Chinese Buddhism and foreign Buddhism(胡汉宗教) started a great time of booming and development for Buddhism in Ancient Kucha during the Tang Dynasty.
In recent years, field investigations have uncovered Chinese Buddhist sites (or monuments) in a lot of areas, including Luntai, Kucha, Xinhe, Shaya, Baicheng, Wensu, Ush, Keping, Akeqi, Bachu, and so on. Therefore, these large-scale widely distributed Buddhist sites have become new material to complement and verify the historical narrative.