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WITH INDIA FROM 6th TO 10th c. A.D.


On a historical-cultural plane the territory of contemporary Kyrghyzstan formed in ancient times a common with Eastern Turkestan region, where Buddhism took deep roots as far back as II-IV cc. and has not lost up to now its importance in several regions. It is known from numerous sources that the earliest bearers of Buddhism along the route to the East where a large group of natives of Central Asia Sogdians, Juachis, Parthians, Khanguis. Of great historical and cultural significance was the activity of An Shigao a Parthan from Marghian succeeding Prince of his country (who rejected the throne like Shakyamuni). He settled in Loyan in 148 and up to 170 was working on translation into Chinese of Buddhist texts. This was the first, no doubt historical apostle of central Asian Buddhism, after him there worked a whole galaxy of interpreters of Indian holy texts and authors of new literary and historical works on Buddhist theme, who are well known according to monuments of Sanskrit, Hotan-Suck, Tibetan, Chinese, Sogdian and Tohar language literature.1) But even in places of early penetration of Buddhism in China, where a significant part of Indian ethnos lived and many cave and ground Buddhist monasteries with magnificent painting and sculpture work were built like, for example, Tzen-Fo-Dun ("cave of 1000 Buddhas"), we can hardly trace "purely rather assume that to this provincial Western center both the cult itself and works of Buddhist art came not directly from Eastern Turkestan and probably from Sogd, where, as we know, already, in the first centuries A.D. Buddhism prevailed and where the most outstanding monuments were created, to a considerable extent distinctive and different from their Indian prototypes. Existence of famous icon-painters of cult Buddhist painting with Sogdian names and nick-names, which indicate their Central Asian origin speaks in favor of this assumption.2)
Thus, both in missionary and translator's activity as well as in ritual-building (temple) and creative practice of Eastern Turkestan different researchers draw attention to the leading role of representatives of ancient Central Asian ethnoses, who were first to transfer Indian culture to the East.
All above said can be referred to Kyrgyzstan as well, though Buddhism monuments were discovered here not long ago - by A.N. Bernshtam during archeological exploration of the whole territory of the Republic in 1933-1954.
Works "in the style of Gandhar art" found by him and remains of architecture with sculpture and painting in a number of sites or ancient settlements of the Chui valley including Ak-Beshim, Krasnaya Rechka, Karadjygach, Novopavlovka, Sokuluk, etc., helped indicate main contours of historical-cultural relationship of Tien-Shen, Eastern Turkestan and India since first centuries A.D. up to XII c. inclusive.3)
Subsequent researchers considerably restricted chronological framework of dissemination of this religions to IX c. and alterations were introduced in interpretation of excavated structures. But the main conclusion by A.N. Bernshtam about "powerful influence of Buddhist culture of Northern India and Xinxan on the culture of Semirechye" remains true.
A new stage in the investigation of Buddhism monuments on the territory of Kyrghyzstan was opened by excavation of two temples in Ak-Beshim in the 50-s by L.R. Kyzlasov and L.P. Zyablin.4) followed by investigation of two temples in Krasnorechensk settlement by P.N. Kozhemyako (1961-1963), V.D. Goryacheva and S.Y. Peregodova in 1980-1988. Series of art bronze and items made of stone, alabaster and ceramics were included in scientific use in Novopokrovskoye settlement.5) To a number of Buddhism monuments one should ascribe epigraphies in Issyk-Ata ravines and on southern shore of the Issik-Kul lake related to settlement of Tibetan Buddhists in early Middle Ages.6)
All in all seven Buddhist architectural structures have been recorded, the most ancient being the so called Second Ak-Beshim temple, VII c., explored by L.P. Zyablin in 1955. It was located in 100 m from the southern wall of Shahristan and in 250 m to the west of the Second Ak-Beshim Temple VII-VIII cc., according to publications "The first Ak-Beshim Temple'' which functioned till the middle of VIII c. was excavated by L.R. Kyzlasov in 1953-1954.
One of them was a rectangle structure with a square shrine. It had a roundabout hallway on three sides and an eight column hall which separated courtyard from the shrine. At the entrance there were big clay Buddha sculptures, and inside, according to scientists, there were bronze gilded badges on Buddhist subjects.
The second temple had a closed square building with cross-shaped shrine and two hallways. Central aisle and hallways led to the courtyard. The temple interior was decorated with numerous sculpture and frescoes on the ceilings and walls. Both temples were erected (despite dating by L.P. Zyablin) in VIII c., had two construction and two decoration periods, but existed for about or a little over 100 years. Both temples were burnt down, the sculpture was destroyed at one time in the second half of VIII c., after which they have not been restored.
There are all reasons to change to an earlier period also the date of a "monastery with a chapel" 'within the town rabat, namely to the end of VII-VIII cc. General plan of the monastery was not clarified. It was only established that in the north-western corner of the enclosed monastery area there were dwelling-houses and housekeeping buildings; the southern part of the complex was occupied by a courtyard from where one could get into the shrine with roundabout hallway. In the excavation site a large number of architectural details made of clay, granite, land-stone and alabaster including foundation for sculpture. Living rooms were heated with the help of heat conducting channels in masonry, buildings were roofed with pitched roof with tiling. On one of tiles a Sanskrit inscription was found, on another - an Vigur one. Tile is of Chinese origin, and all material are different from the first two temples, and as A.N. Bernshtam puts it they testify to the "crossing of Chinese and Central Asian cultures''.
The second big and important center on the trade route was Navekat (Krasnorechensk settlement). Here also two Buddhist architectural monuments were discovered. They as well as in Ak-Beshim were located behind shahristan walls, but close to the citadel. Subsequent excavations in one of them revealed ruins of temple part of the structure having longitudinal-axial composition. In the western gallery of the shrine in 1961 a sculpture of "Sleeping Buddha" was excavated and in the southern one fragments of paintings were partly took off the wall. The study of architectural remains and other materials also showed the period of the existence of the temple from middle VIII c., in two construction periods.
Initially the temple part comprised a square shrine and four section roundabout corridor with varying width. The lay-out of the temple corresponds to the typological composition "hall with corridor around" known in cult and civil architecture of Bactria and Parthia later reproduced in Buddhist architecture of Toharistan and Eastern Turkestan. The interior design included sculpture, mural painting on loess surface and plaster decor. Sculpture was placed in the shrine and western corridor. Figures were made of red clay fixed on reed-wooden frame. The statue of sleeping Buddha (no to 12 meters after reconstruction) was modeled on the brick-clay frame, then covered with two layers of clay and painted with red pigment (ochre) without gunch primer.
The temple was reconstructed not later than middle of VIII c. This period was identified by findings on the floor of the second construction level of birch bark fragments of Buddhist manuscripts dated by V.V. Vetrogradova and M.I. Vorobyeva-Desyatovskaya VII- middle VIII cc., by Turgesh coin and a bronze sculpture of Boddhisatva Avalokiteshvara imported from Kashmir in VIII c.
Related ti this temple is finding of a votive stele (red granite) of Tibetan (according to E.I. Lubo-Lesnichenko) or Turfan (according to F. Granne) origin and dated VII-VIII cc. The right side of the stele in its relief execution reproduces traditional Buddhist icon-painting three-belt composition: under the arch Buddha is sitting on a lotus, on his right and left sites there are Baddhisvatas (their faces are damaged); beneath there are lions "FO" guarding the mortar, and at the foundation of the stele there are kneeling donators. On the rear side a sitting Buddha is engraved with a nimbus around his head in the form of wavy lines. On the side edges divinities Lokopala (Guard of the Universe) and Vaish-ravana (synchretic character related to the next world) are engraved in the same technique.
The second Buddhist building of Krasnorechensk settlement was attributed by P.N. Kozhemyako to the last stage of existence of Buddhist communities m Semirechye and were dated VIII-IX cc. Nevertheless comprehension of the whole complex of Buddhist findings in Chui valley, Central Asia and Eastern Turkestan make it possible to interpret this structure as Manichean shrine - a temple in a monastery complex. Together with some similarity with the above temples (roundabout corridors around the shrine and painting) this building has several characteristics: absence of sculpture, different orientation and similarity with Manichean temple in Khodjo.
In Navekat as reported by an-Nedim and Hudud al-Alam there lived Manicheans in VIII-X cc. (according to the source "Manicheans lived in Samarkand and mainly in Navekat"), at this and next period the town also served as residence of Nestorian archbishop.
Thus, the so called Second Buddhist temple of Krasnorechensk settlement can be well interpreted as Manichean. Availability of painting in it including picture of Buddha (in a small niche) does not run counter to Manichean icon-painting: Good Buddha or Manu-Buddha was a favorite image in houses and temples of Manicheans. Manu a founder of a new teaching was quite often compared with Maitreya, Buddha to come, sometimes was called Bodhisattva; many elements of Buddhist cosmogony were included in Manichean Hymns: there are no contradictions with Buddhism in Manichean literature either, and Manichean monasteries in the east were organized according to Buddhist models.7)
Two Buddhist monasteries of VIII-IX cc.8) are related to towns of medium-size: Pakap (this Sogdian name is in the inscription on a hum from Novopokrovsk settlement, IX c.) and Djul (Kluchevsk, also called Novopavlovsk settlement, in the western out-skirts of Bishkek). Sangarama partly excavated by A.N. Bernshtam in Kluchevsk settlement, it was located outside shahristan walls (68x67m in size). Its internal layout was not ascertained because of late Kyrgyz burials. In the obstructions numerous fragments of sculpture were found (picture of dokshit Vadjrapam among them) as well as mural paintings identical to Ak-Beshim and Krasnorechensk temples in their character and execution technique.
The above cult buildings of Kyrghyzstan go back to Indian prototypes, though are not their immediate replicas. Together with Bactrian-Sogdian building architectural tradition and specific features of temple architecture still Indian current clearly manifests itself, for example in the lay-out of temples which provides for ritual rounds of the object of works hip (a shrine with the main statue of Buddha), in frame construction and icon painting of monumental sculpture, in the technique of painting, etc.
Findings of Indian import in several other settlements of the Chui valley (Sokuluk, Alexandrovskoye, Petropavlovskoye, Shish-Tube, Kara-Djigach, Burana, in settlement in the outskirts of Bishkek) can testify to rather wide settlement of Buddhists along the routes of the Great Silk Road. Though there are no findings of Buddhist origin in Talas valley (except Taraz). It is to Issik-Kul valley that Buddhist monumental epigraphies (from ravines of rivers Tamga, Djuuku, Ur, Ak-Terek and Ak-Ulen) is related dated end of the VII-VIII cc., the period of "Tibetan expansion" in Turkestan. These inscriptions contain only the formula "Omma ni padme hum"("There is no higher blessing than lotus").
Indian written tradition which spread all over the Indian cultural region is recorded for the territory of Kyrghyzstan as well. Fragments of brahnu letters on birch bark found in Krasnorechensk temple reflect one of main types of Indian alphabet. This alphabet was used for writing texts in Sanskrit. Buddhist manuscript on birch bark in brahnu writing was kept in the temple as relic. Small fragments of several words remained M.I. Vorobyeva-Desyatkovskaya managed to establish that the manuscript was copied in VII-VIII cc.
These texts related to writing schools of Kashmir, the largest center for copying of Sanskrit manuscripts. Suan Tzan mentions not only big monasteries and libraries at the court of a local raja, where up to 20 copyists worked at the same time copying holy texts. It is significant that all the findings of brahmi on birch bark from Central Asia (Katyr-kala in southern Tajikistan, Merv and Bairam-ali in Southern Turkmenistan, Zang-tepe in Southern Uzbekistan) according to palepgraphy give similar samples of handwriting and what's more during several centuries. 9)
Buddhist monasteries were known to be not only educational centers in the East but also to conduct trading and money lending operations, to be occupied with crafts and agriculture, despite the veto of the Buddhist doctrine for monks to go in particular sale of cult object. That is why one can assume that some part of Indian export in the form of art bronze and stone items, ceramic bowls with modeled Bodhisattvas and other items were designed for exchange and sale. In this respect also location of monasteries in towns near trade roots is significant. Constant flow of Indian tradesmen, Buddhist exponents and monks, craftsmen, artists and etc, sales of related goods of intellectual demand increased the scale of Indian influence.10)
But this invigorating process of cultural contacts ceased very soon, besides very tragically, both for India itself and Buddhist communities in Central Asia. Researchers of Buddhist culture destination traditionally relate the desolation of monasteries, devastation of sculpture and painting, deliberate damage of Buddha's and Bodhisattva's faces on stone relieves to the change of dynasties in Central Asia: for Kyrgyzstan it was coming to power of Turgesh and Karluks, for Toharistan (Abjina-tepe) and Merv (Gaur-kala) of arabs.11) We find another explanation more plausible.
In Hind valley in VIII c. the so called "Radjput revolution" took place and turned the Buddhist monarchy of Gupta Empire successors into isolated Radjput India connected only by cast system. If in an overthrown state of Gupta dynasty Buddha and monks were held in great esteem (as well as Sun divinity and Aditya), then religious notion of Radjputs was based on ancient Hindu ideology, Brahmins gained great prestige and commenced fierce struggle against Buddhism and its adherents not only in India but in places of their settlement in Tibet, China and Central Asia. Devastation of Buddhist buildings, monasteries and libraries in India, classification of monks and supporters of overthrown Gupta Empire under lowest castes (while some groups of "untouchables" were simply exterminated or expelled out of the country). These events in the center of Buddhism were to affect in a certain way the whole Buddhist world. It is quite possible that Central Asian communities located most close to India and tightly linked with the center were also massacred by new missioners from Brahmin caste aimed at eradicating the former Gupt dynasty with their ideological conception of Buddhism which has took deep roots far beyond India. It is no mere chance that those who had helped Radjputs in their revolution were classified by usurpers as the highest caste, greatly different of four old varnas. It was then that the whole system of castes in India was rebuilt.
After VIII c. Buddhism in Kyrghyzstan did not revive unlike in Tibet, Eastern Turkestan and Far East countries where this religion starting from X-XI cc. started new turn of its development and local transformations. Ancient Enesai Kyrgyz as well as groups of East Turkestan Kyrgyz did not stand aside from the influence of Indian-Buddhist culture in folklore, geographical names, moral-ethic code and other spheres of everyday life and cult.12) It is safe to speak about undoubted common "roots of ancient Indian "Ramayana" and Kyrgyz epic "Manas", but this is already the area of other serious studies.


1. Detailed information on this is given in different chapters of the book: Eastern Turkestan in ancient and Early Middle ages: Ethnos, Languages, Religions. -M. Nauka, 1992 ( Under the editorship by Academician B.A. Litvinsky)
2. Waley A. An introduction to the study of Chinese painting. -N.Y.1958, p.131. Dyakonova N.V. Buddhist monuments of Dunhwan //Artistic culture of the East. L.: Iskusstvo, 1987 .p.454.
3. Bemshtam A.N. Archeological essay on Northern Kirgiziya. - Frunze, 1941 -pp 88- 97, his also . Chui valley: Publ. Semirechensk archeological expedition //M.A.- № 14 - M. -L., 1950, p. 146-147 and other.
4. Kyzlasov L.R. Archeological explorations in Ak-Beshim settlement in 1953-1954 //Publ. KAEE.-T.II.-M.1959; Zyablin L.P. Second Buddhist Temple of Ak-Beshim Settlement. - Frunze, 1961.
5. Krasnaya Rechka and Burana /Materials and investigations of Kyrgyz Archeological Expedition. -Frunze, 1989; Goryacheva V.D. The Town of Golden Camel (Krasnorechensk settlement ). -Frunze, 1988, pp.48-61; Goryacheva V.D. The Early Medieval monuments of Buddhism in Northern Kirgiziya //Buddhist for Peace. N 4. Ulan Bator, 1980.pp.35-42: Goryacheva V.D., Peregudova S.Y. Buddhist Monuments of Central Asia (Kyrghyzstan)/ Buddhist for peace: Almanah -M., 1994, pp.56-73.
6. Zelinsky A.N., Kuznetsov B.I. Tibetan inscriptions of Issik-Kul // Countries and peoples of East-issue VIII: Geography, Ethnograhpy, History).-M.: Nauka.1969, pp.183- 185: Djumagulov Ch. Buddhist monuments of Kirghiziya //Epigraphies of Kirghiziya. issue 2. -Frunze, Him, 1982, pp. 47-57.
7. LitvinskyB.A. Buddhism in Central Asia... pp. 529-530.
8. Dating is given not according to archeological stratigraphy, as there were no excavations here, but according to findings of Buddhist and Hinduiat bronze sculpture excavated from a foundation pit during the construction here of the Sport Palace. Look: Monuments of culture... Exhibition catalogue. -pp. 62-65; Grec T.V. Buddhist and Hinduist bronze sculpture from Kirghiziya //Abstracts at all Union scientific conference culture and art of Kirghizia.- L., 1983, pp. 71-72.
9. Vorobyeva-Desyatovskaya M.l. Handwritten Book in the Culture of India //Handwritten Book in the Culture of peoples of the East. -Book 11. M.: Nauka, 1988, pp.34,53.
10. Saha K. Buddhism in Central Asia.- Calcutta, 1970; Franz H.G. Pagode, Turmtemples, Stupa. Studien zum Kultbau des Buddhismus in Indien und Ostasien. - Graz. 1978; Franz H.G. Von Gandhara bis Pagan. Kultbauten des Buddhismus und Hinduismus in Sud und Zentralasien. -Graz, 1979.
11. Gabain A.von. Buddhistische Turkenmission... p.166; Litvinsky B.A. Buddhism in Central Asia... p 438; Stavisky B.Y. Buddhism in Central Asia //Buddhism: Glossary. -M, 1992.
12. Gumilev L.N. The End and the Begining Again //Works - M: Di-Dik, 1994, p. 118- 120.


M.,L. - Moscow, Leningrad.
M/A - Materials and Studies in Archeology of the USSR.
Publ. KAEE - Publications of Kyrgyz archeological Ethnographical Expedition.


Goryacheva Valentina Dmitrievna.
Candidate of historical sciences, historian of material culture (archeologist), senior researcher at the National Academy of Sciences of Kyrgyz Republic, Director of the Museum at Kyrgyz-Russian Slavonic University.

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