Foreign Influences

The fabled Silk Road was both the mechanism and the manifestation of commercial and cultural exchange between China and the West. Material and intellectual wealth important to the development of numerous cultures traveled these routes from the Mediterranean to China. From the fifth to the tenth century the ideas, technologies, and religions that came into the country along the trade routes enhanced philosophical discourse and the arts, transforming China’s landscape with magnificent Buddhist cave temples and towering pagodas. The convergence of vibrant trade, nomadic warrior culture, Buddhism, and ancient Chinese traditions brought transformative and lasting changes to China’s political, religious, and visual culture.

Map of the Silk Road and principal trade routes Interior of the Yungang Buddhist Grottoes (Northern Wei dynasty, begun 460 CE), near Datong, Shanxi Province (photo courtesy of Perry Hu) Camel and Groom, Tang dynasty (618–907 CE), painted earthenware,  unearthed 2009, Tomb M2, Fujiagou Village, Lingtai County, Gansu Province Lingtai County Museum, Pingliang Mounted Military Figure with Cockscomb Headgear, Northern Wei dynasty (386–535 CE), tomb dated 477 CE, painted earthenware, unearthed 2000, tomb of Song Shaozu (d. 477 CE), Caofulou Village, Datong, Shanxi Province, Shanxi Museum, Taiyuan
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