Freer Gallery of Art Arthur M Sackler Gallery Gallery Guide Arts of the Islamic World
This period, too, witnessed the expansion of Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Manichaeism, Buddhism, and Islam over vast regions of Asia as well as Europe and Africa. Religious beliefs sometimes divided people (and empires), but they could also bring devotees together in places of pilgrimage, and they forged common ground among widely diverse cultural traditions. Leaders and followers of these great faiths often required new ways to express concepts of divinity visually, as well as appropriate settings in which to house images, enact rituals, and assemble worshipers. At Kizil (Qizil), a center of Buddhist worship and learning in northwestern China, cave temples decorated with brightly colored wall paintings and sculptures reflect sources in India, Central Asia, and China. Further west along the Silk Route, this colossal head, which once belonged to an image of a bodhisattva (enlightened being), would have been part of the sculpted tableau in a Buddhist monastery. It was made in Gandhara (present-day Afghanistan and Pakistan). Here, artists created styles of Buddhist art that combined local traditions with Greek (and later Roman) influences, which had initially been introduced with the conquests of Alexander the Great (died 323 B.C.E) in the late fourth century B.C.E.

next page
Silk Road / 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

wall painting (fragment)


The Arthur M. Sackler Gallery and the Freer Gallery of Art
Exhibition List | Online Exhibitions

All presented material is copyright © Smithsonian Institution, 2008 except where otherwise noted.