The Silk Road, also known or referred to as the silk route, is a wide-ranging interconnected set of connections of trade routes which transverse the Asian continent. It connects East, West, and Southern Asia with the Mediterranean countries, as well as the eastern and northern Europe and Africa.
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The origin of the name Silk Road is linked to the extensive trans-continental silk trade that takes place in China. The silk trade came into operation at a time when China had the reign of Han dynasty.
In addition, to silk, the other significant feature is the Silk Road, which was also used to carry some other commodity, which form part of the significant world history. In that same light, the Silk Road is regarded as the world’s oldest intercontinental routes that stretches and upholds a considerable number of religions, in particulars Buddhism all the way through Central Asia.
This broadcast/diffusion has not only made a considerable impact on the lives and cultures on particular countries within the continent but it has also left the citizens of those countries with an ocean of wonders in literature and art. Art and iconography are the two main forms that have played a noteworthy role in the transmission of religious traditions all along the Silk Road.
For that reason, in the following essay, an analysis and discussion will be sought on various questions such as rationale why, as well as how religions make use of material culture to support their basis. Whether there is a call for for religions to articulate its identity and faith through architecture and art, and at the same time, discuss the exceptional role that art provide in shaping a certain religious world standpoint (Foltz, 1999, p. 81).
Art acts as a noteworthy agent concerning cultural diffusion all along the Silk Road. The available art takes the form of design motifs, an art object, buildings or statues, and as such, the art and iconography play a significant role as a medium of cultural diffusion. Furthermore, the art plays another equally central role of acting as an agent, which facilitate for trans-continent switch over of religious traditions down the Silk Road.
In the light of this point, it is necessary to note that the single most significant features of art and iconography that smooth the progress of its role in advancing various religious traditions, as well as religious global standpoint at the time is the piece of information that art is a worldwide language across all cultures and nations. This means that art utilize a language that can be understood by all people in the world and all cultures, as well.
In view of that, ideas and worldviews in respect of religious traditions can be promoted and at the same time spread by the use of architecture, visual arts, and iconography down the Silk Road. Ideally, it is important to point out that while religious art strives to launch a firm claim in relation to emotions, as well as extending the metaphorical meaning about religious tradition, on the other side artwork, especially sculpture and painting can at the same time function as the vital vehicles of religious messages.
As such, the message that is being transmitted can be left freely for interpretation, as well as being spiritually felt by the populace in their individual chosen way.
This can only happen when the religious sculptures are considered as living things more than just mere objects, and as such, religious arts were designed to take the form of living beings through the incorporation of emotion to fright and draw the faithful. This points out that, human beings are animals that are visually oriented, and in that connection, human solely gather the necessary information of the world surrounding them with a sense of vision (Ames, 2008, p. 78).
Moreover, religions have, as a result, make use of both arts and architecture with the intention of, as well as, as a conservatory of story telling. This is owing to the fact that both written and oral stories, for a considerable number of years, form the basis for religious faiths.
This has been established through the formation of shared cultural heritage among groups. As a result, they have ensured and contributed greatly to metaphorical insights and poetic beauty. In addition, the cultural heritage of a number of religious gatherings has thus turn out to be more solidified, as a result, of preservation and at the same time the visual expression of their stories through a considerable variety of art works.
Additionally, according to a number of research, religious art work by extension make use of symbols, and forms, as well, for depositing the instantaneous and concrete events into perspectives and settings that are considered to be idealistic and imaginative. As such, the nature of the artwork facilitates an easier combination of both the ideal and the real.
Moreover, it illuminates the current situation with the bequest of the past and at the same time, outreaches of the upcoming. This ensures magnification of the perceptual experience through the conceptual (Rice, 1965, p. 64).
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Art and religion serve an immense purpose of creating the power of imagination that will help individuals to conceive and understand both the past and the future, as well. Both religion and art used intellectual and physical skills in their outstanding and marvelous creations. These creations give human life two important life aspects, that is, a purpose together with beauty further than mere survival.
To derive a more concrete and clear understanding in regard to the role that art and iconography has deposited to the transmission of religious traditions down the Silk Route, it is necessary and significant to, first, value the nature of human art and human religion, as well. As mentioned earlier, art and religion do have other functions that go far beyond the instant survival purposes.
One of the other functions includes; they at a halt strike towards the objective of species survival through strengthening of the social bond among humans beings. This is shaped through religious art works. In light of this point, one outstanding example is what is regarded as religious architecture.
As such, religious architecture is well thought-out to be the furthermost statement of human beings dedication, grandeur, community, as well as pride away from any measure. Importantly, and as a result, religious architecture has thrown in considerably to the transmission of religious traditions down the Silk Route. For instance, the fundamental structural features that are incorporated in a Mosque can largely reflect the live out of Islam.
Apart from the mosque serving as a centre of worship, as well as of community activity, it also goes together with the spread of Islam. There exist a close link between religion and religious architecture and religion. This is owed to the fact that, with the lapse of time religious architecture goes on with it goal to offer enticements to assurances and aspiration of strength and grace (Barrett, 2005, p.76).
More to the point, not only does architecture reflect religions art work, but, religious art can be and ideally they are in a number of diverse forms. For instance, in Buddhism, they have an art work referred to as Buddha which is regarded as a spiritually perfect being, and as such the art work was given a superlative physique image.
The creation of the image was in accordance to the systems of fraction, and at the same time in harmony with certain features. The features were from time to time given well-known origins. For example, the stiff curls that are noticeable on the heads of nearly all the Buddha statues and images represent what those who design it define as snails that ascended up to guard the statue from sun for the period of meditation.
Furthermore, the Buddhist images and statues were sent out along traders and missionaries who travel down the Silk Route who took along with them, Buddhist illustrated text and copybooks, which was made easy by printing, the single most inventions of the country of China. In addition, the arts serve a central purpose for Mahayana Buddhist since they use if for the transmission their message.
For instance, well known Buddha monuments or images have consequently fascinated pilgrims from the different parts of Asia; enormous cave temples packed with paintings and sculpture were used for the purpose of meditation and worship (Daniel, 2007, p. 67).
In conclusion, art and iconography can be said to have made a considerable contributions to the transmission of religious traditions down the Silk Route. In the light of this point, credit rests in the natures of art in as far as its ability to be regarded as a universal language. The universality of art works in terms of language it has seen and facilitated the process, as well as serve an extraordinary role in determining religious world standpoint.
Artwork, for instance, sculptures, religious architecture, statues, and paintings all play an imperative, central, and integrated role in the trans-continental swap over of religious traditions and ideas down the Silk Route (Whitfield, 2004, p. 69). Ideally, and according to Ames (2008, p. 91), art is noteworthy to religion in relation to the proportion and the balance that art plays in promoting the causes of religion.
As such, it is not accidental to conclude that religion has deposited to art a considerable number of material and at the same time a wealth of inspiration. The unified link sandwiched between art and religion has been far beyond established, and has been in existence for as long as possible.
It is still, and it is evident that the interrelationship will surely go on to solidify and register an impact upon the contemporary world to the transmission of religious ideas and traditions in the present day around the globe. It is indispensable to underpin the contribution of art and iconography in shaping the current world religious ideas and traditions.
Ames, ES 2008, Religion and Art. The Journal of Religion, Chicago: The University of Chicago press.
Barrett,TH 2005, “The religious meaning of Buddhist sculpture in its cultural setting: the Buddha images of Qingzhou in the light of recent scholarship”. Buddhist Studies Review 22.
Daniel, W 2007, Toward the Archaeology of a Concept: The Silk Road, New York: Cengage Learning.
Foltz, R 1999, Religions of the Silk Road, New York: St Martins Press.
Rice, TT 1965, Ancient Arts of Central Asia, London: Thames & Hudson.
Sven, H 2009, The Silk Road: Ten Thousand Miles through Central Asia, London: Tauris Parke Paperbacks.
Whitfield, S 2004, The Silk Road. Trade, Travel, War and Faith, Hong Kong: Serindia Publications.