Historian finds new links on Indian roots of China, Tibet art

by Annie Samson, PTI, Aug 28, 2007

New Delhi, India -- Paintings in some of China's caves have been discovered to have specific influences of artists from Kashmir, according to noted art historian and filmmaker, Benoy K. Behl, who has recently photographed major cultural sites in China and Tibet on the Northern Silk Route.

"I was able to identify specific influences of Kashmiri artists in some of the paintings at Mogao caves of Dunhuang, which are China's most renowned for Buddhist art," says Behl, who recently concluded documentation of paintings found in caves, monasteries and other cultural sites in mainland China and the Tibetan plateau.

The historian, who is known for his extensive research of Buddhist and Hindu art in all Asian countries, photographed 34 major cultural sites spread across the 14,000 kilometers of the Northern Silk Route.

"The caves of Kizil, near Kucha have many exquisite paintings that bear a close resemblance to Indian murals. We were the first Indians to document these sites," says Behl, who points out that the murals found there reflect the formative period of Buddhist art of China.

"There is a very ancient connection between the culture, art and religion of India and China," points out Behl, who was commissioned for the research as a Fellow at the Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies.

Behl explains that Kumarajiva, son of an Indian who lived in the fourth century, was perhaps the greatest name in Chinese Buddhism. Kumarajiva was sent while he was very young to Kashmir to study Buddhism and Sanskrit and later became famous for his translations when he returned to Kucha.