I. Studying religious conversion and assimilation.
A. Historiographic approaches.1. "Contact" vs. "long-distance" transmission.B. The realities of conversion and its aftermath.
2. Xinru Liu's ideas about religion and the economics of the Silk Road.1. Previous beliefs and receptivity.C. Sources: text and image.
2. Role of patronage.
3. The evolution of belief and practice.
4. Mythologization of origins.
II. What we learn from physical evidence en route north from the birthplace of Buddhism.
A. Imperial patronage: Mauryan emperor Ashoka and Kushan emperor Kanishka.
B. The Wardak Vase.
C. Stupas and the "seven jewels."
D. Traveling the Karakorum Highway today.
III. Translation of texts.
A. The challenge of obtaining them.
B. Conceptual and linguistic challenges: the example of the Yuezhi Dharmaraksha (ca. 280 CE) and the issue of oral transmission.
C. The Kuchean Kumarajiva, Faxian's contemporary.
D. Foreign monks; foreign travel by Chinese monks.
IV. Faxian and Xuanzang.
A. Seeking Buddhist wisdom at its source.
B. Visiting the "Holy Land."
C. Language, texts and icons.
V. Patronage, myth and reality: appropriating the past for the purposes of the present.
A. Imperial patronage: Yungang (2nd half 5th century, N. Wei dynasty).
B. Empress Wu as Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future (Mogao Caves 96, 321, and 328, 690s); The Great Cloud Sutra.
C. Legends about the history of Buddhism in China (Mogao Cave 323, early 8th c.).
D. The local elite at Dunhuang: the Zhai, Zhang and Cao families (Mogao Caves 220, 156, 98, 61); their Khotanese and Uighur connections.
VI. Influences and syncretism: evidence in the caves.
A. The importance of Central Asia: Dandan-oilik (near Khotan), Miran, Kizyl (N.Silk Route).
B. Architecture.1. The stupa, pillar caves and the pagoda.C. The mid-sixth century Mogao #s 285 and 249: Chinese, Daoist, Hindu & Buddhist iconography.
2. Cosmic symbolism (Mogao #s 272, 303, 428): Mt. Meru and the "dome of heaven."
3. Ritual function.
VII. Illustrations of Buddhist texts.
A. Iconic images, narratives and ways of seeing.
B. Jataka tales: the Sivi (Sibi) and Mahasattva Jatakas (Mogao # 254, dated 470s).
C. Texts and illustrations in Mahayana Buddhism.1. Vimalakirti, bodhisattva in disguise, Daoist sage with Confucian values (Mogao # 220, mid-7th c.).
2. "Pure Land" beliefs; Amitabha's Western Paradise (Cave 220).
3. The Lotus Sutra (Saddharma-pundarika-sutra) and Avalokites(h)vara/Guanyin, the "Hearer of the World's Sounds." (Mogao # 45, mid-8th c.).
VIII. Reverence for Guanyin today.