Abstract & related publications

Last updated: 07 Sep 2012

The Abstract

From its North Indian origins Buddhism expanded across much of Asia, including Southern India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Central Asia and Tibet, Southeast Asia, China, Korea and Japan. In contrast to studies of "Chinese" Buddhism or "Vietnamese" Buddhism, this project focuses on the early medieaval monastic institutions across the entire Buddhist world.

Since January 2009, that is since commencement of our work conducted via the Internet from different time-zones in the USA, Australia, Sri Lanka and New Zealand we have constructed a freely accessible online database [http://monastic-asia.wikidot.com] of easily correctable information on over 600 Asian monastic institutions. The data about monasteries include their: (1) exact geographical coordinates; (2) official and variant names; (3) probable doctrinal affiliations; (4) architectural form; (5) probable organizational characteristics; (6) probable chronology and dating. A data-sheet for each catalogued institution is linked directly to the monastery's position in Google Maps, allowing an overall or close up view of the site.

Since September 2010 we have now begun the second phase of the project: recording evidence of bilateral connections between monasteries, such as the longstanding links between Sri Lankan monasteries and Nalanda. What, however, were the overall Asian patterns? How did long-distance flows of students, teachers, relics, books, sculpture, paintings and donations influence intellectual, religious, artistic, even economic and political developments? What were the main types and styles of inter-monastic Buddhist communications [= exchanges of information, in oral and written formats], contacts [= flows of personnel] and affinities [= political, doctrinal, intellectual and artistic links and parallels], alliances [= assistance with repairs and building projects; joint sutra-copying projects; joint political activities]? Did they significantly vary with changes to their geographical, cultural, political, religious, or temporal contexts?

In other words, the project systematically documents, maps and explores the intimate contours of a closely interlinked and mutually influential Buddhist world. We invite interested scholars to critique our efforts so-far, to contribute new data or refinements, and to join our online team.

Stewart GORDON
T. Matthew CIOLEK
Lizbeth H. PIEL

Related Publications

Ciolek, T. Matthew and Stewart Gordon. 2012. Mapping the Contours of a Buddhist World: An Online Database of Georeferenced Buddhist Monasteries, 200 -1200 CE. [A paper prepared for the SAARC International Conference on 'Archaeology of Buddhism: Recent Discoveries in South Asia', 22-24 August 2012, Colombo, Sri Lanka]. www.ciolek.com/PAPERS/mbm-mapping-buddhist-world.html

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