Between Gandhāra and Xinjiang Notes on the Upper Indus Petroglyphs, Buddhism and Globalization


  • Serena Autiero Research Associate DIGA Project, Center for Religious Studies (CERES), Ruhr-Universitӓt


petroglyphs, jātaka, visual culture, globalization, Upper Indus, Gandhāra, Buddhism


The Buddhist petroglyphs of the Upper Indus area are representative of the dynamics of transcultural interaction among figurative systems in antiquity. Starting from this specific category of cultural products, this paper aims at providing new perspectives on global interactions, especially looking at the diffusion of Buddhism along the Silk Roads. The iconography of the Buddhist petroglyphs along the capillary roads of the Upper Indus area suggests that traders and pilgrims across the mountains contributed to opening up the path to the development of a Chinese Buddhist visual culture. Buddhist iconography travelled from Greater Gandhāra to China also through not-official representations such as these. The representation of Jātaka stories in the Upper Indus petroglyphs and in paintings in Kizil provides the case study for the present contribution. A final section of this paper focusses on the role of the Karakorum in the transregional contacts between the Indian Subcontinent and Chinese Central Asia, highlighting the role of Buddhism as transcultural force in this process. The circulation of Buddhist iconography functions as catalyst for change and innovation and provides fresh insights toward an integration of the Upper Indus petroglyphs into the wider phenomenon of transculturation along the ancient Silk Roads.




How to Cite

Autiero, S. (2021). Between Gandhāra and Xinjiang Notes on the Upper Indus Petroglyphs, Buddhism and Globalization. Journal of Asian Civilizations, 44(1), 21–66. Retrieved from