The Kushan Empire

The Kushan Empire

Ancient cultures and civilizations.

The Kushan Empire established themselves as a trading, artistic, and religious powerhouse in Bactria, Ghandhara, and India starting the first century B.C.E. Location played a huge factor in their success. Their art takes elements from many surrounding cultures from past and present, creating cultural syncretism between the prominent powers of the time. Through their trade systems, they spread not only culture and art, but Buddhism, a new religion of the world. Their dedication to this new religion allowed them to become a commercial power.

The Kushan empire started as a group of nomads roaming around the Eurasian steppe. A largely sedentary society, they made their fame and fortune originally just through the means of trade. Their location in the middle of many empires, such as the Parthian, Han, and Roman, enabled them to learn how to read and write in many different languages. This allowed them to interpret and understand many different religious practices. Their economy did well from thru traffic.

Their adoption of Buddhism is what turned the empire into a powerhouse. When the Kushan army crossed into India, they adopted many of the customs from the region, religion being one of them. Their commerce and general acceptance of other cultures enticed those from the Indian region to settle in Kushan territory. [1]

Before this point, people on the Eurasian Steppe worshipped their ancestors and believed in heaven. No matter the group, most likely shared this basic belief. The unification of these diverse groups marked the transition from a tribal system to one based on agriculture and territory. They retained some parts of their tradition, mainly in the clothes they wore and in their battle tactics. Before the Kushan settled in this area, it had been a Hellenistic community. Alexander, a Greek conqueror, took over lands but was inclusive of other religions other than his own. The Kushan copied this model for their empire with great success. Examining busts and other artwork from this era and land shows Greek influence.[2]

A large influence in our information of the area comes from Kushan currency. Kushan rulers borrowed the style of their coins from the Roman empire. Their value came from the weight of their gold, not what was printed on it. The coins show pictures of rulers and religious figures, such as the Buddha, as well as writing in Greek or Sanskrit. The kings and religious figures are dressed in boots rather than sandals, which shows the transformation from one system to another. This further illuminates the explanation of cultural syncretism within many cultures.[3]

In Begram, Afghanistan, which served as the summer capital for the Kushan ruling empire, archaeologists have uncovered many treasures.[4] There were bronze sculptures from the Mediterranean, Indian ivory carvings, and lacquer ware from China. Near Swat in Pakistan, something even greater was found. Carved stone panels from a Buddhist stupa tell a story of music, dance, and other cultural elements. A harp is shown, which is a Greek instrument. The men shown on some of the panels are wearing belted tunics, a Roman style. Their pants look nomadic, as do their hats. There are men and women dressed in robes of Ghandhara style. Many of them are holding lotus flowers, which are especially attributed to the Buddhist religion.[5]

The Kushan empire even adapted Buddhism with artistic depictions and stories to attract followers from other religions and with different cultural histories. The coins with depictions of Buddha are said to be the first pictures of the Buddha. His dress contains elements of Greek and Iranian culture. Some other qualities of dress and depiction show relations to messiahs from the Zoroastrian, Jewish, and Christian traditions. The Trojan horse from Greek mythology also shows up, yet the story is translated as though the animal were an elephant.[6]

It was this cosmopolitanism and cultural synchronicity that allowed Buddhism to be spread frequently across the land. The teachings of the Buddha were simple and logical, which made it very easy for people who were not literate to adopt. There was no need for intervention from the divine for people to lead prosperous lives. Reaching nirvana and parinirvana was done based on personal merits than anyone could achieve. The calm nature of the religion was hard for many Asian people to adapt to. They didn’t understand why someone would be reborn to continue suffering. During Buddha’s time, as his disciples increased, it was very hard for them to be accommodated. They weren’t willing to even kill the smallest of flies to be agriculturally productive. This problem was fixed by the monks themselves. By patronizing the monks and nuns in stupas, merchants and laymen could be a part of the Buddhist religion and achieve nirvana. It was a win-win situation. The arhat were taken care of by merchants and merchants received religious blessings and merit by being donors. [7] Due to this, stupas sprung up in many different places all along the Silk Road. It remained this way up until the Muslim conquest of the 700s.[8]

From here, Buddhism spread throughout the world like wildfire. Monks traveled in caravans from city to city, spreading the good word and bringing with them their religious texts. Stupas and monasteries sprung up as resting grounds and dedication sites for merchants to receive spiritual healing and blessings. The texts reached as far as China, but the Chinese had difficulty adapting the tenets of Buddhism due to the language it was transmitted to them in. The language of the scrolls didn’t translate well into Chinese. However, the statues, paintings, and dress were easy for the Chinese to interpret and understand. The monks who traveled to China made it a point to offer translations for the Chinese for them to understand Buddhist teachings. Over a period of twenty years, many of the texts could be translated. Most of them were not Chinese, and came from the far reaches of the Kushan empire.[9]

In terms of geography, how the religion spread throughout the land is still debated.[10] Temporary religious need from place to place is evidenced in the dedications of stupas throughout the Silk Road and the artwork presented. Yet the cultural cosmopolitanism of the Kushan Empire, the most powerful adoptees of the Buddhist religion, is ultimately what enabled the religion to travel far and wide throughout the world. Their willingness to accept and to adapt to other’s beliefs was necessary for them to achieve prosperity and understanding.


  • Foltz, Richard. Religions of the Silk Road: Premodern Patterns of Globalization. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999.
  • Xinru, Liu. The Silk Road in World History. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

[1] Xinru Liu, The Silk Road in World History (New York: Oxford University Press, 2010), 42-43.

[2] Liu, The Silk Road, 44.

[3] Lecture 5, Slides 11,16,17.

[4] Lecture 5, Slide 18.

[5] Liu, The Silk Road, 49.

[6] Richard Foltz, Religions of the Silk Road: Premodern Patterns of Globalization (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 1999), 46.

[7] Liu, The silk Road, 51.

[8] Richard Foltz, Religions of the Silk Road, 43.

[9] Liu, The Silk Road, 60-61.

[10] Liu, The Silk Road, 61.

Cover Image Credit: Gold Shiva

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To The Girl Struggling With Her Body Image

It's not about the size of your jeans, but the size of your heart, soul, and spirit.


To the girl struggling with her body image,

You are more than the number on the scale. You are more than the number on your jeans and dresses. You are way more than the number of pounds you've gained or lost in whatever amount of time.

Weight is defined as the quantity of matter contained by a body or object. Weight does not define your self-worth, ambition or potential.

So many girls strive for validation through the various numbers associated with body image and it's really so sad seeing such beautiful, incredible women become discouraged over a few numbers that don't measure anything of true significance.

Yes, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle. Yes, it is important to take care of yourself. However, taking care of yourself includes your mental health as well. Neglecting either your mental or physical health will inflict problems on the other. It's very easy to get caught up in the idea that you're too heavy or too thin, which results in you possibly mistreating your body in some way.

Your body is your special, beautiful temple. It harbors all of your thoughts, feelings, characteristics, and ideas. Without it, you wouldn't be you. If you so wish to change it in a healthy way, then, by all means, go ahead. With that being said, don't make changes to impress or please someone else. You are the only person who is in charge of your body. No one else has the right to tell you whether or not your body is good enough. If you don't satisfy their standards, then you don't need that sort of negative influence in your life. That sort of manipulation and control is extremely unhealthy in its own regard.

Do not hold back on things you love or want to do because of how you interpret your body. You are enough. You are more than enough. You are more than your exterior. You are your inner being, your spirit. A smile and confidence are the most beautiful things you can wear.

It's not about the size of your jeans. It's about the size of your mind and heart. Embrace your body, observe and adore every curve, bone and stretch mark. Wear what makes you feel happy and comfortable in your own skin. Do your hair and makeup (or don't do either) to your heart's desire. Wear the crop top you've been eyeing up in that store window. Want a bikini body? Put a bikini on your body, simple.

So, as hard as it may seem sometimes, understand that the number on the scale doesn't measure the amount or significance of your contributions to this world. Just because that dress doesn't fit you like you had hoped doesn't mean that you're any less of a person.

Love your body, and your body will love you right back.

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Supporting Late-Term Abortion Is Actually The Opposite Of Feminism

Feminism is about gender equality and women supporting women- so shouldn't we support the unborn women of tomorrow?


Before you read this, if you are someone who feels strongly that abortions are the "right" choice and that supporting late-term abortions is a step for woman anywhere, I do not suggest you read this article. However, I do want to write that I support conditional abortions- situations where the birth can kill the mother or where conception occurred because of rape. If someone rapes you, that is not okay by any means, and a baby conceived of rape can be terminated by the mother to avoid PTSD, anxiety, depression, panic attacks, and any other mental health diagnoses. Of course, if a woman can bring a baby into the world to keep or give up for adoption, even if it was the product of rape, she should seek life for the innocent child rather than death. And what a rape victim chooses to do is neither here nor there- and it damn well is not anyone else's business.

So why should it be my business (or anyone's) if women have late-term abortions? Agreeing to murder out of convenience should not be societally accepted as okay. When the law passed in New York for late-term abortions, I did not picture 39-week pregnant women rushing to Planned Parenthood to abort their child because they got cold feet. I highly doubt that is the exact scenario for which the law went into effect for, and that was more so intended for women who did not realize they were pregnant and missed the time period to get a legal abortion.

Not that I support early-term abortion, because all abortion is the same regardless of when it happens during the pregnancy. Killing someone sooner rather than later does not make it less worse.

Excuses about how women are not ready to be mothers, do not have the financial means, would ruin their futures, they would get kicked out, lose their bodies, etc. are just that- excuses. Carrying a child for nine months might be an inconvenience, but killing someone will be on your conscience forever. If murders pleaded their motives to police as a way to justify what they did (excluding self-defense), what difference is it if a woman kills her unborn child?

Planned Parenthood might be taboo and have a stigma attached to it, but it does so much more than kill babies. Planned Parenthood is a place where girls can go to see OB/GYNO, get birth control, and learn about safe sex, protection, STDs, etc. Instead of stigmatizing it, young women should be encouraged to go to this institution for woman and feminism. Let high school health classes plan field trips there so that everyone becomes more educated on female health (boys included!). Female health education is very limited, especially in school, and many women feel that an abortion is their only way out, however, it's not. By becoming more educated, the rate of teen pregnancies can go down, as well as the need for abortions. Women educating other women should be the goal of Planned Parenthood, and abortions should be reserved for those who got raped or whose pregnancy cause death, health complications, etc.

Abortion might be giving women a choice- but who is giving the unborn babies a choice?

And of course the only way to 100% prevent pregnancy is abstinence, and if that is your choice then good for you, and if you choose to have sexual intercourse, good for you too. Be safe. No slut shaming here. Women need to continue supporting other women, regardless of their sex life. Women who have abortions are not "whores" and should not be labeled as such- they are just people whose biology reacted to another person's biology.

If you truly do not want to have a baby, please please please give it up for adoption and do not kill it. It did nothing wrong, and yeah, it might be a little inconvenient to be pregnant, especially if you are in school, but there are hundreds of thousands of people that would love nothing more than to raise your baby. Be a woman supporting other woman and give the gift of motherhood.

If you take away anything from this article it's this:

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