Early Buddhist Transmission and Trade Networks

Mobility and Exchange within and beyond the Northwestern Borderlands of South Asia


This exploration of early paths for Buddhist transmission within and beyond South Asia retraces the footsteps of monks, merchants, and other agents of cross-cultural exchange. A reassessment of literary, epigraphic, and archaeological sources reveals hisorical contexts for the growth of the Buddhist saṅgha from approximately the 5th century BCE to the end of the first millennium CE. Patterns of dynamic Buddhist mobility were closely linked to transregional trade networks extending to the northwestern borderlands and joined to Central Asian silk routes by capillary routes through transit zones in the upper Indus and Tarim Basin. By examining material conditions for Buddhist establishments at nodes along these routes, this book challenges models of gradual diffusion and develops alternative explanations for successful Buddhist movement.
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Jason Neelis, Ph.D. (2001) in Asian Languages and Literature, University of Washington, is an Assistant Professor for South Asian Buddhism at the Wilfird Laurier University and a Research Fellow for Indian Religious History at Ruhr-Universität Bochum.
"This is the first modern and theoretically-informed history of Buddhist transmission, as opposed to a simple history of Buddhism or a précis of modern Buddhist doctrines and their development. In that sense, this is a pioneering study and essential reading for any serious student of the history of Buddhism and Indian religion." - Michael Willis, The British Museum, in: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society 22/1 (2012), 188-189
"The book will be an invaluable guide to the massive literature on early South Asian political history, routes of trade, development of cities, and sites with Buddhist archaeological remains and the seemingly less substantial but crucially important evidence of inscriptions and graffiti." - Daniel C. Waugh, in: The Silk Road 10 (2012), 199-200
"Neelis has managed the impressive feat of maintaining an ant’s-eye focus on the cultural, economic, and political idiosyncrasies of Buddhist peregrination, while at the same time giving us a bird’s-eye." - Wendi Adamek, University of Sydney, in: Religious Studies Review 38/1 (2012), 37-38
"L'ouvrage de Jason Neelis est [..] extrêmement utile. Le livre propose plusieurs niveaux de lecture. Très clair, il expose les différentes interprétations et fournit une bibliographie détaillée sur le bouddhisme et sur l’histoire du monde indien. [..] Ce livre est d'une grande qualité tant sur le plan du fond que de la forme [..] Ce travail intéressera les historiens de l’Inde du Nord et du Nord-Ouest, les spécialistes du bouddhisme et tous ceux qui s’intéressent à la mobilité dans le monde indien." - Cédric Ferrier, CNRS, in: Bulletin de l'École française d'Extrême-Orient 100 (2014), 390-392
Readers with interests in the history of Buddhism, South Asian religions and economy, premodern trade routes, cultural geography, and cross-cultural interactions between India, Central Asia, Iran, and the Hellenistic world.
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