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Fragment of a Wall Painting

At several sites along the Silk Route, Buddhist groups carved man-made caves into cliff faces, creating clusters of elaborately ornamented shrines and monastic dwellings. This fragment of a mural once decorated a cave at Kumtura, near Kucha in the Tarim Basin. It was removed from that site in 1913. Although best known as a trade route, the Silk Route was also one of the primary conduits for the spread of Buddhism. Indian merchants were among the religion's first converts, and they served as unofficial missionaries, disseminating the new teachings to the regions where they did business. Later, the same path would be traversed by Chinese Buddhist pilgrims traveling to India's universities and sacred sites. The movement of Buddhism along the Silk Route would result in the appearance of Buddhist motifs in the art of the various Asian, Central Asian, and Iranian cultures that adopted the religion.

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