What Was the Kingdom of Kucha in History?

What was the kingdom of Kucha in history?

Qiuzi is the old Chinese transcription for the Tokharian name of Kucha. Qiuzi was the old kingdom of Kucha, a very important state from the Han time to the Tang period. Kucha was an ancient Buddhist kingdom located on the branch of the Silk Road that ran along the northern edge of the Taklamakan Desert in the Tarim Basin and south of the Muzat River. (The area lies in present day Aksu Prefecture, Xinjiang, China; Kucha city itself is the county seat of that prefecture's Kuqa County). The kingdom bordered Aksu then Kashgar to the west, and Karasahr then Turpan to the east. Across the Taklamakan desert to the south was Khotan. Its population was given as 74,632 in 1990. Buddhism was introduced to Kucha before the end of the 1st century, however it was not until the 3rd century that the kingdom became a major center of Buddhism, primarily the Sarva-stiva-da school of the Sthavira or S'ra-vakaya-na branch, but eventually also Maha-ya-na. (In this respect it differed from Khotan, a Maha-ya-na-dominated kingdom on the southern side of the desert.) Its first settlers consisted of Aryan people speaking Tocharian B, or Kuchean, one of two extinct Tocharian languages of the Indo-European language family. Later on the Huns, the Turks and other ethnic groups including the Han Chinese, also settled there. According to the Han Dynasty historical records, the kingdom had a population of some 80,000 in the period of the Western Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 23). The oasis was an important center on the northern branch of the Silk Road. Buddhism was introduced into Kucha at the turn of the 1st century AD. In the 3rd century, it had already become an important Buddhist center. In a way, the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves were like a melting pot in the 3rd to 9th centuries, in which legends and myths and arts from ancient India, Greece, Rome, Persia and Central China combined to find expression in Buddhist art. Many of the Kuchean monks traveled to Central China to introduce Buddhist teachings. According to a history book of the Jin Dynasty (265-420). "the Kucha Kingdom, about 4,140 kilometers away from Luoyang (in Central China's Henan Province) has built more than 1,000 Buddhist pagodas in the city. The royal palace buildings are so splendid, as if they were mansions of the divine being." Since the early 20th century, archaeologists have discovered hundreds of caves that contain remnants of Buddhist art in the region formerly under the rule of Kucha Kingdom. Situated 67 kilometers west of Kucha County, the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves is the oldest of its kind in China and the largest ruins of Buddhist culture in Xinjiang. It is also the second largest treasure house of mural paintings in the world, next only to the Dunhuang Grottoes in Gansu Province. There are now 236 numbered grottoes in this cave, which houses nearly 10,000 square meters of mural paintings. Murals and other forms of Buddhist art found in the Kizil Thousand Buddha Caves showcase a splendid culture that once prospered in KUcha, an ancient oasis kingdom in what was known as the Western Regions in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220). With Kucha town as its center, the ancient Kucha kingdom once stretched its territory to the foot of the southern hills of the Tianshan Mountains in the north and the Taklimakan Desert to the south, today's Baicheng County to the west and Yanqi Hui Autonomous County to the east. Apart from spreading Buddhism into inland China, Kucha also exerted its influence upon the Tang-dynasty's music and dance in the 7th-9th centuries that had multi-national origins, and upon the development of folk music in inland China as well. The Han Dynasty had already introduced lively music from Kucha to Chang'an (today's Xi'an) as musical marches. Between the 6th-7th centuries, a number of Kuchean artists brought their music theories to Chang'an and other parts of inland China. Their names were recorded in historical records. Xuan Zang (602-664), an eminent Tang-dynasty monk, who went to India in search of Buddhist scriptures, spent more than a month in Kucha. In his report to the Tang-dynasty court, about his pilgrimage in India, he wrote that woodwind and string musical instruments as well as dance and music in Kucha "outshone" all the other Kingdoms and states he had visited along the way. From the Han Dynasty, the Kucha Kingdom maintained relationships with the central Chinese authorities, often subjugated to the dynastic rule of inland China. During the Tang Dynasty in 658, it became a protectorate of the Tang Dynast. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911), Kucha became a county in the Qing ranks of governance.

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