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(336 words)

Author(s): Kollmar-Paulenz, Karénina
[German Version] literally “diamond vehicle,” name of the form of Mahāyāna Buddhism practiced throughout the Himalayan region, in Tibet, Mongolia, and Buryatia, and as far as the lower Volga. The term Vajrayāna as a generic name for Tantric practices (Tantrism) developed after the 7th century from the symbolic significance of the term vajra in Tantric texts. Sanskrit vajra means “diamond” but also “thunderbolt,” the weapon of Indra, the Indian king of the gods; in Tantric texts, it stands for the indestructibility and power of the enlightened consciousness (Sanskrit bodhi). On the …


(506 words)

Author(s): Kollmar-Paulenz, Karénina
[German Version] The Turfan Depression is an oasis region in Inner Asia, on the northeast edge of the Tarim Basin. Bordered by the Chol Tagh to the south and the Bogdo Ula to the north, Turfan is favored climatically and scenically by its unusual topography (154 m below sea level), which gives it long, hot summers and moderate winters. Located on the northern route of the Silk Road (Nestorian mission, map) and at a major junction for trade between China and Central Asia, during the first millenniu…

Silk Road

(287 words)

Author(s): Kollmar-Paulenz, Karénina
[German Version] From around 500 bce to the end of the 14th century, the Silk Road was the longest and most important system of transportation, trade, and communication of the premodern era, linking Europe and Asia (see the map at Nestorian Mission). With its extensions from China through the eastern Iranian plateau to the Mediterranean world (Trade and traffic in the Mediterranean world) and Eastern Europe, it divided in eastern Turkestan into a northern and a southern route; the latter was marked b…


(325 words)

Author(s): Kollmar-Paulenz, Karénina
[German Version] The Uighurs are a confederation of Turkic tribes that belonged to the tokuz oguz, “nine tribes,” mentioned in Old Turkic inscriptions (7th cent.). In the 8th century, under their leader Kutluġ Bilgä Kaġan they established an independent khaganate with its capital at Karabalghasun, north of the Tien Shan mountains (Nestorian mission, map). The title of their ruler in the trilingual (Uighur, Sogdian, and Chinese) Karabalghasun inscription, tängridä bolmiş bilgä kaġan (“ruler made wise by the heavens”), exemplifies the autochthonous religious notion of tängri, an …


(991 words)

Author(s): Gengnagel, Jörg | Kollmar-Paulenz, Karénina
[German Version] I. Definition Elements of Tantrism (from Sanskrit tantra, “warp, loom; doctrine”) are present in various religious symbol systems. In addition to the central role of the goddess or ¶ female power and energy (Śakti), ritual acceptance and initiation ( dīkṣā) into the particular religious tradition by a Tantric master or guru ( ācārya), who embodies a specific succession of teachers, are important. The initiation ritual is usually associated with the replacement of the initiate’s mundane name, the communication of specific Tantric ma…

Inner Asia

(3,811 words)

Author(s): Kollmar-Paulenz, Karénina | Muminov, Ashirbek | Kügelgen, Anke v.
[German Version] I. Pre-Islamic Period – II. Islam I. Pre-Islamic Period 1. Geopolitical ambiguity, conception, and definition The concept of “Inner Asia” is both historically and geographically unclear. It is usually understood to mean the territories between Iran in the west and the Chinese border in the east (China), while giving way to the Siberian taiga in the north and abutting to the Himalayas in the south. It includes areas in the modern states of Afghanistan, Pakistan, northern India, northeastern Ira…