ECAI Maritime Buddhism Project

For more than a century we have seen the growth of interest in the so called "Silk Road" and the identification of these mercantile routes as the major element in the transmission of Buddhism to China. However, is it really the case that a “road” existed across Eurasia that carried so much silk that the purchase of it nearly bankrupted the Roman treasury? We have long told the “Master Narrative” that the “Silk Road” was a link between the Mediterranean and East Asia.

However, it seems that pilgrims were aware of what I have called “The Great Circle”. This is a circle of trade routes, seaports, oases, and Buddhist sites that ringed India, Central Asia, East Asia, Indonesia, the coastline of the Andaman Sea, and Sri Lanka.

If we study Buddhist history from the perspective of the Great Circle, it allows us to have more flexibility with our data. The circle was divided into distinct segments and these regional segments have their own history. This project is an attempt to expand research on those parts of the Great Cirlce that are understudied.

In our current state of research, we know quite a bit about some of the segments and very little about others. In some cases there no written histories and few references in extant documents.

The sources for research on presence or lack of Buddhism in South and Southeast Asia include records of trade and travel, but primarily we have archeology to help us with our exploration.

The Atlas of Maritime Buddhism will integrate data from all of these sources into an interactive environment.

The Atlas is actively under construction. See further information about the project at: The data resources are currently only accessible by team members. If you are interested in contributing, please contact