This paper traces the development and evolution of the Buddha image from the first century CE in Gandhara to the fifth century CE in Luoyang, China and discusses the circumstances that allowed the image to adapt to different cultural environments. The emergence of the Buddha image marked a significant shift in the perception of the Buddha himself, through which Buddhism had effectively transformed from a philosophy into a religion.
Due to the syncretic nature of the Gandhari region, the Buddha image incorporated elements from multiple cultures, most notably from the Hellenistic artistic tradition. The dissemination of the Buddha image, traced through cave complexes from Afghanistan to eastern China, display a progressive Sinitic transformation over time. However, the simultaneous iconographic continuation from the Gandhari Buddha, seen in the same Sinicized Buddha images almost five centuries later, represents the significant and enduring legacy of Hellenism in Buddhist art.
Kyaping, Chukyi, "The Unintended Legacy of Hellenism: The Development and Dissemination of the Buddha Image" (2016). History Honors Papers. 2.