Nina Maria Gorrissen Lecture
Why Did the Uighurs Become Buddhist?
In 762 CE, the ruler of Uighur steppe empire, Bügü Khan, converted to Manichaeism. The Uighur elite continued to embrace this tradition even when their empire on the Mongolian plateau collapsed and they fled to present-day northwest China. But around the year 1000, the Uighurs converted to Buddhism, the dominant religion among their subject peoples—the Chinese, Sogdians, and Tocharians—and would remain Buddhist until their conversion to Islam centuries later. Johan Elverskog explores the Uighurs’ conversion in the larger context of Eurasian geopolitics and the contemporary messianic belief that the end of the Dharma was nigh.