also spelled KUSANA, ruling line descended from the Yeh-chih (q.v.), a people that ruled over most of the northern Indian subcontinent, Afghanistan, and parts of Central Asia during the first three centuries of the Christian era. The Yeh-chih conquered Bactria in the 2nd century BC and divided the country into five chiefdoms, one of which was that of the Kushans (Kuei-shuang). A hundred years later, the Kushan chief Kujula Kadphises (Chiu-Chiu-Chueh) secured the political unification of the Yeh-chih kingdom under himself.

Under Kaniska I (fl. 1st century AD) and his successors, the Kushan kingdom reached its height. It was acknowledged as one of the four great Eurasian powers of its time (the others being China, Rome, and Parthia). The Kushans were instrumental in spreading Buddhism in Central Asia and China and in developing Mahayana Buddhism and the Gandhara and Mathura schools of art.

The Kushans became affluent through trade, particularly with Rome, as their large issues of gold coins show. These coins, which exhibit the figures of Greek, Roman, Iranian, Hindu, and Buddhist deities and bear inscriptions in adapted Greek letters, are witness to the toleration and to the syncretism in religion and art that prevailed in the Kushan empire. After the rise of the Sasanian dynasty in Iran and of local powers in northern India, Kushan rule declined.


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