From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Buddhist art originated on the Indian subcontinent following the historical life of Siddhartha Gautama, 6th to 5th century BCE, and thereafter evolved by contact with other cultures as it spread throughout Asia and the world.
Early Buddhist art followed one Indian aniconic tradition, which avoids direct representation of the human figure. Around the 1st century CE an iconic period emerged lasting to this day which represents the Buddha in human form.
Buddhist art followed believers as the dharma spread, adapted, and evolved in each new host country. It developed to the north through Central Asia and into Eastern Asia to form the Northern branch of Buddhist art, and to the east as far as Southeast Asia to form the Southern branch of Buddhist art. In India, Buddhist art flourished and even influenced the development of Hindu art, until Buddhism nearly disappeared in India around the 10th century due in part to the vigorous expansion of Islam alongside Hinduism.