Following the death of Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha, who was born in Nepal near the northern border of India, his followers began to share his teachings by traveling first to India and later along the Silk Road from China to the Mediterranean. An Indian emperor named Ashoka was among the most passionate Buddhists to spread the religion.
Buddhism remains among the more important religions in Asia, according to the Asia Society, and the continent features many Buddhist temples and monasteries. The religion first gained serious traction in India because of its proximity to Siddhartha's birthplace and the fact that Ashoka and his son were eager to share the Buddha's teachings.
Ashoka had been known as a merciless ruler until he discovered Buddhism, according to the Buddha Dharma Education Association. As he engaged in a military campaign to invade a neighboring state, Ashoka lost his taste for blood and turned to religion, eventually becoming a faithful and devoted Buddhist. He learned to respect life to the point that he ordered a drastic reduction in the number of animals killed to sustain his household. Ashoka embarked on pilgrimages to temples and other holy places, founded hospitals to treat the sick and ordered wells dug to help the thirsty. Most importantly, he sent Buddhist missionaries to Sri Lanka and later to the Silk Road to share the teachings of the Buddha.