Buddhist art in China's Museums

0 CommentsPrint E-mail china.org.cn, December 7, 2007
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In this gallery (click here), there are some 250 photos that I took this year while traveling around Beijing, Xi'an, Shanghai and Lanzhou. I have to confess that I know little about Buddhist culture; I simply found myself submerged in the beauty of Buddha.

A few of the images were familiar to me but some seemed bizarre and strange. I have little knowledge about the history of these figures so it is impossible for me to explain and classify them. It's also difficult for me to tell their origin or why they look and act as they do. 

What can I do is simply publishing them in different catalogues according to the museums in which they are showcased. Also, I have tried to copy the placards beside them in museums, hoping that this information can help, or give hints, for you to understand them better.

If you want to know more about Chinese Buddhism, and if you are lucky enough to be in New York at the same time, here is some good news: as I am opening up my show in this gallery, an ongoing exhibition is also opening in New York City. "Buddhist Sculpture from China: Selections from the Xi'an Beilin Museum" continues through Dec. 8 at the China Institute, 125 East 65th Street, Manhattan: (212) 744-8181, chinainstitute.org. 

I have the same wish as Holland Cotter, the New York curator. He wrote, "With this show, we have a chance to get to know them, ask questions of them, look at them, and look again. Their version of beauty won't change with time, but our beholding eyes might." 

Beijing Capital Museum

(Click for larger pictures)

Review: The museum features some 150 Buddhist works of art ranging from the 5th through the 20th centuries. Most of them are gilt bronze sculptures emitting golden luster under muted lamps and a somber background. The museum hosts a special exhibition of Buddha figurines from Tibetan and Mongolian regions and many of them were made under imperial edicts. Full Text...

Xi'an Museum

Review: The exhibition hall on the first floor holds many Buddhist statues. Most of these lifelike sculptures are carved in stone while some of the fine gilded figures are made of copper and bronze. They illustrate the pomp and ceremonial aspects of Buddhism in Chang'an, the ancient name for Xi'an. Full Text...

Shanghai Museum

Review: The Gallery of Chinese Ancient Sculptures serves mainly as a showcase of over 120 Buddhist sculptures, placed in shrine-like displays and framed with lotus-petal shaped partitions, or standing alone on pedestals. These display methods blend to lend a veritable temple feeling to the hall and plunge the audience into a world where art and religion intertwine. Full Text...

Gansu Provincial Museum

Review: Gansu was one of first areas in China that received Buddhism. Monks acted as vital links, protecting, revering and passing on Buddhist culture. Since the Sixteen Kingdoms period, a large number of temples and pagodas have been constructed in the area. Full Text...

Shaanxi Provincial History Museum

Review: The museum successfully represents the great extent of Shaanxi history and its remarkable culture as well as the most flourishing period of feudal glory, the Tang Dynasty; however, it only houses a dozen Buddhist sculptures. For the past few decades, the museum was considered one of the most attractive museums in China, but many newly built or newly renovated museums reveal its outmoded exhibition design and technology by comparison. Full Text...

(China.org.cn by Wang Zhiyong November 20, 2007)
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