‘Urban Buddha’ Sculpture Lands In Grant Park

DOWNTOWN — The latest sculpture in Grant Park is “Urban Buddha,” a 15-foot-tall effigy meant to send a message about global deforestation.

The sculpture was installed Tuesday morning at the Grant Park Skate Park near Michigan Avenue and Roosevelt Road. Designed by Tibetan artist Tashi Norbu, the piece is comprised of about 3,500 pounds of reclaimed wood.

Norbu said his artwork tries to send a message about the rampant deforestation in his homeland and throughout the world. “Urban Buddha” is his first piece in the United States.

“I’m in the world to talk about my country, what’s happening,” he said.

Norbu and an aide placing the Buddha’s head on the statue. [All photos by DNAinfo/David Matthews]

Park officials hope the sculpture will draw visitors to the south end of the park this winter, when the skate park is closed. The new Buddha is painted in vibrant green and orange hues, and is surrounded by a circle of rocks guests can use for seats. The sculpture is inscribed with Buddhist mantras translated to mean ”be the bee, not the flower,” and other things.

“It’s not real obvious, you have to look at it,” Bob O’Neill, president of the Grant Park Conservancy, said Tuesday. “You want a piece people will talk about, get interested in, and learn more about. It fits well here.”

O’Neill said the sculpture cost about $20,000, with Norbu, consulting firm North Branch Management, and Maywood-based ReUse Depot — which supplied the wood — paying for most of it. The Chicago Park District contributed about $2,500, O’Neill said.

The sculpture not only practices what it preaches, but is a social work “in the sense of peace, benevolent acts and expanding cultural awareness through art,” Michael Dimitroff, manager of art initiatives at the park district, said in an e-mail.

The sculpture is set to stay in the park for six months, with an option for a six-month extension.

Claire Hicking, a tourist from London, was intrigued by the sculpture while visiting the park Tuesday morning.

“Not the colors I would expect of a Buddha, but I like the concept,” she said. “It stands out.”

By David Matthews


Ancient Asian art masterpieces displayed in Kiev

KIEV, Oct. 21 (Xinhua) — An exhibition of Asian art in a Kiev museum featuring 35 ancient exhibits, including some exquisite pieces from China, was opened to the public on Friday.

The exhibition, titled “Paintings and Graphics of Asia”, is held in the Museum of Western and Oriental Art, locally known as Khanenko Museum, in a bid to demonstrate the unique cultural heritage of Asian countries.

One of its highlights is the showcase of some Chinese paintings and unique examples of “Nianhua”, a kind of colored woodblock prints dating from the 18th and 19th centuries for household decoration during the Chinese New Year.

According to Galina Bilenko, the head of the oriental art department at the museum, the Chinese artworks, some of which were transferred to Ukraine at the end of the 19th century, had undergone major renovations before the exhibition.

“This exposition will show our audience all the difficulties Ukrainian and European restaurateurs have faced while renovating the paintings, particularly the Chinese paintings on scrolls,” Bilenko told Xinhua.

She added that currently, more than 250 pieces of Chinese artwork, which were collected throughout the centuries, are kept in Khanenko Museum.

Apart from the Chinese art pieces, the exposition also features 17th-century Persian miniature paintings and Japanese prints, including the works of the renowned 19th-century artists Katsushika Hokusai and Utagawa Hiroshige.

The exhibition will last until Dec. 25.


700-year-old banknote found in ancient Chinese sculpture

ARMADALE, Australia, Oct. 20 (UPI) – A 700-year-old banknote was found inside an ancient wooden Chinese sculpture at an Australian auction house.

Mossgreen auction house shared photos of the upcoming “The Raphy Star Collection of Important Asian Art” which features several ancient sculptures, including the one that held the rare banknote.

“Also part of the collection is a 13-14th century wooden sculpture of a Luohan inside of which our specialists were thrilled to discover a rare, Ming Dynasty banknote when they catalogued the piece,” the auction house said. “The sculpture and banknote will be on view alongside the many other highlights of this fine collection.”

The auction house staff discovered the initially unassuming, crumpled piece of parchment before realizing it was actually among the earliest printed currency in China, according to CNN.

“This is the first time, that we know of, that a banknote has been discovered inside a wooden Buddhist sculpture,” Ray Tregaskis, head of Asian art at Mossgreen, said. “We were surprised, astonished, and once we had translated [the text], very excited!”

Mossgreen Asian art specialist Luke Guan said Chinese sculptures have been known to hold various items inside.

“It’s typical to find materials such as mantra rolls, relics, grains, incense and semi-precious stones that have been placed inside gilt bronze sculptures by a monk or lama,” he said. “But we’ve never heard of anyone finding money inside a wooden sculpture before.”

Mossgreen’s specialists believe the bill may have been placed inside the sculpture 40 or 50 years after it was first made.


10 Buddhas to look out for at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

10 Buddhas to look out for at the Ten Thousand Buddhas Monastery

Religion is sacred. However, we also like a bit of fun at Time Out Towers. And so do the 10,000 Buddhas in Sha Tin. So we’ve picked our top 10 favourite Buddhas at Man Fat Tsz and we’re suggesting their alter egos. All in jest, of course.

Air Guitar Buddha
Take this musical dude. We’re pretty sure he knows how to rock out. Left without a stage, he’s made use of a fish in place of a platform and this guy is going to shred until the turtles come home. We reckon he’d do some great renditions of Hendrix classics.

Buddy Buddhas
These guys are BFFs. Among the however-many-Buddhas in the monastery (because there’s definitely not 10,000 like the name would suggest), they seem to have bonded over a love of red lips and a penchant for gold. They’re there for each other through thick and thin, for the good times and the bad, and that’s what makes them bezzies for life.

Because just being one Buddha isn’t enough, this guy is a Buddha within a Buddha. Some sort of Buddha-ception. But what if there’s another Buddha within the Buddha that’s already in the Buddha? Somebody call Christopher Nolan quick smart.

Selfie Stick Buddha
Selfie sticks have become quite the love-it-or-hate-it photo accessory since they first became attached to narcissists the world over. But you can’t be mad at this guy. His arms are long enough to take the perfect selfie, without pissing people off. He’s a good friend to have around in group selfie situations and he must be really good at getting stuff off of tall shelves, too.

Shakespeare Buddha
Some of the Buddhas, historic in their own right, represent other historic figures from the world over. This one bears an uncanny resemblance to William Shakespeare, the Bard of Avon. We’re not sure if this Buddha has written his own material but he could probably do well as a Billy Shakespeare lookalike and bag a few gigs.

Singing Buddha
Probably one of the happiest souls on this list is the singing Buddha. The hills are alive with the sound of his music. Okay, obviously we can’t really hear him but just look at the guy. We’re pretty sure he’s belting out some Canto classics and giving it all he’s got. Probably best not to take him to karaoke, though. He’ll definitely hog the mic.

Jesus Buddha
In an amalgam of religions, this Buddha sports a haircut and beard similar to that of Jesus Christ in many images. He’s looking particularly Zen too, probably something to do with having perfectly coiffed locks and hip facial hair. And would you look at those gold robes? We can’t decide if he’s a Jesus Buddha or a style icon.

Arm-Eyes Buddha
Sorry not sorry. We can’t sugarcoat it – this Buddha is the stuff of nightmares. With arms in place of his eyes, this Buddha looks to be straight out of the terrifying creature machine that is Guillermo del Toro’s mind. He wouldn’t look out of place alongside the Pale Man, the eyes-on-his hands frightener that everyone remembers from del Toro’s acclaimed scary fairytale Pan’s Labyrinth.

Eyebrows Buddha
This Buddha seems incredibly chuffed with his spectacularly long eyebrows. Not a sucker for beauty regimes, he’s let them grow in all their glory. But bushy they are not. This guy knows how to keep epically long eyebrows looking kempt, that’s for sure.

Cannot Unsee Buddha
We’re not sure what this Buddha has just witnessed but whatever it is, it cannot be unseen. The thousand yard stare may be one of trauma, but we like to think he’s just stumbled on something awesome that’s blown his mind. The secret to enlightenment, maybe?


Buddha footprints found in stone slab in A’pura

An archaeologically significant stone slab depicting the footprints of the Buddha, (Siripathula) has been discovered in a land in Elayapaththuwa in Anuradhapura.

The stone slab is two feet in length and width and six inches thick. The slab depicts two footprints of the Buddha with several carvings embedded.

The owner of the land at Kudahalmillewa, N. A. Gayan Lahiru Sampath found the slab on Saturday while he was clearing the ground under a swing which he set up for his children.

He decided to clean a stone that surfaced under the swing when he realized it is an archeologically significant artefact. He then alerted the Grama Sevaka of the area who in turn contacted the Archeological Department officers.

According to sources, the Assistant Director of Archaeological Department in Anuradhapura has already sent a team to inspect the stone slab and more officers would be sent today for further procedures.

A police team has also been deployed at the location until the Archaeological Department takes charge of the stone slab.


Record-breaking profit on Antiques Road Trip as bronze Buddha makes thousands

Anita Manning Antiques Roadshow

Expert Anita Manning made thousands on bronze Buddha

Antiques Road Trip returns to BBC1 today with a record-breaking 7500% profit.

The popular series is back this afternoon with antiques expert Anita Manning making thousands of pounds on a bronze Buddha.

In the programme antiques experts set off in a classic car on a road trip around the UK searching for treasures and competing to make the most money at auction.

First up in the new series are Anita and Raj Bisram who, armed with £200 each, begin their road trip in Norfolk and travel south to Suffolk and Essex.

While searching for potential profit makers in Kent, Anita discovers the bronze Buddha marked for sale at £85 at the Vintage Curiosities shop in Sandwich.
Antique buddahs can command six figure sums and modern ones just a few pounds.

After a little expert haggling Anita eventually seals the deal with the shopkeeper at £50, hoping her gut feeling that it is worth much more is right.

The auction then takes place at Burstow and Hewett, in Battle East Sussex, led by auctioneer Mark Ellin.

At auction, Anita spots some overseas buyers in the saleroom - known as a good sign in the antiques world - and the bronze deity creates a flurry of excitement.

The bids start at a huge £1000 and the final gavel falls at £3800, netting Anita a staggering profit of £3750 against Raj’s more modest £375 for five separate lots.
Anita’s victory smashes the previous Antiques Road Trip record set by Charlie Ross in 2012, when he purchased a Staffordshire elephant for £8 and it sold at auction for £2700.

Anita, who is also known for her appearances on Bargain Hunt and Flog It! Said: “I was drawn to the bronze Buddha in my first shop of the day knowing that the Asian market is strong at the moment.

“The bidding started at £1000. There was a gasp in the saleroom and then silence, as the auctioneer’s voice recorded the bids went fiercely up and up. My heart was thumping.

“The final bid of £3800 was a terrific result.”


The most famous pagodas in Vung Tau

VietNamNet Bridge – Visit Thich Ca Phat Dai to learn about the life of Buddha or Linh Son Co Tu to admire the 1,600 year-old Buddha statue  is interesting experience in the southern city of Vung Tau.

Thich Ca Phat Dai


Thich Ca Phat Dai (Platform of Shakyamuni Buddha) is a notable Theravada Buddhist temple. It lies to the northwest of the Lon (Big) Mountain and was built between 1961 and 1963.

It is set on a plot of around five hectares, with a Zen Buddhist monastery at the foot of the plot and the Thich Ca Phat Dai at the top.

The Zen monastery is a small brick temple built by a government official in Vung Tau in 1957. In 1961, the Buddhist association organized a renovation of the monastery and decided to build the Thich Ca Phat Dai further up the mountain. Additional lodgings were built to cater to Buddhist pilgrims who visit the site.

This pagoda exists exclusively for religious worship, unique in its white cement construction of the giant statue of Gautama Buddha sitting on a large lotus blossom. The grounds are dense with foliage, resembling a jungle and heavily populated by birds.

The white color of the statue and the stupa contrasts with the blue and green background of the surrounding sky and forest. The site has become a major tourist location in the city as well as a tourist lookout.

The pagoda also has a 17m-high Blessing tower, where there is a yellow box containing 13 Blessing spheres of true practitioners. Under the tower are four peaks, which means that the ground is where the Buddha was born.
Quan The Am Bo Tat 


Quan The Am Bo Tat (Pagoda of Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva) is located on Tran Phu Street, about 500 meters from Bai Dau.

Built in 1976, the highlight of this pagoda is a giant white Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva Statue located at the middle of the pagoda’s campus. The Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva stands on a lotus with a kindly and virtuous face and the Cam Lo pot in the hand looking to the sea. The pagoda is one of the most famous destinations for many pilgrimages to this beautiful city.

Behind the pagoda is the mountain, in front is the sea. The pagoda is always an attraction for holidays and monthly full moon days.

Everyday, the pagoda attracts many tourists to visit and worship, especially onfull moon days. If having the opportunity to visit Ba Ria – Vung Tau, you should not miss a tour of visiting Quan Am Pagoda, to be able to find an oasis of calm, and dispel fatigue and worries of daily life. Moreover, you can discover the beauty of culture and tradition here.

Niet Ban Tinh Xa 


Niet Ban Tinh Xa (Nirvana Vihara) is situated on the slopes of Mount Small on Ha Long road, Vung Tau City.

Nirvana Vihara Pagoda is one of the most beautiful Buddhist temples in Vung Tau where the traditional architecture and the modern combine harmoniously.

It is also known for the 12m long Nirvana Buddha statue located in the main hall of the pagoda, placed on the 2.5 m high altar. The outer surface of the altar is the image of disciples witnessing Buddha attaining Nirvana.

Seeing the open and pure space, facing the vast ocean, and surrounded by woods, from the rooftop of the pagodavisitors can admire the blue sea of Vung Tau with boats on the far side of the horizon.

Linh Son Co Tu 

Located on Hoang Hoa Tham Street in downtown Vung Tau, Linh Son is the oldest pagoda in Vung Tau.

The main hall of the pagoda worships a 1.2 m high Buddha statue made of stone, gilded with gold on the outside. The details of the statue were created meticulously. Based on the way the statue was crafted, the origin of the statue was identified to date back to 1,600 years, by the ancient Champa.

Visiting the temple on weekdays, people are free to fall into the peaceful and quiet world and get rid of all troubles and worries of daily life. Visitors can also study the architecture of the ancient pagoda.

Chon Khong Monastery


The monastery was built in 1969. It is located at an altitude of 80 meters on the slopes of Big Mountain.

The temple is a complex of many works, such as the main tower, the main hall, the bell tower, the meditation hall, the nuns’ hall and the guest house, supported by majestic mountain backgrounds.

To reach the monastery, tourists have to climb on a high slope. The two sides of the road are ancient trees. The entrance is located midway of the slope. Passing the gate, tourists can see the main hall far away, in a peaceful atmosphere.

Truc Lam Chan Nguyen Monastery


Located at the foot of the Minh Dam Mountain, in Phuoc Hai Town, Vung Tau, Truc Lam Chan Nguyen Monastery is only one kilometer away from Hai Long pass. The monastery has a cherry blossom forest which is very beautiful in spring.

With the quiet space for meditation and magnificent nature, the scene in Truc Lam Chan Khong Monastery can mesmerize anyone who step into this majestic and poetic heaven on earth. This is where the soul can reach true peace, and all of that is mixed with the blue of the sea and the sky and the green of the forest behind.

Highlighting the green of the mountains and forest is the main hall. Behind the pagoda are rocks of many shapes such as snakes, tortoise… in the traditional colors of Buddhism.

The special feature of the pagoda is the existence of hundreds of monkeys on the grounds. For that reason, the temple is also called Chua Khi (Monkey Pagoda). Travelers often bring fruit and food for the monkeys who are friendly.

Compiled by Pha Le


Shoton Festival Opens in SW China’s Tibet

A huge Thangka Buddha portrait is exhibited at Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Sept. 1, 2016. Buddhists and believers thronged Lhasa for the start of the traditional Shoton Festival on Thursday. The Shoton Festival, also known as the Yogurt Banquet Festival, is a week-long gala held since the 11th century. [Xinhua/Jigme Doje]

Celebrations for the traditional Shoton Festival began in Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region on Thursday.

The Shoton Festival, also known as the Yogurt Banquet Festival, is a week-long extravaganza that has been held since the 11th century. It was originally a religious occasion when locals would offer yogurt to monks who had finished meditation retreats.

This year’s event will feature Tibetan opera performances, hiking, Buddha exhibitions, paintings and photos, according to Wu Yasong, Lhasa’s deputy mayor.

Tsamjo, an 87-year-old Lhasa resident, attended the Buddha exhibition at the Drepung Monastery early Thursday morning.

“I got up at 3 a.m. to participate in the event,” Tsamjo said.

At 7:30 a.m., more than 100 monks and buddhists took a giant thangka painting out of the monastery and put it on a platform for both visitors and believers.

“I come to worship the Buddha painting at the Drepung Monastery every year,” said Ngawang, a Lhasa resident.

“For us believers, the Shoton Festival means a lot.”

Last year, more than 200,000 Buddhists and people of other faiths came to Lhasa for the festival.

A huge Thangka Buddha portrait is exhibited at Drepung Monastery in Lhasa, capital of southwest China’s Tibet Autonomous Region, Sept. 1, 2016. Buddhists and believers thronged Lhasa for the start of the traditional Shoton Festival on Thursday. The Shoton Festival, also known as the Yogurt Banquet Festival, is a week-long gala held since the 11th century. [Xinhua/Jigme Doje]


Buddha triad at Munsu Temple to become a national treasure

Buddha triad at Munsu Temple to become a national treasure

The Cultural Heritage Administration has announced its plan to designate nine cultural heritages as national treasure, including the Seated Wooden Sakyamuni Buddha Triad at Munsu Temple in Gochang (pictured), considered the standard form of the 17th century Buddhist sculpture.The Munsu Buddha Triad is a statue with Sakyamuni at the center and Bhaisajyaguru Buddha and Amitabha Buddha on each side of it. Monk Byeokam Gakseong (1575-1660) and his disciples are known to overseeing the construction built by 15 monk sculptors in 1654. The Cultural Heritage Administration described the sculpture as having “a human face with chubby cheeks and a high sense of volume with simple, vigorous wrinkles, representing the plain sense of aesthetics pursued by the Buddhist statues of the Joseon Dynasty.”

The Seated Geonchil Bhaisajyaguru Buddha and the Reminders are also to be designated as a national treasure. The statue was created between the second half of the 8th century and early 10th century, made with earth and covered by hemp cloth, and coated and dried many times.

The Seated Wooden Jijang Buddha and 10 Underworld Kings statue in Gochang Munsu Temple, the artifacts found in the Yangsan Geumjo Tomb, the Gilt Bronze Crown found in Bokcheondong, Busan, King Jeongjo’s Letters, Joseon Gyeonggukjeon, and the Saddharma Pundarika Sutra 5-7 are also subject to become national treasures. The process will include collecting opinions from different field of studies for 30 days and a review by the Cultural Heritage Committee.


Myanmar earthquake: Images from Bagan historic sites

A 6.8-magnitude earthquake in central Myanmar on Wednesday killed four people and damaged dozens of ancient structures dotting the plains of Bagan.

President Htin Kyaw visited the area on Thursday to see the damage and discuss how to repair it with local officials.

Bagan’s spectacular plain has more than 2,200 pagodas, temples, monasteries and other structures on it, most left over from the city’s heyday between the 11th and 13th Centuries, when it was the capital of the regions that went on to form modern Myanmar.



Buddhism in stone

The remains of Buddhist architecture and sculpture at Sanchi in Madhya Pradesh tell the story of the rise, flowering and gradual decline of Buddhism in India. Text & photographs by SHASHANK SHEKHAR SINHA

Located on a hill in Raisen district, around 50 kilometres from Bhopal and 10 km from the ancient trading, religious and art hub Vidisa (Vidisha in modern times) is Sanchi, a site known for its stupas, pillars, temples, monasteries and sculptural wealth. It is a great place to see the beginnings, efflorescence and decay of Buddhist art and architecture from the third century BCE to the 12th century C.E. In a way, Sanchi covers the entire period of Buddhism in India. As the historian Upinder Singh says, it provides a remarkable history of Buddhism in stone spanning some 15 centuries.

Sanchi, a World Heritage Site, has an ancient past. Prehistoric paintings and tools have been found at the well-known Bhimbetka Caves, another World Heritage Site nearby. Recent archaeological and hydrological studies by Julia Shaw and John Sutcliffe have brought to light ancient irrigation works belonging to second or first century BCE. The presence of mud dams and reservoirs indicates the prevalence of rainwater harvesting for drinking water requirements and for irrigation, possibly in rice cultivation. During the Buddha’s time, this area formed a part of the mahajanapada (one of the great states) of Akara in the western Malwa region. Sanchi is referred to as Kakanava or Kakanaya in early Brahmi inscriptions found in the site. In the fourth century, it was known as Kakanadabota, while a late seventh century inscription refers to it as Bota-Shriparvata.

An early Buddhist text, Mahaparinibbhanasutta, says that when the Buddha was breathing his last, he called in his favourite disciples Ananda, Sariputta and Mahamogalana and told them that after his death his body should be cremated, the ashes distributed, and stupas erected over them at crossroads. Following his death (mahaparinirvana), the Buddha’s relics were divided into eight portions and stupas were built over them.

Meanwhile, the powerful Mauryan emperor Asoka was establishing his political supremacy across the subcontinent. However, after the Battle of Kalinga, in which many lives were lost, Asoka decided to transform himself and soon became a devout Buddhist. It is said that out of his zeal to spread Buddhism, he opened seven of the eight original stupas and got the Buddha’s relics redistributed. Stupas were built over the places where the relics were kept. According to legend, he built around 84,000 (some say 64,000) stupas all over northern India and in areas now in Nepal, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

Asoka and SanchiAsoka also built the core of Stupa 1, known as Mahastupa or the Great Stupa, at Sanchi. The archaeologist M.K. Dhavalikar says this is indicated by the fact that the level of the stupa’s floor is the same as that of the Asokan pillar near by. Further, fragments of the chunar sandstone umbrella over the structure bear the characteristic mirror-like polish seen on Asokan pillars.

Why did Asoka choose a site that was not directly connected with the life of the Buddha? The place was not directly connected with any incident in the Buddha’s life. The Buddha did not visit the place, and it is not mentioned in any Buddhist source. Neither Fa Hien nor Hieun Tsang, the famous Chinese pilgrims who travelled to India in ancient times to visit Buddhist religious centres, mentioned the place.

Asoka’s connection with Sanchi can be traced to his wife Devi, who was the daughter of a merchant based at Vidisha. He married her while serving as the Governor of Ujjayani (modern Ujjain). The only early reference to the site in Buddhist literature is found in the Sri Lankan chronicles Mahavamsa and Dipavamsa. They mention that Mahendra, son of Asoka and Devi, on his way to Sri Lanka as a missionary, halted at Vidisha to see his mother. She apparently took him to the beautiful monastery of Vedisagiri that she had built. This, in all likelihood, is Sanchi. The quietude and seclusion of the hilltop and its suitability as a place for meditation and monastic life may have influenced the choice of location. The patronage of a rich mercantile community from Vidisha ensured a sustained supply of resources and also patronage by traders and business. (Vidisha was located at the confluence of the Betwa and Bes rivers on the flourishing trade routes linking Mathura (northern route) and Pataliputra (eastern route) to western and southern India.)

Architecture and Evolution The Mahastupa consists of a hemispherical mound (anda) built over a relic chamber (tabena). It has a truncated and flattened top on which rests a square chamber (harmika), which has a railing and a central pillar (yasthi) supporting a stone triple-umbrella formation (chattravali). There are two circumambulatory passages. There is an elevated terrace (medhi) enclosed by a three-bar railing (vedika) and accessed by two flights of stairs (sopanas) from the southern gateway. The second circumambulatory passage is on the ground surrounding the mound (pradakshinapath). This whole structure has been put within a stone enclosure with a similar three-bar railing with four carved gateways (toranas) built in four cardinal directions. The ground balustrade (vedika), in turn, consists of stone uprights (stambha or thaba), horizontal crossbars (suchi) and copings (ushnisha), most of which have inscriptions mentioning the names of donors. The three umbrellas on the summit symbolise the “Three Jewels” (tri-ratna) of Buddhism—the Buddha, Dharma and Sangha.

Built with buff brownish stone, the Great Stupa measures 36.8 metres in diameter and 21.64 m in height from the ground level to the original chattravali. The complex was built over several hundred years. The core of the stupa was built of mud and brick by Asoka in the third century BCE. A monolithic pillar of finely polished sandstone was also erected. It consisted of a tapering monolithic shaft adorned by four lions. While the stump of the monolithic shaft is in situ, the lion capital is exhibited in the site museum. The pillar, which was apparently broken into several pieces by a local zamindar for pressing sugar cane, carried an Asokan edict identical to the one at Sarnath warning monks and nuns against schisms in the Buddhist community.

Asoka’s mud-and-brick stupa got a stone encasing and was enlarged in the Shunga period. The ground balustrades, a berm, stairways, and the harmika were also built during this period, and so were Stupas 2 and 3. The role of the Shungas in the persecution of Buddhists and their art is a debatable one. It has also been suggested that the first Shunga ruler Pushyamitra destroyed the original Sanchi stupa. However, his son Agnimitra gave it a facelift. Besides, the Bharhut Stupa was also erected during this period. So, while the Shungas may have been pro-Hindu, they do not come across as consistently anti-Buddhist. Sanchi architecture is testimony to the co-existence of Hindus and Buddhists, certainly for a long period of time.

In the first century C.E., the Andhra-Satavahanas, who had extended their sway over eastern Malwa, constructed the elaborately carved gateways to Stupas 1 and 3. The gateways and the balustrade were built and painted. An inscription on the top architrave of the southern gateway records that it was a gift of Ananda, the royal architect of king Satakarni. The ruler has been identified as Satakarni II of the Andhra-Satavahana dynasty, who according to the Puranas controlled a large empire in central and western India and in the Deccan with his capital at Prathisthan (Paithan near Aurangabad). His coins have also been found in the Malwa region (western part of Madhya Pradesh). Dhavalikar thinks that the early group of Ajanta caves (Hinayana) were possibly also carved during Satakarni II’s reign in the second half of the first century.

Around 150 C.E., the Satavahanas were displaced by the Saka-Kshatraps, who initially were governors of the Kushanas, ruling from Mathura and later assumed independence and ruled from Ujjain. The Kshatraps, in turn, were removed by the Gupta rulers around 399 C.E. when Chandragupta II established control over Malwa. One of the inscriptions dated 412-13 C.E. on the balustrade of Stupa 1 talks about this. The discovery of Mathura sandstone images in the Sanchi complex shows that even in the fourth century Mathura continued to meet such demands. Local art started flourishing in the region soon afterwards, and a manifestation of this trend is the presence of Buddha images seated under canopies against the berm of Stupa 1 facing the four entrances. However, even during the heyday of the Guptas, figures of the Buddha from the ateliers of Sanchi fell short, in standard and number, when compared with their counterparts at Sarnath.

The post-Gupta period was one of gradual decline of Buddhism. Several monasteries and temples, however, were erected at Sanchi during the seventh century, when Harsha was ruling over northern India. The presence of images of Vajrasattav, Tara and Marichi belonging to the 12th century indicates that the Vajrayana sect also had temporary influence at the site. Evidence suggests that Sanchi had declined as a Buddhist centre by the 12th century.

It is uncertain how the end came. It might have been deserted by Buddhists. Brahmanism might have taken over, as indicated by a number of Brahmanical plaques containing representations of Vishnu, Ganga and Mahishasuramardini belonging to the 13th century. Some historians ascribe the decline of Buddhism to Muslim invasions.

Gateways, the crowning gloryThe four gateways (toranas) in the cardinal directions, according to Dhavalikar, constitute the most impressive artistic creation of its class in ancient India—they form the crowning glory of Buddhist art at Sanchi. Although all four were built around the same time, the southern gateway was the first to be erected and formed the main entrance to the stupa. This is indicated by the location of the Asokan pillar at the entrance and the landing of the stairway on that side.

The gateways are intricately carved on the front and back and even on the side of the pillars. There are traces of red paint on the eastern gateway and the balustrade, which indicate that they were painted at some point of time. The carvings on the gateways resemble, even stylistically, the ivory carvings belonging to the Satavahana period excavated at Begram (ancient Kapisa) in Afghanistan. An inscription on the southern gateway records that it was executed by ivory workers of Vidisha. Dhavalikar thinks that the original carvings might have been in wood and were later replaced by those of stone.

The carvings show a variety of motifs and narrative panels, including the Bodhi tree, Tri-ratna, stupas, representations of the Buddha, eight auspicious symbols (ashta-mangalakas), the wish-fulfilling creeper (kalpa-lata) or tree (kalpa-vriksha), besides figures of animals, humans and mythical creatures. They depict in detail significant episodes and miracles in the Buddha’s life and his previous incarnations as Bodhisattva described in the Jataka tales. The Buddha has been represented by footprints, wheels, empty thrones, a canopy under the Bodhi tree, and so on, instead of in a human form. Among human or mythical figures are horse riders, corpulent dwarf males (yakshas) and nymphs (shalabhanjikas). Some of the friezes of Sanchi also show devotees in Greek attire (Greek clothing, attitudes, and musical instruments) celebrating the stupa. The art historian Vidya Dehejia says the architects of Sanchi used visual storytelling as a way of popularising the Buddhist faith. Major events in the Buddha’s life were “given a historic dimension through visual biographies that became the ‘text’ of images which appear everywhere, though presented in different ways”.

The Sanchi carvings and embellishments were funded by the local population—individual men and women, family groups and village associations of Buddhist and Hindu leanings and monks and nuns. There was no royal patronage, as is usually assumed for enterprises of this kind. Around 631 records of donations are inscribed on the carvings. Such donations were connected to the idea of spiritual and religious merit common to both Hindus and Buddhists. Dehejia says the donors may have requested their favourite stories to be carved on the panels and then have their names inscribed on them. This may explain why certain stories (such as the Buddha’s enlightenment and the Great Departure) are repeated on the gateways.

Other MonumentsBesides the Mahastupa, Sanchi contains several other monuments, including some already mentioned—stupas, temples, monasteries and buildings, pillars and votive stupas. Of the stupas, Nos. 2 and 3 still survive. A large number of stupas are spread across the complex on the main terrace around the north-east, south-east and south-west quadrants of the Great Stupa. Stupa 2 stands on an artificial terrace down the slope of the hill. It does not have a gateway and appears somewhat bare. However, the ground balustrades are well decorated with floral and plant motifs, real and mythological animals (including a stag with an elephant’s head, a lion with a human face and a woman with a horse’s head), birds, fish, nagas, human figures and demigods such as yakshas, yakshis and kinnars. Stupa 3 was built during the Shunga period (second century BCE) and the gateway was added during the first century C.E. Most motifs and scenes appearing on the gateway are similar to the ones on the Mahastupa except the scene of Indra’s paradise. Relics and reliquaries of two of the Buddha’s closest disciples, Sariputta and Mahamogalana, were found in Stupa 3.

Sanchi also has small votive stupas in the vicinity of the larger ones. They mostly contained funerary remains of devout members of the laity. Individuals could sponsor the casting of votive stupas in order to gain merit and improve one’s karma.

Temples belonging to different periods from the second century BCE onwards are also found in Sanchi. The earlier structural temples, belonging to the Shunga period, were mostly apsidal in plan, but squarish temples began to be built during the Gupta period, from the fifth century onwards.

The Buddha was not worshipped in a human form by the followers of the Hinayana school. However, from the first/second century C.E., Buddha images began to be built and enshrined in Buddhist temples, which also started appearing.

The shift from the veneration of stupas and symbols and relics of the Buddha to the worshipping of the Buddha and the Bodhisattvas in the form of images in shrines reflected the impact of Mahayana Buddhism.

Temples 17 and 18 are particularly important. Temple 18 is built on a raised platform and is apsidal in plan like the Buddhist rock-cut temples of Bhaja and Karla. It consists of an apse, a central nave and side aisles. The pillars are very high (5.18 m) with a square shaft and octagonal necking. The inner doorway has figures of river goddesses Ganga (identifiable by her vehicle, the crocodile) and Jamuna. These goddesses begin to appear on temple doorways from the Gupta period. The three different floors of the temple belong to the Maurya, the Shunga and the later Gupta periods.

Temple 17, built around the fifth century, is a flat-roofed structure with a front portico supported by four pillars. The doorway at the entrance has floral patterns and the door jams have images of Ganga and Jamuna. The shrine has no image now, but Captain Fred G. Maisey, the 19th century explorer, reported the presence of an early-medieval style Buddha image seated on a lotus throne supported by lions and inscribed with Buddhist mantras.

There are also a number of free-standing pillars in Sanchi, most of which exist in bits and pieces. The earliest of them is Pillar 10, which was erected by Asoka near the southern gateway. Pillar 35, near the northern gateway, is surmounted by a figure of Vajrapani. The capital now lies in the site museum.

Excavations and Relic-huntingSanchi remained deserted from the 13th century onwards, only to be rediscovered by the British officer General Taylor in 1818. Repairs and preservation work were, however, taken up only in 1881 by Major Cole. Another person who worked very hard (between 1912 and 1919) to bring the monuments to their present condition was John Marshall, the then Director General of the Archaeological Survey of India. He set up a small site museum to house the loose antiquities found during the course of repair and renovation.

On the dark side, however, the rich sculptures and carvings of the stupa complex attracted amateur archaeologists and treasure hunters, some of whom ravaged the site. In 1822, Captain Johnson, Assistant Political Agent in Bhopal, opened up Stupa 1 from top to bottom on one side. This left a great breach resulting in the collapse of the western gateway and a part of the enclosing balustrade.

In 1851, Alexander Cunningham, together with Captain Maisey, excavated Stupas 2 and 3 and found relic caskets of Sariputta and Mahamogalana within. A shaft was sunk at the centre of the Mahastupa, but no relics were found there.

The story of the discovery of relics and reliquaries of the two Buddhist saints by Cunningham and Maisey from Stupa 3 at Sanchi; the journey of the relics to England and their eventual purchase by the Victoria and Albert Museum; a protracted agitation by Buddhists in England, Sri Lanka and India led by the Maha Bodhi Society; the return of the relics by England and their tour of Asia and final re-enshrinement at Sanchi in 1952 presents an interesting account of relic adventurism by colonial fortune seekers and a subcontinental Buddhist nationalist effort to get the relics back. The journeys of the relics have also been a subject of debate among historians.

There are also demands for the return of artefacts taken from another stupa. The government of Andhra Pradesh is making serious efforts to seek the return of several artefacts and sculptures excavated from the Amaravathi stupa and taken to London, where they are now on display at the British Museum.


Major exhibition of masterpieces from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, presented in Houston in October

Posted: Wednesday, July 13, 2016 7:00 pm

Community Report

This fall, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, will open Emperors’ Treasures: Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Taipei, a major exhibition of more than 160 works of art from the renowned collections of the National Palace Museum, Taipei.

The exhibition features a unique selection of paintings, calligraphy, bronzes, and decorative arts, such as porcelain, textiles, enamels, and jade, and will be on view in Houston from Oct. 23, to Jan. 22.

Co-organized by the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the National Palace Museum, Taipei, the exhibition is composed of treasures that have rarely been displayed outside of Taipei. Highlights include a white pottery vase from the 11th century, a supreme example of the art of the Chinese potter; landscape paintings by court artists of the 12th century; a calligraphy by the Emperor Huizong in his distinctive style; a “chicken cup” produced in the mid-Ming period, for centuries the most sought after of all porcelain wares on account of its superb quality; fine silk tapestries little known outside China; and the Qianlong emperor’s box of small treasures.

Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, commented, “We are grateful to the National Palace Museum, Taipei, and the Asian Art Museum for making this exhibition possible. The collections of imperial treasures housed at the National Palace Museum, Taipei, are unmatched in rarity and scope, and we are thrilled to be able to provide Houston audiences with the special opportunity to experience these remarkable objects in person.”

“The artworks and objects displayed in Emperors’ Treasures celebrate the cultural contributions of these significant imperial rulers, illustrating their roles as distinguished patrons of art, and often, as gifted artists,” added James Watt, consulting curator and curator emeritus of the department of Asian art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. “The exhibition exposes visitors to the art of this important period, including many works and objects never before seen in the U.S.”

Emperors’ Treasures presents examples of the finest craftsmanship and imperial taste, exploring the roles that eight emperors and one empress—who ruled between the early-12th-century Song dynasty and the early-20th-century Qing dynasty—had in the establishment and development of new artistic directions through the masterpieces they collected and commissioned, and in some cases, created.

The exhibition will illuminate the legacies of Emperors Song Huizong (r. 1100–1125), Kublai Khan (r. 1260–94), Yongle (r. 1403–24), Xuande (r. 1425–35), Kangxi (r. 1662–1722), Yongzheng (r. 1723–35), Qianlong (r. 1735–96), and Empress Dowager Cixi (r. 1861–1908), revealing how each ruler developed his or her distinct aesthetic and influenced the production of the imperial workshops under their reign.

Through the examination of each work’s subject, style, and type of craftsmanship, Emperors’ Treasures outlines how Chinese art came to evolve and flourish under Han Chinese, Mongol, and Manchu rulers.

The exhibition will be accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue published by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, where the exhibition will be on view from June 17 to Sept. 18.

This exhibition is co-organized by the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and the National Palace Museum, Taipei.

The presentation in Houston is a collaboration between the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston; the Asian Art Museum; and the National Palace Museum.


Chance fall in Udon Thani unearths Bronze Age pots

Chance fall in Udon Thani unearths Bronze Age pots
Stephen Young

The Ban Chiang National Museum in Udon Thani is a World Heritage archaeology site. Many of the artefacts of the 5,000-year-old village are on display here and at the National Museum in Bangkok (Photo by Wassayos Ngamkham)
Fifty years ago in the summer of 1966 in the Udon Thani village of Ban Chiang, I tripped over an exposed tree root, fell on my face in the dirt and so discovered a never-before-known Bronze Age culture.
Ban Chiang village is now a Unesco World Heritage site. A big museum has been built there containing a framed, rough outline drawing of me falling down in front of a tree. Villagers sell to tourists refrigerator magnets each covered with a copy of that black and white drawing, making me famous to some I suppose. But I get no royalties.
New finds and excavations over the past half century have proven the old Ban Chiang and similar cultures were widespread over mainland Southeast Asia.
These finds have overthrown the received history of Asia which was China-centric. Now we know that Southeast Asia was not a cultural vacuum to be filled with imports from China, India, and later Europe.
The ancient history of Southeast Asia is now an established fact just as the Chinese are asserting imperialist military claims to the South China Sea and are using warlike rhetoric against the United States for our attempts to block their expansionist ambitions.
The Ban Chiang Project is online at this link.
China’s current claims to traditional hegemony over Southeast Asia are bogus, as recent archaeology has proven.
The Ban Chiang Museum and the Thai Fine Arts Department graciously asked me to come back and speak at a conference in Udon Thani convened to mark the 50th anniversary of my serendipitous stumble.
My stumble has become a big deal. How many people do you know have ever found a Bronze Age culture.
I wasn’t sure for a while what to say. I felt a need to address openly two groups who had never really reconciled themselves to my role as the “discoverer” of the Ban Chiang Bronze Age culture.
Some Thais are not all that happy that a foreigner was chosen by fate to bring the site to notice and so to get special attention. And only by unwitting accident, too.
Second, many professional archaeologists are similarly resentful that one of their tribe is not the discoverer but only a political science undergraduate, someone not trained at all in the science of archaeology.
So I looked for a way to talk about chance and mindfulness which would honour those feelings but yet still leave us all with a constructive way as to how to live when chance happens.
So what happened to me in Ban Chiang 50 years ago?
First, I was there entirely by chance. I was directed to one village out of a thousand or so by a French Jesuit archaeologist in Bangkok when I was looking for a place to interview villagers on their views on politics for a senior honours thesis at Harvard College under the supervision of Prof Samuel Huntington.
Then, one day after arriving in Ban Chiang — again by chance — I turned right down a short-cut path instead of going straight ahead the long way around.
Third, walking on the narrow path sloping downwards, I was talking with my village host, Siripong, who was walking to my left. I was looking at him as we talked and not ahead.
I missed seeing the tree roots in the dirt running from a tree on my right to the left across the path. So, by chance, I tripped and fell on my face.
As Siripong grabbed my left arm to help me up, I saw a circle in the dirt, the same colour as the dirt. But then I saw a second, third, fourth, and more all grouped together.
I asked Siripong: “What are these?”
“Old pots,'’ he replied.
I thought: “Of course, anyone can see they are old pots!”
But then my mind opened and the mindfulness part of the episode kicked in.
“How old?” I wondered. That is the big question.
At that point I happened to see some 30 metres away two little boys breaking off pieces of the pots at their rims and throwing them in a game of toss and keep.
So I followed suit. I quickly broke off shards from three pots and examined them.
Prof Stephen B Young, now Global Executive Director of the Caux Round Table and a visiting faculty member at Sasin Graduate Institute Of Business Administration, received an award marking the 50th anniversary of Ban Chiang village from Anant Chuchote, director-general of the the Fine Arts Department. (Photo courtesy Sasin)
Now I was mindful of old Thai art and pottery because my parents had seen to my education in that way, especially my mother, Patricia Morris Young, recently deceased.
In 1961, Dad had been sent by President Kennedy to be the US Ambassador to Thailand. He had insisted we kids learn to speak Thai. He took lessons too. Mum, with her love of art history took us to more museums and lectures than we care to remember to learn about Thai art and history.
So in 1966 — perhaps also by chance — my mind was somewhat cognisant of what to look for in old pottery shards.
I quickly saw the shards had no glaze on their surfaces — a sign of primitive manufacture. They had grains of rice and rice husks in the clay still visible — a sign of low firing temperature and so of primitive technology.
And, most importantly, each piece in my hands had been painted with superb designs in red, each one different from the other, and all unlike anything ever found in Thailand.
I sensed they were very old and important and saw that the site was large. I was standing where hundreds of pots were poking up through the surface of the dirt path.
So as unobtrusively as I could I collected some specimen pots and took them back to experts in Bangkok and the Ban Chiang Bronze Age was then officially discovered.
I went back to Harvard College to write my thesis and finish my senior year.
Yet my mindfulness one day in 1966 in a small village in northeastern Thailand turned chance into history.
What happens to us by chance — for good or bad — gives us opportunities to take charge, to use our minds, to think, to draw on our education, our insights, our courage, to do right, and so to shape the history of our times.
We are not necessarily always pawns of those in power or victims of bad luck. Each of us has a capacity to engage with destiny and shape it.
Stephen B Young is Global Executive Director of Caux Round Table.

Bangkok Post


Buddha Triad from the Three Kingdoms period


Name: Stele of Buddha Triad and a Thousand Buddhas with Inscription of the “Gyeyu Year”

Period: Unified Silla Period

Location: Gongju City, South Chungcheong Province

Status: National Treasure No. 108

Discovered at a Buddhist hermitage called Seogwangam located in Jochiwon, Yeongi-gun in Chungcheongnam-do, this monumental stele is filled with Buddhist images and inscriptions carved in relief.

It features a Buddha triad carved prominently on the lower part of the front face with its sides filled with inscriptions.

The rest of the front face, the rear and both sides are covered with carvings of tiny Buddhist images.

The Buddha triad placed on a semicircular base decorated with lotuses features a principal Buddha seated on a cubic pedestal with two acolytes on both sides.

The Buddha is heavily damaged, losing most of its details except for the robe that covers both shoulders, which is drawn down to cover most of the pedestal.

The two bodhisattvas attending him are also heavily damaged, but their inner robes crossed over the knee, which shows that the monument was made during the Three Kingdoms Period (57 BCE - 668 AD).


Ancient Shrine That May Hold Buddha’s Skull Bone Found in Crypt

A skull bone of the Buddha was found inside this gold casket, which was stored in a silver casket within the stupa model, found in a crypt beneath a Buddhist temple.

Credit: Photo courtesy of Chinese Cultural RelicsArchaeologists have discovered what may be a skull bone from the revered Buddha, Siddhartha Gautama. The bone was hidden inside a model of a stupa, or a Buddhist shrine used for meditation.

The research team found the 1,000-year-old model within a stone chest in a crypt beneath a Buddhist temple in Nanjing, China. Inside the stupa model archaeologists found the remains of Buddhist saints, including a parietal (skull) bone that inscriptions say belonged to the Buddha himself.

The model is made of sandalwood, silver and gold, and is covered with gemstones made of crystal, glass, agate and lapis lazuli, a team of archaeologists reported in an article published in the journal Chinese Cultural Relics.


Excavations at Sannati and Kanaganahalli reveal many facets about Ashoka and Buddha

Sannati and Kanaganahalli villages, resting indolently on the backwaters of Karnataka in Kalaburagi district, were relatively unknown to the rest of India, leave alone the world. However, the discovery of a nearly 2000-year-old Buddhist Stupa and the first inscribed portrait of Emperor Ashoka, among others in a wave of archaeological excavations that began in 1986, put an end to their anonymity.

The A Sundara-led excavation in 1986-87 had revealed the existence of a rectangular brick structure, now presumed to be the stupa’s citadel beside the Bhima river at Ranamandala in Sannati. The size of the bricks used range from 39cm x 20cm x 6.5cm to 40cm x 30cm x 7cm. Former joint Archaelogical Survey of India (ASI) director general KR Poonacha, who was involved in the excavations, said the department secured the stupa when the Karnataka government built a barrage at Sannati in 1990.

“We explored 24 villages and discovered cultural artefacts dating back to lower and Middle Paleolithic, Mesolithic and Neolithic periods. It provided significant information regarding the cultural ramifications in the area. A trial excavation conduced by ASI Bengaluru Circle revealed the plan of a giant stupa, built using local limestone. Remains of ‘pradakshinapatha’, depicting Dharma Chakra, Jetavana, Vajrasana, etc. also came to light. Encouraged, the team took up a systematic horizontal excavation of the mound spread across an area of 3,600 square metres in later years,” he said.

However, a full-scale excavation at Sannati commenced only in 1997. Monument attendant Hazeemsab Mulla recalled how he was trained for months in the handling of archaeological remains during the excavation. Seetaram Joshi, manager, Chandralamba Seva Sangh, Sannati recollected how ASI officer Kapatral Krishnarao identified relics of Buddhist faith. “He was a devotee of Dhandralamba and used to come here. He spotted a stone at the temple and found that it belonged to the Mauryan or Shatavahan era. The ASI then started a serious exploration,” he added.

While examining a possible image of Yaksha in Hassargundi village near Sannati, Poonacha identified the ancient town as Santimati, from which the name of Sannati village is derived.

Assistant archaeologist in Kalaburagi sub-circle, Kishor Raghubans mentioned how a team of experts comprising MV Vishweshwarayya, Poonacha, CS Sheshadri, Praveen Singh, Lingaraj, RS Athani, among others, played a vital role in the protection of Sannati’s monuments, dating from 3 BC to 2 AD.

The excavations have not only ignited the curiosity of historians and archaeologists, even the lay public in the nearby villages appear to have been swept up in the wave of the discoveries. A hill located in Shahapur, with no known archaeological significance, is now called ‘Sleeping Buddha’ by the people, who firmly believe the hill resembles the Buddha’s sleeping posture.

“Senior Congress leader Mallikarjun Kharge, who took a keen interest in the area, had initially wanted to construct a stupa in Sannati. However, Rudrayya, an engineer with the irrigation department, suggested the idea of a Vihar. It was completed after eight years in 2009, and was inaugurated by the then President of India Pratibha Patil,” said Ishwar Ingan, an administrator of the Vihar.

How to get there?

While the site falls under the limits of Kanaganahalli village, it is more popularly known as Sannati, since the fields were once owned by a Sannati villager. The site can be reached either from Kalaburagi, which lies 70km away or via Nalwar, 17km away. From Kalaburagi, tourists need to reach the Bengaluru highway and touch Shahapur, before reaching the destination via Shirwala village.

The site, spread across 23 acres, was purchased by the Chikkamath family in the 1980s. ASI has constructed three sheds and a large room that houses the remains and statues that are inventoried regularly and appointed 21 guards to secure the place. While entry to the site is free, permission from Dharwad’s ASI office is necessary for photography and videography.

Buddha Museum to attract tourists and research:

The Karnataka Housing Board has built a huge Buddha museum beside the site of the stupa. The district administration has said it will be handed over to the ASI once the necessary renovations on the structure are completed. Karnataka tourism minister Priyank Kharge expressed the hope that research programmes would held at the museum in the future. A 1.2km stretch of the road connecting Sannati to the site needs to be developed and the state government has sanctioned Rs 40 lakh for their improvement.

Priyank Kharge, who represents the Chittapur constituency, is eager to develop the site. “The many finds in Sannati are helping historians fill gaps in the country’s knowledge of the Emperor Ashoka,” he said.

(with inputs from Mounesh Sonnad)

Broaden scope of study:

Poonacha believes the site remains an area of immense archaeological interest. “It was a major socio-economic centre during the Shatavahana period. The ASI needs to develop a proper plan for excavation. The state government has earmarked Rs 2 crore and if the district administration repairs the connecting road, Sannati will emerge as a major tourist hub,” he said.

While the ASI’s many initiatives in the area have drawn praise from all quarters, there are also mild rumblings over the pace and limited scope of the excavations. Joshi believes that the restoration work will consequently lead to more tourists. In October 2015, Buddhist monk Bhante Tissavro, who heads the Bodh Gaya-based Budh Avsesh Bachao organisation had emphasised the need to widen the scope of the explorations.

The first inscribed portrait of Ashoka discovered at Sannati:

The discovery of the first inscribed portrait of Emperor Ashoka, named Raya Ashoka, was discovered in the stupa, attracting the interest of the international archaeological community. It has also shed light on his forays into South India. While Ashoka’s empire extended deep into the south, there is still no definitive proof of Ashoka’s sojourn here, said Raghubans. “We can assume that he and his children, Mahendra and Sanghamitra, might have passed through this region,” he added.


Review: Chinese treasures spanning 1,000 years at Asian Art Museum

Review: Chinese treasures spanning 1,000 years at Asian Art Museum

By Robert Taylor, Correspondent

The exhibit “Emperors’ Treasures” has brought nearly 150 Chinese artworks from the National Palace Museum in Taipei to the Bay Area.

On view at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum through Sept. 18, these represent just a small fraction of the 700,000-object treasure trove in the Taiwan museum’s collection.

Though founded in 1925 in the Forbidden City of what is now Beijing, the museum treasures were moved from the mainland during the Chinese civil war, which left the Communists in control of the People’s Republic of China in 1949, and the Nationalists in control of Taiwan. The island is located some 110 miles off the coast of the People’s Republic — 1,100 miles from Beijing.

A porcelain vase with underglaze decoration showing West Asian entertainers-- created in Jiangxi during the reign of Ming dynasty Emperor Yongle(1403 1424)

A porcelain vase with underglaze decoration showing West Asian entertainers — created in Jiangxi during the reign of Ming dynasty Emperor Yongle (1403 1424) — is featured in “Emperors’ Treasures” at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum. (© National Palace Museum, Taipei)

The title of the San Francisco show may suggest a spectacular display of imperial fortune. But instead of a blockbuster, Jay Xu — director of the National Palace Museum and curator of the show at the Asian — gives us an intimate look at choice objects spanning 1,000 years of Chinese cultural history.

“This is the absolute ‘best of the best’ of Chinese imperial art,” Xu said last week at the Asian, pointing out that the exhibit explores the lives of eight rulers — seven emperors and one empress. Their taste, Xu noted, “created standards of beauty and elegance across Chinese culture.”

Tracking the exhibit from dynasty to dynasty through the Asian Art Museum’s four galleries, one finds enough stunning works to satisfy any aficionado of Asian art — paintings on silk scrolls, intricately carved lacquerware and Ming vases, plus jewelry and ornaments of gold, pearls, jade and turquoise.

You can go simply to enjoy the beauty, workmanship, rarity and value of these works. (A porcelain wine cup like one on display recently sold for more than $36 million.)

But those interested in the history will find the museum’s superb labels and wall texts, augmented by large detailed photographs, tremendously helpful.

There’s also a video demonstrating the “slender-gold” style of calligraphy devised by Emperor Huizong in the 12th century as well as an interactive screen with which visitors can explore the Forbidden City, where these treasures were once housed.

The simplicity of some early works makes them look strikingly modern. A cobalt blue cup and saucer from the Yuan dynasty (1271-1368) would be the envy of a 20th century Art Deco collector. A rugged-looking ritual bronze bell from the Song dynasty (960-1127) could be a model for contemporary California metal crafters.

This ritual dou vessel with phoenix-shaped handles -- created in copperalloy with cloisonné enamel inlays by the Imperial Workshop during thereign of Qing

This ritual dou vessel with phoenix-shaped handles — created in copper alloy with cloisonné enamel inlays by the Imperial Workshop during the reign of Qing dynasty Emperor Yongzheng (1723 1735) — is featured in “Emperors’ Treasures” at San Francisco’s Asian Art Museum. (© National Palace Museum, Taipei)

Other works are exquisitely detailed and ornately worked on a surprisingly small scale.

A glass vase painted with bold red peony blossoms (from the reign of Emperor Kangxi, 1662-1722) looks massive in the museum’s photographs and catalog, but it’s merely 5 inches tall. A gold and pearl “Buddha of Boundless Life” is a 3-inch-tall ornament for Emperor Qianlong (who ruled 1736-1795). He would have worn it on the front of a court hat at his summer retreat.

Over the centuries, the exhibit points out, Chinese dynasties established their legitimacy through art and culture. Some rulers developed and promoted their own talent.

Emperor Huizong was a calligrapher. Ming dynasty emperor Xuande was an accomplished painter. The Qing dynasty Emperor Qianlong was a comprehensive collector in the 18th century. His holdings make up the core of the imperial collection.

Given the 1,000 years of culture on display, it may be a shock to discover in the final gallery a photograph of the Dowager Empress Cixi, taken inside the Imperial Palace in 1903. On the cultural side, she recruited female artists to work in her Studio of Great Elegance. Politically, she was a powerful figure. It was Cixi who selected the boy who would be China’s last emperor.

From 13th century calligraphy to the novel 19th century stone that resembles a serving of pork belly, the collection prompts questions that transcend artistic merit. How did all this survive China’s tumultuous history, the rebellions and world wars? How did these works get to Taiwan?

The Palace Museum was opened in Beijing to protect and display these artifacts. After Japan invaded China, tens of thousands of items were moved, beginning in 1933, to Shanghai and Nanjing, then southwest to the interior.

After World War II, in the midst of China’s civil war, the Nationalist government moved much of the artwork to Taiwan. International efforts brought it back to life. In 1957, a grant from the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation led to the first public display of the artwork since 1932. A new National Palace Museum opened in Taipei in 1965. Selections from the collection were last seen in San Francisco in 1996.

“Emperors’ Treasures” has its own international and multicultural presence.

A stunning Ming Dynasty porcelain vase is decorated with figures of West Asian — not Chinese — musicians and dancers. Its flask-like shape is based on Islamic metalware. The only similar vase is at the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey.

A ritual “dou” vessel on a pedestal combines Western-style enamels with a traditional Chinese bronze shape. A delicate 18th-century pitcher includes Chinese ornamentation and a painting of a European mother and child. It would fit in perfectly on Marie Antoinette’s breakfast table.

“White Falcon,” an 18th century painting on silk, can be admired for its composition and evocative detail, but the story behind it is even more remarkable. It was painted by Giuseppe Castiglione, a Jesuit missionary from Italy who was dispatched to China in 1715 by the Portuguese Evangelical Society.

An accomplished painter in his early 20s, Castiglione became a court artist and teacher under three emperors and took the name “Lang Shining.” In a tribute to international culture, and possibly diplomacy, after his death in 1766 he was buried in the Jesuit cemetery outside Beijing with the posthumous title of “Master to the Regal Manor.”

‘Emperors’ Treasures

Chinese Art from the National Palace Museum, Taipei’
Through: Sept. 18, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday, until 9 p.m. Thursday
Where: Asian Art Museum, 200 Larkin St., San Francisco
Admission: $15-$20 weekdays, $20-$25 weekends; 415-581-3500, www.asianart.org


US Photographer Josh Bulriss on Searching for Lost Buddhas Across Asia

US Photographer Josh Bulriss on Searching for Lost Buddhas Across Asia

A Buddha of the Gal Vihara rock temple in Polonnaruwa, Sri Lanka.
(Courtesy Josh Bulriss)
Photographer Josh Bulriss, from upstate New York, is on a mission. Torrential rain is flooding the ancient city of Polonnaruwa in Sri Lanka. But he has learned that persistence pays off, and upon reaching the 12th Century rock temple of Gal Vihara, soaked to the skin, he is in his element, capturing images of Buddha that have been carved in granite by Sinhalese sculptures some 800 years ago.

Bulriss is traveling all across Asia in search of Buddhas, many of them lost or unknown to most visitors. “There was a cave in Vang Vieng, Laos, that I was planning to photograph,” he says. “Until I arrived and realized it was not there. It had been pushed over a cliff inside the cave, you could only see it now from far above, led between rocks.”

Fascinated by Buddhism from his first trip to Asia ten years ago, Bulriss has built a strong fanbase for his art works and prints online, especially on social media Instagram where he has built a following of over 33,000 people who find inspiration from his work, and Buddhist sayings he shares with them.

“About 15 years ago I began travelling with a trip to Hawaii, and when I returned home I shared my photos with family and friends. They all said the same thing ‘these look like postcards’ and I realized I had a natural eye for composition,” he says. “In a desire for further feedback I wrote to a couple of professional photographers and shared my work. The reaction was the same,” he adds.

Having started shooting things that brought him peace, he spent an extensive amount of time in Asia, evolving his work in to a focus on Buddhism, mixing his paintings with original shots in obscure locations. “I want people to own something original and unique,” he says.

Now he’s back on the road for “The Buddha Project,” aiming to be the first photographer to capture a variety of Buddhas from across Asia. The collection will be produced in his first fine-art book. Artinfo caught up with Burliss to discover some of the stories behind the famous shots.

When did you first become inspired to focus your photography on Buddhism? 

I felt that my work slowly evolved in that direction from the amount of time I have spent in Asia (two and a half years all together) submerged in Buddhist culture and just my real interest in learning more about Buddhism. It was a slow progression, not something that just happened over night.

How did the Buddha Project come about?

I always wanted to create a fine art style book of Buddhist images from my journeys along side beautiful quotes that were inspiring. But I didn’t have enough images I felt to make that happen. My real push was after my mother passed away. I decided to begin a new “Buddha Project” to finish what I felt I already started. She always pushed me to do what I love and follow my dream and it had been four years since I was in Asia.

What’s your favorite image so far and why?

I would have to go with “Buddha Hand” a photo I took in Bali, Indonesia. The contrast, texture, and color really make this a unique photo. And the story is quite interesting as well. I shot it in Ubud, and I love to travel light, so I only had one lens on me at the time and that lens was having some major issues.

Every time I would take one photo, my camera would turn off. It was a problem with the connection from the lens to the camera. So I would have to hold the lens partially attached to the camera and turn it a certain way for my camera to work for just long enough to take one shot. I learned a very important lesson that day to always have at least a small back up lens while traveling. But luckily I pulled off one of my favorite shots during that time period. And one of my most popular images.

On your latest trip, what was your most unexpected or inspiring experience?

When I arrived in Phonsavan, Laos, there was a Buddha cave that I was eager to photograph. A farmer found this cave 11 years ago while farming his land. He saw some bats flying out of a hole, and was just curious where they were coming from. When he looked inside he saw over 200 ancient Buddha statues standing in the cave. He wasn’t sure if he should tell anyone, or sell them himself. He decided to tell people and make it a place of worship.

I couldn’t find too much about the cave or find many photos. I traveled over seven hours by bus to get there, then at the entrance was a sign “no photography.” My heart sank… I went inside and just sat in awe. The farmer told me I could photograph the cave, but no Buddhas. So I left discouraged. Then I saw a boat about to go into the cave and three monks walking up. So I backed off and let the monks go ahead to sit on the front of the boat. It turned out to be one of my favorite pictures from the entire trip and showed me that you have to be able to adjust and be ready for change, and never give up.

Do you have a favorite Buddha?

I would have to go with the half-buried Buddha at Inle Lake, Myanmar. It’s just amazing to see this beautiful Buddha Half buried under rubble, sticking out so beautifully. The best part is the journey by boat to get there.

What are your hopes for the book?

I hope the book will inspire people to follow their dreams and continue working on the things they love most. I have always dreamed of having enough photos to finish a book and now I do. I think that the quotes and photos can help people on their day-to-day journey when they need something uplifting.

Click “Slideshow” to see images from “The Buddha Project.”


The Hand Gestures in Thai Buddha Statues Have Their Own Meanings

Buddhism started in India hundreds of years ago. From India it spread to the rest of the world. The culture of Buddhism was absorbed by the new country instead of imposing itself on the country’s own culture. Because of this, Thai Buddhism is different than Indian Buddhism. One thing that is unique about the Thai Buddha statues is their gestures.

While many of the mudras, or hand positions, are similar, there is one gesture that is completely unique to Thailand. That is the reclining Buddha. This position is unique to Thailand and Laos. These countries share much including the hand gestures of Buddha statues.

There are 6 main madras, other than using an arm as a pillow in the case of a reclining Buddha, that are associated with Thai Buddha statues.

Mediation, pang sa-maa-ti or dhyana mudra. This gesture is usually shown with a seated Buddha. Buddha’s hands are palms up, flat in his lap. This position shows the mental concentration that Buddha is using to discipline himself and his mind.

Absence of fear, pang bpra-taan a-pi or abhaya mudra. When the hands of the Buddha are shown in this position it symbolizes Buddha either being fearless in the face of a foe or adversity, or admonishing others to be so. While this is usually seen with a standing Buddha it also shows up in a seated Buddha. There are two variations. One is one arm bent at both the wrist and the elbow. The fingers are pointing up and the palm is facing out. When it is the right hand it is called calming animals. If it is both hands the position is called forbidding the relatives.

Charity, pang bpra-taa pon or varana mudra. The Buddha’s right hand is pointing down with his palm facing front and the fingers are extended. This is most often seen on a standing Buddha and is associated with him either receiving or giving offerings of charity.

Touching the Earth, pang maa-ra-wi-chai or bhumisparsa mudra. When this position is on Thai Buddha statues it can also be called Buddha subduing Mara. Mara was a demon that tempted Budda. His right hand is on his leg with the features touching the Earth, sometimes only symbolically. Buddha is renouncing all worldly desire. This is the most often seen position.

Setting the wheel in motion, dharmachakra mudra. The index and thumb of each hard are touching each other with the fingers of the left hand on the right palm. The fingers from the left hand are touching the right palm. This is a very rare position. It refers to when he set the wheel of his life in motion in his first sermon.

Reasoning and exposition, vitarka mudra. The thumb and index finger of one hand, usually the right are brought together with the remaining fingers pointing up. The arm and hand is bent at the elbow and the wrist. This is often seen as a call to peace because Buddha is trying appeal to logic and reasoning.


Revealed: Cambodia’s vast medieval cities hidden beneath the jungle

Archaeologists in Cambodia have found multiple, previously undocumented medieval cities not far from the ancient temple city of Angkor Wat, the Guardian can reveal, in groundbreaking discoveries that promise to upend key assumptions about south-east Asia’s history.

The Australian archaeologist Dr Damian Evans, whose findings will be published in the Journal of Archaeological Science on Monday, will announce that cutting-edge airborne laser scanning technology has revealed multiple cities between 900 and 1,400 years old beneath the tropical forest floor, some of which rival the size of Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh.

Some experts believe that the recently analysed data – captured in 2015 during the most extensive airborne study ever undertaken by an archaeological project, covering 734 sq miles (1,901 sq km) – shows that the colossal, densely populated cities would have constituted the largest empire on earth at the time of its peak in the 12th century.

Evans said: “We have entire cities discovered beneath the forest that no one knew were there – at Preah Khan of Kompong Svay and, it turns out, we uncovered only a part of Mahendraparvata on Phnom Kulen [in the 2012 survey] … this time we got the whole deal and it’s big, the size of Phnom Penh big.”
The new cities were found by firing lasers to the ground from a helicopter to produce extremely detailed imagery of the Earth’s surface. Evans said the airborne laser scanners had also identified large numbers of mysterious geometric patterns formed from earthen embankments, which could have been gardens.

Experts in the archaeological world agree these are the most significant archaeological discoveries in recent years.

Michael Coe, emeritus professor of anthropology at Yale University and one of the world’s pre-eminent archaeologists, specialises in Angkor and the Khmer civilisation.

“I think that these airborne laser discoveries mark the greatest advance in the past 50 or even 100 years of our knowledge of Angkorian civilisation,” he said from Long Island in the US.

“I saw Angkor for the first time in 1954, when I wondered at the magnificent temples, but there was nothing to tell us who had lived in the city, where they had lived, and how such an amazing culture was supported. To a visitor, Angkor was nothing but temples and rice paddies.”


Charles Higham, research professor at the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, and the leading archaeologist of mainland south-east Asia, said it was the most exciting paper he could recall reading.

“I have been to all the sites described and at a stroke, they spring into life … it is as if a bright light has been switched on to illuminate the previous dark veil that covered these great sites,” Higham said. “Personally, it is wonderful to be alive as these new discoveries are being made. Emotionally, I am stunned. Intellectually, I am stimulated.”

David Chandler, emeritus professor at Monash University in Melbourne, Australia, the foremost expert on Cambodian history and the author of several books and articles on the subject, said the work was thrilling and credited Evans and his colleagues with “rewriting history”.
Chandler said he believed it would open up a series of perspectives that would help people know more about Angkorian civilisation, and how it flourished and eventually collapsed.

“It will take time for their game-changing findings to drift into guide books, tour guides, and published histories,” Chandler said. “But their success at putting hundreds of nameless, ordinary, Khmer-speaking people back into Cambodia’s past is a giant step for anyone trying to deal with Cambodian history.”

David Kyle, an archaeologist and ecological anthropologist has conducted projects at Phnom Kulen, the location of the biggest findings, the massive city of Mahendraparvata, the size of Phnom Penh, beneath the forest floor.

He said the “survey results have revolutionised our understanding and approaches. It’s impossible not to be excited. It facilitates a paradigm shift in our comprehension of the complexity, size and the questions we can address.”

While the 2012 survey identified a sprawling, highly urbanised landscape at Greater Angkor, including rather “spectacularly” in the “downtown” area of the temple-city of Angkor Wat, the 2015 project has revealed a similar pattern of equally intense urbanism at remote archaeological ruins, including pre- and post-Angkorian sites.

check the full article with pictures https://www.theguardian.com/world/2016/jun/11/lost-city-medieval-discovered-hidden-beneath-cambodian-jungle