06: Buddhist Art and Architecture

Tue., Aug. 19th, 09:00-17:30

The Statue of the Goddess and the Bodhisattva. Hekate’s Journey from Athens to the Ganges

Cargill, Angus (Northern Consortium of UK Universities, Beijing, CHN)

If the commentary on the Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha in the Pāli Canon is to be believed, when the young Siddhārtha Gautama looked around the principal assembly hall, or saṃsthāgāra, of his Śākya people, he may have seen something very unusual: statues from Greece “holding lamps.” What could this little-known episode in Buddhist history tell us about the cultural environment in which the historical Buddha grew up, and could it help to shed light on the process of iconographical realisation in early Buddhist cultures?

In the late Sri Lankan Professor G.P. Malalasekera’s “Buddhist Dictionary of Pāli Proper Names,” he tells us that, “Yonakā, statues, holding lamps, were among the decorations used by the Sākiyans [Śākyans] of Kapilavatthu [Skt. Kapilavastu] (MA.ii.575).” (Malalasekera 2003: “Yonā, Yavanā, Yonakā.”) Presumably, “statues…used by the Sākiyans” means that they were displayed in the assembly hall of the Śākyan state in Kapilavastu in present-day southern Nepal. This is an unexpected and enigmatic piece of information, and merits closer attention. First, the Śākyan presence in Kapilavastu can be dated fairly precisely. Towards the end of the life of the historical Buddha, in approximately 400 b.c.e, they were driven out by Vidūdabha of Kosala, and retreated to the Himalayas (Malalasekera 2003: “Sokyā, Sakka, Sākiyā”). Therefore this piece of information must derive from the late fifth or early fourth centuries b.c.e, in other words around seventy years before the arrival of Alexander of Macedon in India in 326 b.c.e. This unexpectedly early use of sculptural decoration in India should cause us to reconsider the use of scuptural decoration as part of Buddhist worship. The partially aniconographic representations of Buddhist religious themes may in fact reflect the relationship between India and other cultures during this period. The aniconographic representation of the Buddha during this period may be a reflection of a parallel methodology in Achaemenid Persia, where Ahura Mazda is represented aniconographically, apparently uniquely so amongst Persian gods of the period.

This paper draws together the history of the relationship between Achaemenid Persia and India during the sixth and fifth centuries b.c.e., and argues that this close relationship may have helped to set the earliest pattern of image representation in Buddhism, in which all beings except for the Buddha himself could be represented.


The Representation of Historical Buddhas in Early Nepalese Art, a Case Study: The Two Buddhas of Kwa Baha, Lalitpur

Graldi, Aurora (University of Vienna, Wien, AUT)

The general aim of this paper is to encourage a discussion on the artistic sources that fostered a Nepalese ‘school’ of sculpture in its formative period (5th-8th centuries C.E.), referring in particular to the representation of isolated standing Buddhas. Despite the abundance of primary evidences, stone sculptures, wood carvings and metal images still preserved in situ or kept in Museums and Private Collections, the aesthetic and iconographical features that framed its indigenous visual vocabulary are not well-established. Previous research described the Nepalese ‘school’ of sculpture as a gradual process of emancipation from the art of North-eastern India. Instead, new art-historical discoveries lead to a re-evaluation of the artistic matrix of Nepalese art and suggest a cultural continuity between the Kathmandu Valley and the Western part of the Himalayas and Central Asia. Indeed, the sculptural tradition of the Licchavi period is part of an extended network of pilgrim and trade routes that connected the different centers of the Buddhist ecumene.

A couple of standing Buddhas kept inside the main shrine of the Kwā Bāhā, which is the largest monastic complex of the Kathmandu Valley, represents an emblematic case study. The two statues, symmetrical and identical, stand on the proper left and right side of kwāpā-dya, the main deity of the monastery, a life-size copper image of Buddha Śākyamuni. They have been documented during my fieldwork in November 2012 and are not on public view, since only initiated priests are allowed to enter the shrine and worship them. These statues are one of the earliest examples of standing Buddhas still preserved inside the original monastic foundation and present a unique formal solution, in which different techniques and materials are combined: the Buddha’s main body is made of wood while the limbs and the head are in gilded copper. It can be interpreted as a deliberate visual choice made by the artist, unusual in the Nepalese artistic milieu, but one that can find its ‘conceptual matrix’ in the Buddhist art of the Western Himalayas and Central Asia.

On the other side, the iconographical lexicon is common: an isolated Buddha with the left hand in varadamudrā while the right grasps the robe up to the shoulder is the most popular way to depict standing Buddhas in the Kathmandu Valley and recurs in different centers of the Himalayas. It is worthy to interpret the symbolical meaning conveyed by this combined gesture in the Nepalese religious context, in which it is labelled by specific Newar liturgical terms. This Buddha, standardized in its iconography since the beginning of the Licchavi period, developed in a distinctive Nepalese ‘image type’, at first in stone sculptures and later on replicated countless times in portable metal images.


The Life of the Buddha in Gandhāran Art and Related Narratives

Juhel, Katia (EPHE, PARIS, FRA)

Between the middle of the Ist century A.D. and the Vth century A.D., the region of Gandhāra has been one of the main centers of a very peculiar artistic production, that strongly testify to the local diffusion of Buddhism. The specificity of this artistic school is to represent events, sometimes secondary, of the life of the Buddha, and to set them in various chronological sequences. During the same period, texts narrating the Buddha's life were possibly known, if not circulating in this very area: among them the Buddhacarita and the Mahāvastu. They have been used in order to identify a given personage or a particular aspect of a figurative scene, proceeding thus by some sort of admitted correspondence or analogy whereas this approach reveals to be problematic.

As a matter of fact indeed, the element under investigation, and even if it apparently denotes a similar meaning, intervenes differently and plays a different role in both media.

Our presentation will aim at demonstrating the importance of an in-depth analysis and identification of the elements and variants specific to each source, as a propedeutic to their confrontation. Having this hypothesis in mind, we will compare some scenes and their sequences with the relevant textual passages, while searching the principles governing the organisation of the singular episodes.


A Peculiar Type of Statue from the Dali Kingdom

Kelényi, Béla (Ferenc Hopp Museum of Eastern Asiatic Arts, Budapest, HUN)

The Tibetan collection of the Ferenc Hopp Museum in Budapest houses the statue of a wrathful deity, which, due to the indeterminacy of its features, defies quick iconographic analysis. It is thought to have been made in the declining years of the Dali Kingdom (937–1253) in what is now China’s Yunnan Province. The iconographic depiction of this deity goes back to the so-called Long Scroll (Ch.: Daliguo Fanxiang tu) now in the collection of the National Palace Museum of Taipei.

Regarding the history of the Long Scroll, it came into the collection of the Qianlong Emperor; this most likely must have taken place between 1744 and 1763. The iconographical characters of the depicted deities are not only related to Tantric Buddhism, since even Chan patriarchs and many local protective gods are represented in it. However, it appears that a number of images of the above mentioned deity came from Tibet, or from nearby lands dominated by Tibetan Buddhism. Although this fact suggests that the cult of this deity existed in Tibet as well, its depictions do not fit any iconographical system used in Tibetan Buddhism. Moreover, in spite of their extraordinary similarity, all of the known types are a little bit different from each other.

The statuary discussed here can be divided into two groups: those created in the Dali Kingdom, and those produced during, or shortly after, the reign of the Qianlong Emperor. The basic type of the deity which appears on the Long Scroll has a golden body, nine heads, eighteen arms, three legs, and two black wings. It is surrounded by a halo of fire; its three legs stand on a triangular yantra, and in each corner of the triangle lies an outstretched human body, embraced with snakes.

To my knowledge, the images of four statues with similar iconographic features have been published, and those four were presumably all made in the Yunnan province during the Dali dynasty. The statue of the Hopp Museum, analyzed in my current research seems to be a fifth, hitherto unpublished example of this particular style. At the same time, we know of four other statues which show the salient iconographic features known from the Long Scroll. Still, those four statues show substantial differences, and they were clearly produced much later, probably during the 18th century. This study aims at exploring the variations of this peculiar deity and at determining which of the known pieces appears to be closest to the image on the Long Scroll. 


Picturing the Buddhist Filial Son in Medieval China

Kyan, Winston (University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT, USA)

A familiar trope in Chinese Buddhism is the Buddhist filial child charged with saving his or her family. Earlier studies have used representations of these children, typically jataka narratives of the Buddha’s previous lives, to illustrate how medieval Chinese Buddhists used filial themes from the Buddhist corpus to challenge Confucian hierarchies. However, the visual function of jataka narratives within the context of Chinese Buddhist iconography and formal development has remained relatively understudied. Within this context, the jataka story of the filial son Shanzi is particularly striking. Charged with caring for his blind parents, Shanzi is mistakenly shot by the king’s arrow while the former is collecting water for his parents and the latter is out hunting. Notably, medieval Chinese representations of this story from the sixth- to the seventh-centuries at Dunhuang show the king in postures of submission before Shanzi’s parents that look back to Huiyuan’s well known treatise of 404 CE “On Why Monks Do Not Bow Down Before Kings” (Shamen bujing wangzhe lun), while looking forward to murals of fully developed filial piety sutras such as the “Repaying Kindness Sutra” (Baoen jing) in ninth- and tenth-century caves at Dunhuang. Accordingly, this paper explores the relationship between representations of the Shanzi jataka and later filial piety sutras within the local context of Dunhuang to argue for a visual function of the Shanzi jataka that complements social, historical, and religious interpretations.


Aspects of Tibetan Geomancy: The Right Timing for the Construction of Buildings and its Influence on the Environment

Maurer, Petra (Bayerische Akademie der Wissenschaften / LMU München, München, GER)

Looking at texts on Tibetan geomancy it seems quite clear that the main focus is on selecting the right site for buildings. However, a closer look at the requirements for construction outlined by sde srid Sangs rgyas rgya mtsho (1653-1705) in the Vaidurya dkar po reveals the importance of the right timing.

Any calculation of time in nag rtsis, that is Sino-Tibetan divination, depends on the elements and their interrelationships as well as the nine sme ba and eight spar kha, divinatory dimensions related to the elements. As time is held to be a combination of these constituents, there is an interrelation between past, present and future time. The interrelation of the three times is determined – as concerns the five elements of water, fire, earth, wood and iron – by the relationship between “self”, mother, son, friend and enemy (rang ma bu dgra grogs). To achieve success, the elements of the time of birth should be in a positive relationship with those of the day on which any proposed activities take place.

Therefore, the future owner of a house needs his date of birth in order to find a suitable time to start the construction. Furthermore, time and space are interwoven because of the relationship between the elements and the directions: the personal element determines a person’s relationship to the environment.

The presentation will elucidate the calculation of the right time for construction and analyze the connection between past, present and future according to the Tibetan nag-rtsis system.


Buddhist Music in the Shingon Schools: A Study of the Transmission of Vocalizing Kōshiki (Buddhist Ceremonials) on Kōyasan

Mross, Michaela (Georg-August-Universität Göttingen, Göttingen, GER)

The liturgical genre of kōshiki developed in the late tenth century in the context of Pure Land belief within the Tendai tradition. In the following centuries this genre spread throughout all Buddhist schools and kōshiki were performed for various objects of veneration. The composition of kōshiki reached a high point in the Kamakura period with Myōe (1173-1232) and Jōkei (1155-1213) as the most productive authors of kōshiki. We can assume that more than 400 kōshiki were composed. Some of them are still performed today.

The liturgical genre of kōshiki is one of the narrative genres of Japanese Buddhist chant (shōmyō). Kōshiki texts are written in kanbun and recited in kanbun kundoku style by a solo singer in a ritual setting. This paper studies the musical side kōshiki using the example of one of the most famous works in this genre, the Shiza kōshiki. Myōe composed this work in 1215 for the Jōrakue. Since the 13th century this kōshiki has been performed on Kōyasan.

I will examine the role of music in the performance of the kōshiki and demonstrate how the recitation on three different pitch levels empowers the semantics of the texts by adding an emotional layer to the liturgical text. Further, I will study how the art of vocalizing kōshiki was transmitted on Kōyasan and thus demonstrate that learning shōmyō was a central part in the monastic training. Further, I will argue that the shōmyō lineages played an important role in establishing cultic centers.


Tibetan Stūpas (mchod rten) in Europe: Convert Romanticism and Worship

Seegers, Eva (Numata Center for Buddhist Studies, Asien-Afrika-Institut, Universität Hamburg, Hamburg, GER)

Stūpas are among the most characteristic and widespread Buddhist architectural structures. They have been built in Asia for more than 2500 years and over the past decades also in many other countries around the world. Since the early 1980s a striking number of more than 200 contemporary stūpas (mchod rten) have been erected across Europe, highlighting the integration of Buddhism into Western society. The aim of my interdisciplinary research approach –art historical, architectural, and religious– is the analysis of the parameters of authenticity and their variations in construction and function.

Based on an analytical survey of stūpas built by Karma bKa’ brgyud and Dwags shangs bKa ’brgyud organisations in Europe this paper will try to answer the basic questions which arise when such exotic monuments are transferred to a new cultural environment.

What are the reasons for erecting stūpas in European countries? Is the motivation based on a “romantic view of Tibet as Shangri-La” (Lopez, 1998) which implies the much discussed issue of Tibet as an object of Western fantasy? If so, do some “romanticists” erect stūpa-replicas because they want to recreate a “little Tibet” or is there a deeper meaning? How are the traditional criteria, e.g. laid down in stūpa-manuals, which make a stūpa into an object of worship, applied to the “European stūpas”?

Another striking topic to discuss is the question how stūpas are used in Buddhist practice and what the diverse ways are in which they are regarded by Western convert Buddhists. The question arises: When stūpas are transplanted to Europe, is it likely that the meaning and significance of these stūpas remain the same?

In this paper new data collected by field-work and critically analysed textual sources will blend together. This will allow new insights into how cultural and religious transmissions take place. Thus, not only will a foundation for future research be laid, but also important materials for Buddhist Studies will be newly made accessible. This paper is designed to benefit also other academic disciplines, such as Architecture, Art History, and Religious Studies.


Flowers in a Vase: The Significance of Flower Offering in Thai Buddhist Tradition

Sounsamut, Pram (Institute of Thai Studies, Chulalongkorn University, Bangkok, THA)

Normally, the main function of flowers is decoration. Flowers have been used in various occasions to transform an ordinary scene into an adorable space to get in. However, when flowers are used in religion, they have more function and meaning than just a decoration object. In this talk, I will survey various occasions of flower offering, mainly in the Thai Buddhist tradition. Also, I will compare the idea of using flowers in other Buddhist traditions and some related religions, which have influenced the meaning of flower offering in Thai Buddhism. I will also compare the ideas and the meanings behind the flower arrangement, both as a symbol and as a practice of ritual. Research found that, in Thai Buddhist tradition, flower offering is a part of normal Buddhist practice. The belief of attaining the future benefit of a good rebirth is still strong and continues to pass from generation to generation. Flower offering also gave Thai women in the past a chance to take part in Buddhist ceremonies. Moreover, in arts, although flowers are mainly used for filling the gaps in the picture, they also demonstrate the Buddhist teachings in life and Dharma.


A Buddhist Temple in Mongolia: An Idiosyncratic Case

Tsultem, Uranchimeg (University of California, Berkeley, Albany, USA)

This paper will discuss types of architecture of Mongolian Buddhist temples, such as khiid and khüree, analyzing the differences in the function of each type. The paper then will focus on the central monastery, and the later capital city Ikh Khüree, which was built in 1639 as the seat of the new reincarnate rulers known as rJe btsun dam pa. The phenomenon of this monastery was its portable architecture and mobile nature as it moved almost 30 times from 1639 to 1855. While moving from one locale to another, Ikh Khüree never stopped expanding its architecture and continued with the production of thangka paintings and sculptures. The paper will discuss the migration trajectory of Ikh Khüree, and will argue that the mapping of the monastery and its mobile nature indicate political ambitions of the ruler for his outreach to the nomadic peoples to propagate Buddhism outside of nobility circles. The paper will show how such nomadic architecture was able to emerge into the central authority in the later dissemination of Buddhism in Mongolia and subsequently became instrumental in the massive conversion of common population to Buddhism. The paper will use paintings and maps of Ikh Khüree, manuscript sources and secondary literature in Mongolian and Tibetan languages as well as texts written by 18th-century Buddhist scholars from Mongolia.


An Unprecedented Analysis of Painting: Amdo Jampa and the History of Buddhist Craftmanship in Tibet

Warner, Cameron (Aarhus Universitet, Aarhus, DNK)

Jampa Tseten, better known as Amdo Jampa, was the most famous Tibetan painter of the twentieth century. He is credited with pioneering a photo-realist style, examples of which include a controversial portrait of the 14th Dalai Lama at the Tagtu Mingyur Podrang palace within the Norbulingka. This paper will be based on a close reading of Amdo Jampa's essay A Mind Ornament for Craftsmen: An Unprecedented Analysis of Painting (Ri mo'i skor gyi dpyad pa sngon med bzo ba rigs pa'i dgongs rgyan). In his essay, Amdo Jampa considers a number of questions related to the development of the Tibetan tradition of depicting Buddha images in two and three dimensions such as the influence of Menla Dondrup and the use of thig rtsa, and the relationship between physical depiction and the Mahāyāna doctrine of the multiple bodies of the Buddha. Reminiscent of the thinking of his teacher, the great polymath Gendun Chophel, Amdo Jampa attempts to reconcile his personal experience as an artist who traveled widely and was exposed to a great variety of Buddhist art with the received tradition of artistic practice in Tibet and its dependence on related biographical notions of the Buddha. This paper will place Amdo Jampa's writing in context with Menla Dondrup's Bde bar gshegs pa'i sku gzugs kyi cha tshad rab dbye yid bzhin nor bu, Desi Sangyé Gyatso's Vaiḍūrya g.ya sel, and Gendun Chophel's Rgyal khams rig pas bskor ba'i gtam rgyud gser gyi thang ma (stod cha), and further our understanding of the development of Tibetan Buddhist cosmology and epistemology, and their interrelation with artistic practice, in the late twentieth century.


A Problem regarding the Gandhāran Origin of the Buddha Image — On Kushan Buddha Coins

Zhao, Ling (School of Humanities, Zhejiang University, Zhejiang, PRC)

The creation of the Buddha image happened during the Kushan Dynasty in ancient India and was a great event in Buddhist history. Although we do not know the exact time, we can ascertain from archaeological finds that the first Buddha image was made not later than the accession of the Kushan King Kanishka. When Kushan coins with a Buddha image and the inscription “BOΔΔO” were excavated in Gandhāra, they had attracted the interest of Buddhist art researchers. Some believed that the Buddha image was first created on certain coins of the Kushan Kings, and that the very first one could be from the Kanishka era. However, the choice of depicting a Buddha image on coins, which were to be issued both at home and abroad, must have taken place after the creation and popularization of the image. Moreover, as far as we know, there are fewer Kushan coins with Buddha images than with representations of Greek or Brahmanical gods. It is likely that people confused the Buddha with other gods worshipped in Gandhāra at that time, and represented Buddha images on coins only occasionally. It seems that the first Buddha image was created in Mathurā, as images have been excavated with inscriptions dated to the early years of the Kanishka era. The creation of Buddha images in Gandhāra was possibly influenced by Mathurā.


IABS 2014 | Universitätsring 1  | 1010 Wien