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The Art and Architecture in Ancient India and Southeast Asia

Explain how Hindu and Buddhist beliefs were blended into the art and architecture in ancient India and Southeast Asia.

            The influence of Indian Hindu and Buddhist in the architecture on the art of ancient India and Southeast Asia is well known and documented. Garg (1992) mentioned that “in most of these countries the art of writing came with the Hindus, their scripts being based mainly on North Indian or South Indian letters” (p.53). According to Garg (1992) the architecture of some temples contains images of Buddha and figures from Hindu mythology. Cunningham & Reich (2009) say that both Hindu and Buddhist art and architecture are overwhelmingly religious in spirit. This is because the great statues and sculptural reliefs that decorate the temple are narrative, telling the stories of the Hindu deities and the life of Buddhist to their worshipers. Ooi (2004) noted that “both Hindu and Buddhist contributed to the prosperity of the architecture of urbanized societies in a variety of crucially important ways” (p. 574). There has been a link between Hindu and Buddhist in the architecture of Southeast Asia, Amaravati in southeastern India and the architecture of Indian Pallava.

              Hindu art and architecture combined the elements of eroticism and naturalism. Cunningham & Reich (2009) continues to say that “Buddhist art on the other hand emphasizes the spiritual, even austere nature of Buddhist doctrines” (p. 120). Ooi (2004) indicated that “brilliant Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture survive in Central Java, Northwest Malaysia and northeast and southeast Sumatra from the eighth to tenth centuries” (p. 574). It is important to note that Hindu and Buddhist societies of ancient Southeast Asia have monopolized the art and architecture of the historians. Ooi (2004) says that there was some degree of cultural assimilation took place judging from the Sanskrit words assimilated into Filipino languages and from the sumptuous, apparently royal, hoards of gold regalia found there in which Hindu/Buddhist motifs appear. The Hindu and Buddhist architecture of Southeast Asia was blended to Gupta, Pala and Sena periods and therefore contributed to the diversity of their origins. Ooi (2004) also says that the art and architecture moved from the stage of timber construction to that of durable materials.

Category B
Discuss Buddhist beliefs and the religion’s impact on art and architecture in Thailand and Burma. Be sure to illustrate with specific examples

            In Buddhism,Samsara and Karma are two important ideas that were passed from Hindu to Buddhism.According toSimmonds (1992) Samsara means “continuation or carrying on hence Buddhists belief that man is reborn into a new life when they die” (p. 104). Buddhists belief that life is an endless round of existences and that the force that keeps the endless round of existences continuing is karma. Simmonds (1992) noted that “Buddhists believe that the only way to avoid being reborn is to achieve a state of mind where this force of karma no longer affects them” (p. 104).

The main Buddhist beliefs are divided into three main parts which include the three universal truths, the four noble truths and the eightfold path. Simmonds (1992) indicated that “Buddha belief that man does not have a soul and he continues to say that there is nothing more to a man than can be seen or experienced” (p. 104). Buddhist also belief that man is made up of five things which include the body, feelings, ideas, mental actions and awareness. An example of their belief is that men suffer because of desire that is they desire to cling on to the cycle of birth, death and rebirth in spite of the suffering involved (Simmonds, 1992, p. 105).

Consequently, Krech (2004) established that “the art and architecture of Southeast Asia were greatly affected by Buddhist from India” (p. 78). In Burma, excavation at Prome, Pegu, and Pegan have revealed significant ancient artifacts. A good example is that ancient Burmese temples and pagodas were influenced by the sculpture, terracotta, and architecture of Buddhist religion. Krech (2004) says that “the finest example of Burmese architecture is the Ananda temple, a Buddhist temple built by the king Kyanzittha” (p. 78). In addition, Salvan (2005) commented that “architecture in Thailand reflects the influences of the Buddhist countries. He continues to say that there is no other architecture remains expect for fragments of foundations which give some idea of plans but not the style of building with moldings similar to those of Buddhist structures have granite bases with mortise holes for pillars which must have supported timber superstructures” (p. 653).

Category C

 Explain how Buddhist iconography is illustrated in Chinese and Korean art. Give specific examples from the Wei and Tang dynasties.

            Studies indicate that during the previous period changes, in the iconography of the Buddhist statuary indicated the shift of religious interest. Oort (1986) mentioned that “after the introduction of Buddhism in China the manushi Buddha Sakyamuni was the favorite” (p. 5). The Buddhist Iconography influenced Tang tendency in paintings to depict ladies in a rather soft way had grown to excessive proportions during Sung times. According to Oort (1986) in China it was an archaistic revival of the styles of late Wei or Tang. Oort (1986) commented that “during Tang period owing to internal unrest many people had emigrated from Central China and were supporters of Buddhism” (p. 5).

            Sorensen (1989) says that “at the time of the unification of Korea under Silla in 686 A.D. Buddhism had become the national religion: penetrating all levels of society it left a lasting impact on Korean art” (p. 1). One of the most significant Buddhist arts developed in Korea was that of religious paintings, comprising both painted icons in the form of hanging scrolls or framed pictures as well as actual wall-paintings (Sorensen, 1989, p. 1). Sorensen (1989) mentioned that “there is some indication that the early Korean tradition followed Central Asian and Chinese norms relatively closely with regard to iconographic models and the use of stencils” (p. 2). For example Buddhist rock carvings from 7th century in the Tang dynasty, wall paintings were important iconographic arts introduced to China and Korea by Buddhism.

            In addition, Oort (1986) says that during the early centuries of Buddhism in China, the art simply wanted to produce a Buddha statue. Oort (1986) also says that though in China hundreds of smaller Buddhist cave-temples are known the most famous are those of Tunhuang and Lung-men (p. 8). Oort (1986) noted that “it is important to note that as far as visual expression of Buddhism is concerned, the cave shrines of Yu-kang and Lung-men give us an idea of Buddhism during the Wei period” ( p. 8). Example of iconography introduced by Buddhism during the Wei dynasty was the sculptures hewed out of the lung-men rocks which rank among the finest expression of the mature Wei style.

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