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Art History
Sudharshan Duraiyappah

VPHB67 – Final Exam review questions: Describe and discuss the purpose of the wooden artefacts in the Yuan dynasty gallery at the Royal Ontario Museum. The wooden artefacts are, on the superficial level, sculptures of bodhisattvas made from cheap wood during the Yuen dynasty during the Mongol Period. On a deeper, more religious level, the artefacts are a way for believers to worship and pray in hopes for the accumulation of good merit. To enhance the efficacy of the worship and the sacred nature of the sculpture, a slit where people would come and stuff valuable objects inside was made on the back of the artefact. Furthermore, the sculpture did not stand alone. The way in which it was placed in the temple – directly in front of its matching painting counterpart, as a 3-dimensional extension – reinforced that sacred notion. The pieces, depending on the way it was lit up (originally from underneath), was brought to life exuding a dominating and somewhat daunting presence amongst the worshippers. Discuss in detail the use of Death motives in Himalayan BuddhistArt. Himalayan BuddhistArt often depicts imagery with Death as the main motif to show the instantaneity of mortality. The physical body is thus a shell carrying our soul which is what is permanent. With the goal being nirvana, as we go through the journey upon our path of Enlightenment and of continuous rebirth, the body decays in each lifetime, but the essence of the soul lives on.An example of such would be the skull cap ladle. The human skull used in this object belongs to a monk who has gained high merit/rank. When he passes, a sky burial is performed where his body is brought out by the eldest student and hacked in the middle of a circle formed by the young Buddhist students seated in terms of seniority on a mountain, all while chanting the ritualistic verse.As the vultures come and his remains are scattered, certain parts are kept and made into ritual implements. The physical proximity at which this is happening in front of the students provides a dramatic and yet efficient example of how the body is impermanent. The teacher lives on not only through the objects but also when he is reincarnated as a student (the one that gravitates towards the objects is the teacher). Compare and Contrast the depictions of a standing Buddha and a Bodhisattva in art. Similarities: Both the standing Buddha and the Bodhisattva are Buddhist in context and they both hold essence of Buddha. Moreover, the figures have the yaksha body type with the pre-Buddhist yaksha figures as prototypes. Differences: In art, the Bodhisattvas are usually shown highly ornamented, wearing plenty of jewellery and having a sensuous body-type. They are depicted as symbols of wealth and affluence as opposed to simple and renounced of material wealth (since they have deferred their personal nirvana status).An example of such would be the standing Bodhisattva found in GandharanArt, specifically in the Western region, th. 7th108AD, made from grey schist stone. The standing Buddha from the Polonnaruva Period, ca. 11 -12 century found in Sri Lanka, on the other hand has given up all worldly pleasures, explaining the simplicity of his clothing and why he clutches onto it. His hands are slightly bigger in proportion emphasizing his renunciation, perhaps, thus supporting an essential doctrine of the religion. Compare and contrast the images ofAvalokiteswara and Guyanyin. Similarities: They are essentially the same bodhisattva – generous, compassionate and merciful; always helping others reach their Enlightenment. GuanYin is described as to be found in Hell giving water to the damned where Avalokiteswara is described as always looking downwards in a compassionate manner towards believers. Differences: GuanYin is the female form ofAvalokiteswara.As information of the figure was being brought over to China from CentralAsia, the figure was eventually feminized probably because in the Chinese mind, the appropriate vessel for compassion had to be female. Thus, the transformation resulted in a female version of the same symbol of compassion, recognized by Chinese Buddhist practitioners today. Apainted wooden sculptural example of her can be found in Chinese Buddhism during the Song Dynasty, ca. 12 – 13 century. Abrass sculptural example of him can be found in Tibetan Buddhism ca 11 century from Ladakh. Compare and contrast the images ofApsara and Kinara. Similarities: Both theApsara and the Kinara are beings that promote heaven and the idea of nirvana. Neither are full divinities as neither has reached that status yet. They exist also for aesthetic reasons, singing and dancing. Differences: TheApsaras as seen in Chinese paradise paintings from the Tang dynasty (ca. 7 to 9 century) areh portrayed as females, but they are really gender neutral. They are semi-divine and they float about in the sky carrying lotuses found in heaven. The Kinaras, on the other hand, are half bird, half human. They sing but are not to be confused with sirens (whose goal is to lure humans, specifically sailors to their death). Describe the form of Tara in Buddhist art. Tara, the female form of the Buddha as described in Buddhist literature, is depicted in the gilt bronze, 8 th century, Sri Lankan sculpture as having a voluptuous body. Unsurprisingly, the pre-Buddhist yakshi figures act as the prototype with 3 breaks in the body, demonstrating motion. She is supposed to be holding a lotus/flower, symbol of reaching nirvana, clothed and wearing jewellery as determined by the temple; only the face, hands and feet are meant to be seen by the devotees as these are the 3 main points of contact/where the blessings flow. Presumably the clothing and the lotus/flower disintegrated over the course of time, but the statue still remains as an essential part of Buddhist art, especially in Mahayana Buddhism since it demonstrates the gender irrelevance in trying to reach nirvana; women can also reach Enlightenment. Provide two examples of Buddhist art utilized in National Politics. Example 1: Tooth in stupa casket at the Tooth Temple (Palada Maligawa) in Kandy, Sri Lanka. The casket is brought out and placed on the largest elephant with decorated tusks in a night parade on special occasions such as the night of the full moon in May. This day marks all the major events in Buddha’s life – his birth, his enlightenment and parinirvana. The tooth casket is placed on an elephant because elephants are the symbol of power in Buddhism. The elephant walks around the city spreading the religion, in a sense, wherever it goes. The parade reinforces the religion, the belief and ultimately its power. While the parade happens annually, it also marks and maintains the sacred geographical domain, possibly expanding ever so slightly each time. th Example 2: The Bayon temple site atAnkor, Cambodia, built in ca. 13 century, commissioned by Jeyavarman VII is a one of the temples most known to have national political influence. The 3 galleries in the temple are surrounded with murals depicting the King’s philanthropy and donations to the religion as well as his battles. In short, these propagandist images are used as a means to justify his position as King and as a physical extension f his kingdom. On the 3 gallery, we get the most dramatic sense of politics using religion to spread power – the audience comes face to face with the King, portrayed as Buddha himself. The faces are carved in stone on gopyras, the tallest part of the building, facing all cardinal directions. The propaganda is anything but subtle; the King reaches a divine status for secular reasons. Describe the significance of Putai – Laughing Buddha. Refer to essay Describe one Indian Buddhist art motive that was transmitted to South EastAsia. The function and purpose of a stupa was, if anything, one of the most dominant Buddhist art motifs that was transmitted to the Far East and South EastAsia
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