Buddhist art and origins at London display


(IANSlife) Now open at Londons British Library, a significant exhibition on Buddhism is exploring the roots, philosophy and contemporary relevance of one of the world’s major religions, from its beginnings in north India in the 6th century BCE, to having over 500 million followers across the world today.

Titled ”Buddhism”, the magnificent 120-object show has on display rare treasures, from colorful scrolls, painted wall hangings to embellished folding books, highlighting the art contained within Buddhist manuscripts and early printed works.

The exhibition also features contemporary art from Hong Kong, Singapore, Japan, and Taiwan as well as ritual objects used in Buddhist practice that provide a window into everyday life in Buddhist communities in the 21st century.

Encompassing the life of the Buddha, Buddhist philosophy, the spread of Buddhism and Buddhist practice today, highlight items include:

1. A 7.6 meter-long 19th century Burmese illustrated manuscript detailing the early life of the Buddha.

2. The most comprehensive woodblock-printed work depicting and describing scenes from the life of the Buddha, including 208 beautiful hand-colored illustrations from China, created in 1808.

3. A copy of the Lotus Sutra in a lavishly decorated scroll from Japan, written in gold and silver ink on indigo-dyed paper dating back to 1636, one of the most popular and most influential Buddhist texts of Mahayana Buddhism.

4. A rare Buddhist manuscript in the shape of a bar of gold from Thailand dated 1917, known as ”Sankhara bhajani kyam”, going on display for the first time.

5. The ”Hyakumanto darani” or ”One Million Pagoda Dharani,” the oldest extant examples of printing in Japan and some of the earliest in the world, dating 764-770 CE.

6. One of the oldest illustrated extant palm leaf manuscripts, ”Pancharaksha”, an illustrated ritual text on the Five Protections from Nepal, dated 1130-1150 CE.

7. A lavishly gilded and lacquered Thai palm leaf manuscript with new research revealing it was commissioned by a queen of Siam, with a silk cover designed by her, demonstrating the role of women in Buddhism, 19th century.

8. An 18th-century copy of the Tibetan Book ”Bar do thos grol”, a guide through the stages between death and rebirth, commonly known in the West as ”Tibetan Book of the Dead,” which helped popularise Buddhism in the 20th century in Europe.

It runs from October 25, 2019, to February 23, 2020, and spans 20 countries over 2,000 years.

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