Women and East Asian Art

Buddha

Buddha picture

Buddhism was developed in Nepal and India and had a strong presence in East Asia but was also very prominent in the Thai culture as seen in the sculpture Buddha from the 16th century.  The bronze sculpture from Thailand clearly depicts the head and shoulders of a Buddha.  This Buddha is atypical from a standard Buddhist statue because of the way the Buddha is portrayed.  In this sculpture the Buddha has no arms or legs and is not seated on a throne like many common Buddhist images.  Additionally, this statue shows that the Buddha’s eyes are closed portraying the Buddha in a deep state of meditation.  Unlike the previous statue in this exhibition, this statue has no gold and is solely a dark gray color.  As stated previously gold is ideal in many Buddhist art forms, but in Thailand they frequently used bronze because it was more affordable contrasting the typical Buddhist statues.  The bronzes from Thailand were used in accordance with the lost-wax process[1]which was where the statues were molded with lost wax unlike objects built from copper, gold or ivory that were carved away. The Buddha in this image is a dark gray color with lighter hair showing the contrast to make sure the viewer notices the rolls in their hair.  This sculpture from Thailand shows the contrast to other countries by using a different method of creating these statues (lost-wax) and the different material used to make them.

There is a substantial amount of symbolism in this sculpture from Thailand starting with the facial region showing a flame like figure on top of the Buddha’s head.  This type of flame seen on top of the head represents the Buddha’s fiery sense of energy.[2]  Another one of the most common symbols that is evident in this statue is the elongated earlobes on the Buddha’s head.  The elongated earlobes signify that the Buddha used to wear them in his former time as a prince until he gave that all up to become a Buddha.  The Buddha’s earlobes are still elongated from his former time serving as a prince and do not shrink when he becomes a Buddha. There are no hand gestures involved in this sculpture because it only shows the head and shoulder reason leaving it unclear as to which/any types of meditation they are practicing in this statue (as well as culture).  The symbolism in this statue allows us to appreciate the differences within cultures relative to Buddhism and identify the proper meaning to each statue.

[1]“Trout Gallery at Dickinson College–Variations in Buddhist Sculpture Across Asia“ November 19th,2019.

[2]“Trout Gallery at Dickinson College–Variations in Buddhist Sculpture Across Asia“ November 19th,2019.

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