New Journal: Pratu – Journal of Buddhist and Hindu Art, Architecture and Archaeology of Ancient to Premodern Southeast Asia

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Check out this new journal from Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme at SOAS. The journal is calling for papers for the inaugural 2019 issue, see here.

Journal of Buddhist and Hindu Art, Architecture and Archaeology of Ancient to Premodern Southeast Asia

Pratu: Journal of Buddhist and Hindu Art, Architecture and Archaeology of Ancient to Premodern Southeast Asia is the initiative of a group of research students in the Department of History of Art and Archaeology at SOAS University of London in collaboration with departmental mentors. The journal is funded by the Alphawood Foundation, under the auspices of the Southeast Asian Art Academic Programme (SAAAP). The student editorial group works closely with an advisory group formed of members of SAAAP’s Research & Publications Committee.

Pratu is conceived as a site for emerging scholars to publish new research on the ancient to premodern Buddhist and Hindu visual and material culture of Southeast Asia. The journal’s remit adheres to that of SAAAP itself, covering ‘study of the built environment, sculpture, painting, illustrated texts, textiles and other tangible or visual representations, along with the written word related to these, and archaeological, museum and cultural heritage’.

Pratu means ‘gateway’ or ‘entrance’ in several Southeast Asian languages. The salience of the term for our project lies in its etymological development, where the application of Khmer morphology to Tai terminology to name architectural structures of Indic fame betrays the complexity of the historical evolution of Southeast Asian Buddhist and Hindu traditions. The journal is a gateway: a space of access and transition that reflects our aim to facilitate new scholars’ first experiences with academic publishing as they move from student to early career researcher status. This includes Southeast Asian scholars who would like to reach a wider readership by publishing in English translation and benefitting from the peer-review process. In this way Pratu offers greater exposure to scholars and new research, and furthers the development of inter-institutional and international collaboration.

Source: Pratu

[Talk] The Depiction of Ritual in Balinese Painting of the Nineteenth and early Twentieth Centuries

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A talk by Prof. Peter Worsley in Sydney on April 3. Registration required, details in the link below.

The vast majority of nineteenth and early twentieth century Balinese paintings are designed to tell stories and in a number of them their painters have depicted rituals. Paintings of the Brayut story (geguritan Brayut), for example, illustrate a commoner family’s celebration of Galungan and the father’s ritual preparation for death on the occasion of his youngest son’s marriage when he abdicates his responsibility for his family’s customary obligations. Paintings, which tell the story of Rāma’s grandfather and grandmother, Prince Aja and Princess Indumatī (kakawin Sumanasāntakaī), focus viewers’ attention on marriage rites, while paintings of the story of Rāma and Sitā (kakawin Rāmāyaṇa) and of God Smara and Ratih (kakawin Smaradahana) depict death rituals including the ritual suicide of wives. However, closer examination of these narratives paintings reveals that painters designed their works to draw viewers’ attention to other social and cultural thematic interests—to gender roles, and the differences between kings and priests for example.

Source: Event Detail

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Asian Civilisations Museum Fellowship Grant

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The Asian Civilisations Museum is calling for applicants for their one-year fellowship for 2011-2012. The focus of research for this round is on Buddhist Art, Guan Yin and the influence of tradition on contemporary art.

Asian Civilisations Museum, Boat Quay, Singapore
photo credit: yeowatzup

ACM Research Fellowship Grant

The Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore invites scholars specialising in Buddhist art, Avalokiteshvara or visual culture to apply for a 12-month research fellowship. The award period for the 2011-12 fellowships will commence from April 2011 through March 2012. The applications will be screened by a committee of eminent scholars and will be administered by the Research and Publication Unit (RPU) of ACM.

Applications close 15 January 2011.
Further details and application form can be found here.

Asian Civilisations Museum fellowship for research into Buddhist art and Indian trade textiles

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The Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore is offering another 12-month research fellowship for scholars in Buddhist art and Indian Trade Textiles. Interested scholars can read the details and download the relevant forms here. Deadline is Feb 15, 2010.

Asian Civilizations Museum, Singapore
photo credit: yeowatzup

Nei Xue Tang: A Museum of Buddhist Art – Part 2

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In this second part of the feature on Nei Xue Tang (click here for Part 1), I’m taking my vacation in Cambodia as an opportune time for me to write about the Khmer collections of this museum of Buddhist Art.

Nei Xue Tang - Khmer art

A lot of the major sculptures – the ones we’re interested in anyway – are all located on the ground floor of this four-storey building. The reason? It’s just too big to move upstairs! Here are four examples of Khmer art found at the museum: a 12th century statue of a Garuda (a mythical bird), a pre-Angkoran statue of the goddess Durga from the 7th century, an Angkor Borei style seated Buddha, and a dancing Hevajra from Bayon in the 13th century. I’m not all that familiar with the iconographyof Hindu and Buddhist art, so unfortunately I can’t write anything more about them.

Nei Xue Tang - Bull's Head inscriptionSee the bull’s head at the base of the seated Buddha from Angkor Borei? If you look closely enough, you can see that the base of the entire statue is lined with Khmer inscriptions! I’ve tried to enhance an image on the inscriptions, but they aren’t all that clear. Mr Woon, the owner of Nei Xue Tang tells me that he is arranging to get the inscriptions translated.

Nei Xue Tang - Khmer SteleThat’s not the most impressive example of ancient inscriptions in the collection, however. Again on the first floor, is another huge slab of stone with a carved seat Buddha at the base. At first glance, it seems like an ordinary slab of stone with an attached decoration. But on a closer look, one realises that the entire face of the slab is carved with inscriptions! This slab is dated to the Baphuon period of the 11th century. Strangely enough, most visitors to the museum usually skip this stele, according to museum owner Mr W. S. Woon. Granted, it’s not the most visually appealing of all the exhibits, but in my view it’s potentially one of the most richest sources of information among the entire collection of some, 10,000 pieces. The inscription has not been translated as well – this piece was in fact a bequest to the museum by a group of donors.

Here’s a closer look at the a portion of the inscription, enhanced for better visibility:

Nei Xue Tang - Khmer Stele inscription

The bulk of the artefacts featured in this series is focused on the material culture from Southeast Asia – however, I must add that it is only a portion of the exhibits on display which also include various examples of Chinese, Tibetan, Indian and Nepalese art, as well as a vast array of Buddhist relics from ancient to more recent times. If you’re ever in Singapore and you’re interested in examples of Buddhist art, you should pay Nei Xue Tang a visit.

SEAArch would like to thank Mr Woon and Nei Xue Tang for the permission to take photographs for this post.

Other books about Buddhism and Buddhist Art:
The Art of Champa by J. Hubert
Origins Of Thai Art by B. Gosling
Ancient Pagan by D. Stadtner
Asian Religions: An Illustrated Introduction by B. K. Hawkins
Hindu-Buddhist Art Of Vietnam: Treasures From Champa by E. Guillon
The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand: The Alexander B. Griswold Collection, the Walters Art Gallery by H. W. Woodward
The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia (Suny Series in Religion) by D. K. Swearer
Art of Sukhothai by C. Stratton and M. Scott

Nei Xue Tang: A Museum of Buddhist Art – Part 1

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Along Singapore’s Cantonment Road, just at the edge of the central business district, a line of three old houses lie. They don’t sit on any particularly valuable real estate – in fact, the stand side-by-side to some low cost apartment housing. In short, they’re not the kind of house that you pay attention to when you’re passing by on the street.

Yet the house in the centre holds a most surprising museum collection, a private museum called the Nei Xue Tang (roughly translated as “The Hall of Inner Peace), home to some 10,000 pieces of Buddhist art with examples from different styles, regions and periods from around the world. This, of course, includes examples of religious sculpture from Southeast Asia.

Nei Xue Tang - Entrance

Nei Xue Tang is the first private museum opened in Singapore. It is owned by Mr W. T. Woon, a lawyer and a devout Buddhist himself, who has been collecting Buddhist antiques since he was seven! The museum is a culmination of over 40 years of collecting Buddhist antiques – many from his own collection, and some others donated or bequeathed to Nei Xue Tang from corporations and individuals. In the collection, you’ll find examples from Sri Lanka, India, Nepal and the different Chinese dynasties, but it’s the ones from Southeast Asia that I’ll be writing about, this post and next.

NeiXueTang- Mr Woon

These three Buddhas are examples of Mon-Dvaravati art from Thailand. From left to right, they are: A bronze Buddha; A Buddha seated under a Bodhi tree; and another bronze Buddha. All of them date to around the 8th century. Little is known about the Dvaravati period on Thailand (6-11th centuries). The kingdom was centred around Central Thailand and seems to have played an important role in the spread of Buddhism to the rest of Southeast Asia. Later in history the Mon people seemed to have been assimilated into the growing influence of the neighbouring Khmer and Burmese empires.

Nei Xue Tang - Mon Dvaravati art

As is typical of many of the Hindu and Buddhist art from Southeast Asia and Asia, many of these artefacts are unprovenanced, and it has taken years of collecting experience for Mr Woon to provide information about what style and region the artefact came from and its approximate date. Sadly, the archaeological context of these artefacts may well forever be lost. I have a sense of ambivalence while looking through exhibits at Nei Xue Tang, at once marveling at all the different styles of Buddhist sculpture under one roof, and at another a sense of sadness of how so much cultural heritage has been removed from its context, unable to tell any more stories. Still, it’s nice to see a private collector open his collection up for the public to enjoy, and experience the breadth of expression in Buddhist art. In part 2 of this article, we’ll take a look at some Khmer sculpture, and also some Khmer inscriptions.

Nei Xue Tang is located at 235 Cantonment Road, Singapore 089766. Admission is $5 for adults and $3 for children and the museum is open daily from 10 am to 5 pm. The museum also has a website.

SEAArch would like to thank Mr Woon and Nei Xue Tang for the permission to take photographs for this post.

Other books about Buddhism and Buddhist Art:
The Art of Champa by J. Hubert
Origins Of Thai Art by B. Gosling
Ancient Pagan by D. Stadtner
Asian Religions: An Illustrated Introduction by B. K. Hawkins
Hindu-Buddhist Art Of Vietnam: Treasures From Champa by E. Guillon
The Sacred Sculpture of Thailand: The Alexander B. Griswold Collection, the Walters Art Gallery by H. W. Woodward
The Buddhist World of Southeast Asia (Suny Series in Religion) by D. K. Swearer
Art of Sukhothai by C. Stratton and M. Scott