A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture

A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture

A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture

A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture

Synopsis

A Companion to Asian Art and Architecture presents a collection of 26 original essays from top scholars in the field that explore and critically examine various aspects of Asian art and architectural history.
  • Brings together top international scholars of Asian art and architecture
  • Represents the current state of the field while highlighting the wide range of scholarly approaches to Asian Art
  • Features work on Korea and Southeast Asia, two regions often overlooked in a field that is often defined as India-China-Japan
  • Explores the influences on Asian art of global and colonial interactions and of the diasporic communities in the US and UK
  • Showcases a wide range of topics including imperial commissions, ancient tombs, gardens, monastic spaces, performances, and pilgrimages.

Excerpt

Rebecca M. Brown and Deborah S. Hutton

The Impossibility of Asian Art

In 399 ce, the Chinese Buddhist monk Faxian (c. 337–422) left the city of Chang’an (present-day Xian), to embark on an epic, 14-year pilgrimage. His travels took him first overland through Western China and Central Asia, across the northern portion of the Indian subcontinent to the Bay of Bengal, then by sea south to Sri Lanka, and eventually back to China via the islands of Indonesia. Approximately two years after returning home Faxian published an account of his travels entitled A Record of Buddhist Countries. This text, one of the first such Buddhist travelers’ accounts and replete with careful descriptions of what Faxian saw, was influential at the time and remains important today to scholars and students of Asian studies. Art historians find in Faxian’s text rich descriptions of the centrality and power of objects within Buddhist rituals in all the locations he visited. He describes an image procession he witnessed in the Central Asian oasis city of Khotan (today in China) for which monks constructed a cart “more than thirty cubits high, which looked like the great hall (of a monastery) moving along.” At Khotan’s royal palace, the king

put off his crown of state, changed his dress for a fresh suit, and with bare feet, carry
ing in his hands flowers and incense, and with two rows of attending followers,
went out at the gate to meet the image; and, with his head and face (bowed to
the ground), he did homage at its feet.

In a similar manner, Faxian records the importance of a seated statue of the Buddha at a monastery (vihara) in Sri Lanka that “the monks and commonalty reverence and look up to without ever becoming wearied.”

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