Ikko Tanaka, Amida Buddha Exhibits Debut at USC Pacific Asia Museum

By Palma, Claudia | Pasadena Star-News, April 12, 2015 | Go to article overview

Ikko Tanaka, Amida Buddha Exhibits Debut at USC Pacific Asia Museum


Palma, Claudia, Pasadena Star-News


PASADENA» Two icons in Asian history will be the center attraction today at the USC Pacific Asia Museum.

As a single piece exhibit, "Visualizing Enlightenment: Decoding Buddhist Iconography" features a 14th century Japanese buddha sculpture, first time on display since it was gifted to the museum two years ago.

The Amida Buddha from the Kamakura period (1185-1333) in Japan is more than 6-feet tall is a rare piece created using the yosegi technique, where single pieces are carved from multiple pieces of wood and then joined together from the inside.

"(Artifacts) from that period didn't last very long," said assistant curator Yeonsoo Chee.

The Amida Buddha served as a teaching tool to help devotees visualize the teachings and philosophical ideas of Buddhism. Amida Buddha, meaning "Limitless Light" in Sanskrit, is the Buddha of the western Pure Land sect in East Asia.

"People who didn't read at the time, they could see the buddha and read the meanings and connect themselves to the buddhist ideas," said Chee.

A graphic demonstration of the same buddha on the wall in front of it allows visitors to learn to read the different iconographies of the piece.

"There are a lot of iconographies, a lot of hidden meanings (in buddhist art)," said Christina Yu Yu, museum director. "Nothing is accidental. Everything is well thought out; the artist and the craftsman put a lot of thought into it."

The graphic shows how to read the meaning of the hand gestures and lotus, among other visuals of the buddha.

"This can be just a guide to inspire people to learn more about the statue," said Chee.

The museum reached into its own treasures for its second new exhibit, too.

Only about a third of the 118 posters in the museum's permanent collection are on display for the "Ikko Style: The Graphic Art of Ikko Tanaka" exhibit but Chee said she wanted to be sure to showcase Tanaka's diversity. …

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