The Buddha—that is, the “Enlightened One”—lived nearly 2500 years ago in northern India. His followers have always seen his life as a shining example to all, but what “really happened” is now impossible to know for certain. Even the earliest stories of his life include miraculous events that may seem hard to take literally. Later versions are even more elaborate, and they differ from one another in many details.
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For more than a thousand years Indonesians have used wayang theater as a method of addressing the conundrums of life. The lively puppet traditions of South and Southeast Asia have portrayed epic stories that shrank the cosmos down to a miniature world. The vast expanse of the earth could symbolically be reduced to the few feet of a puppet stage. The puppeteer’s lamp became the sun, throwing light on myriad creatures who, in their nobility or baseness, make up the world.
Turkish calligraphers were skillful at transforming words and phrases into the shapes of animals. This was done by elongating, wrapping, and rotating letters to create the contour (outline) as well as details of the animal. Favorite animal shapes include the lion, peacock, and stork. Students will write a descriptive sentence about an animal that they believe has virtuous qualities. They will create a zoomorphic pen and ink drawing composed of this sentence.
Asian Art Museum Storyteller, Miriam Mills, tells an excerpt from the Ramayana in the Southeast Asian galleries at the Asian Art Museum with the use of artworks from the museum's collection.
Four seated musicians, approx. 700–750. China Tang dynasty (618–906). Earthenware. The Avery Brundage Collection, B60P316, B60P317, B60P3186, and B60P319.
Students gain an appreciation and understanding of art and culture, and build language skills by reading; developing scripts; making choices about gesture, voice, and expression; and performing traditional stories alongside art objects in the Asian Art Museum’s collection galleries.
Just as beautiful calligraphy is a reflection of a pure soul, the training to become a master Islamic calligrapher (hattats) symbolizes a religious pilgrimage. The pursuit to acquire exquisite penmanship brought one closer to spiritual perfection and to God. This is evident in the tradition of passing down knowledge from teacher to pupil. Following the structure set by the spiritual teaching of Sufism, it is appropriately called the “chain of transmission.” It is through this training process that individual styles have been preserved and may be traced back through the centuries from a long lineage of calligraphers.
Leta Bushyhead, Asian Art Museum Storyteller, tells a Chinese folktale inspired by objects in the museum's collection.
Certain motifs appear with great regularity as surface decorations of vessels of the early Bronze Age in China (approx. 2000-1750 BCE to 500 BCE). Many of these designs consist of composite or wholly imaginary animals.