Street Art in Bhutan

Lion’s Roar published a short piece (with lots of pictures on) in March on French street artist Invader’s work throughout Bhutan, painting and building Buddhist images in his bitmap style. “Famous street artist “invades” Bhutan with Buddhist-inspired mosaics”

And see also the artist’s interview on the subject.

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REVIEW: temple walls | japan, by Ryuten Paul Rosenblum

temple walls | japan
Ryuten Paul Rosenblum
2017
48 pages
14.5 x 23.5 cm
Hard cover / Accordion binding

Zen Buddhist practice is sometimes called “wall-gazing” meditation, a reference both to Bodhidharma — the sect’s purported founder — and his nine years meditating while facing a monastery (or, cave) wall, but also to Zen’s eschewing of meditation aids like paintings and statutes. The walls of ancient Zen temples and monasteries have been the companions and unyielding support for the practice of countless practitioners for centuries. This presence, and their non-objective forms (and perhaps these are the same thing), are captured in Paul Rosenblum‘s photographs of temple walls in Japan.

A wall is also symbol of renunciation: the Buddhist meditator has turned away from the world, quite literally.

The images are small squares of wall, thus converting the age and detail of stone, glaze, cracks, woodgrain, weathering into images that call to mind camera-less Polaroids, blurred landscapes, and gesture paintings. However, such imaginations are not Rosenblum’s purpose in creating these images. Rather, “practice is about seeing the mind in all things, even the most commonplace/everyday/simple/mundane. The temples and monasteries that I visited are widely know, even revered by some. For me, my ‘interaction’ with simple, taken for granted things like walls was infused a feeling of honor and respect for the practice that has taken place in them for centuries. I feel each is the body of a Buddha; our practice is what makes it vividly alive in this moment.” (This and other quotations from a personal email from the photographer.)

Rosenblum is a linage holder in the Zen tradition of Dongshan and Dōgen and spends part of each year serving as Vice Abbot of Genrinji, a Zen Temple in the Germany.

 

These photographs present a radically different view of well-known sites: from the usual architectural, viewer-to-object-oriented, or tourist-friendly Zen gardens, to a quite intimate one that asks for more from the viewer than one-to-one identification of things. It is easier to focus on things planned to be focused on, it is harder to focus on what is more ever-present, sitting firmly in the background (like the mind). The images are”intended as a way to support seeing without thinking predominating.”

One’s attention falls into habit, thus seeing more traditional image of a Buddhist temple tends merely to provoke the mind to recollect the idea of a temple through image-association. These images, radically deconstructed ones of Buddhist temples, urge the eye and mind to work a little harder.

That said, the images have a beauty that one finds absent any heavy mental-lifting. This is to say that they have formal qualities akin to some 20th century western art (whether or not this visual/intellectual impact is akin in some way to Buddhist ways of seeing is an open question).

The book itself is a lovely object, an accordion bound, limited edition by Datz Press of Seoul, Korea. The cover stock, inside cover material, paper, and ink all show attention to a somewhat unrefined aesthetic. (The choice to render titles in all lower case does strike me as a touch precious; a minor point in a design that intelligently and sensitively supports the artist’s intention.)

I particularly appreciate this book as it presents new ways of putting images and seeing toward Buddhist practice. Books like this one reveal that there are more ways of using images toward practice than the well-known use of mandalas and thangkas.

~ Jonathan Ciliberto

 

Dunhuang re-created in Shenzen, and other recent news

db604f3f845c5ae86ff6051fdf612898_715__2Buddhistdoor reviews the recently opened Dunhuang exhibition, Mysterious Dunhuang, in Shenzen, China, an increasingly popular solution to fragile archaeological sites: reproductions or recreations. The exhibition includes 50 copies of murals from the Mogao caves, 12 statues, and six full cave replicas. (23 January 2018)

The Southasian Monitor notes that the “Preservation of Buddhist art helps Pakistan fight stereotyping,” citing a speech by Prime Minister Shahid Abbasi, (20 January 2018)
The Nation (Thailand) describes a reciprocal exhibition at the National Museum of Bangkok, “marking 130 years of diplomatic relations with Thailand.” (21 January 2018)
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Remains of world’s oldest sleeping Buddha statue unveiled in Pakistan

The base of the sleeping Buddha statue.

from Lion’s Roar
BY HALEIGH ATWOOD| DECEMBER 15, 2017

Officials hope the discovery will encourage tourism and religious harmony.

Last month, the remains of a 1,700-year-old reclining Buddha was unveiled in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province of Pakistan. The statue measures 48 feet long and is located near Bhamala Stupa, a ruined Buddhist stupa and National Heritage Site. Carbon dating places the statue in the 3rd century AD, reportedly making it the oldest sleeping Buddha remains discovered so far.

“This means a lot for the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Archaeology department and shows its professionalism and commitment for the subject,” said Abdul Samad, the director of the province’s archaeology and museums department.

The unveiling was attended by Pakistan’s opposition leader, Imran Khan, who called the archaeological site “an asset for our country.”

Samad said the excavation of the sleeping Buddha remains took almost three years to complete. Sometime in the future, the department plans to reconstruct the entire statue with international help.

Besides the reclining Buddha, archaeologists also found more than 500 Buddhist artifacts at the Bhamala Stupa site.

The region was the centre of Buddhist civilization 2,300 years ago while under the control of Emperor Ashoka (304-232 BCE) during the Indian Mauryan Empire. Discovered in 1929, the Bhamala site is a reflection of the diverse religious history and culture that still exists in Pakistan.

There are more than two thousand Buddhist stupas and monasteries in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Most of them are square, the typical Gandharan shape, but the Bhamala Stupa is cross-shaped, which archaeologists believe means the site was used by a different sect of Buddhism. This sect was isolated, but later expanded in Kashmir and became the popular form of Buddhism.

“Pakistan [was] once the hub of religious tourism,” said Samad. “People were coming on a daily basis and visiting these religious places.”

After 9/11, Samad said tourism “almost ended” in Pakistan due to fear of Islamist militancy, but he believes that the discovery of the reclining Buddha will attract visitors once more.

“It’s been almost 18 years since this incident and during this time a new generation of Buddhists has grown up with no knowledge of their religious roots and ancient connections. I believe this discovery will attract them to visit again this much peaceful land.”

Hyecho’s Journey, by Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

Hyecho’s Journey, Donald S. Lopez, Jr.

208 pages | 27 color plates, 1 halftone | 7 x 10 | © 2017

In the year 721, a young Buddhist monk named Hyecho set out from the kingdom of Silla, on the Korean peninsula, on what would become one of the most extraordinary journeys in history. Sailing first to China, Hyecho continued to what is today Vietnam, Indonesia, Myanmar, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Iran, before taking the Silk Road and heading back east, where he ended his days on the sacred mountain of Wutaishan in China.
With Hyecho’s Journey, eminent scholar of Buddhism Donald S. Lopez Jr. re-creates Hyecho’s trek. Using the surviving fragments of Hyecho’s travel memoir, along with numerous other textual and visual sources, Lopez imagines the thriving Buddhist world the monk explored. Along the way, Lopez introduces key elements of Buddhism, including its basic doctrines, monastic institutions, works of art, and the many stories that have inspired Buddhist pilgrimage. Through the eyes of one remarkable Korean monk, we discover a vibrant tradition flourishing across a vast stretch of Asia. Hyecho’s Journey is simultaneously a rediscovery of a forgotten pilgrim, an accessible primer on Buddhist history and doctrine, and a gripping, beautifully illustrated account of travel in a world long lost.

Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan, by Bryan D. Lowe

On the New Books Network, you can read a short review, and listen to an hour-long podcast on the recently published Ritualized Writing: Buddhist Practice and Scriptural Cultures in Ancient Japan, by Bryan D. Lowe (UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII PRESS 2017).

Yama archeological dig yields its secrets

Kitsap Sun
Chris Henry,
Sept. 4, 2017

(Photo: Meegan M. Reid / Kitsap Sun)


Archaeologist Floyd Aranyosi stood a stone’s throw from Takayoshi’s general store, where in the early 20th Century he might have stopped in for homemade ice cream, a Snappy Drinks soda or a tin of Stag chewing tobacco, along with sundry imported Japanese goods.

Olympic College in Bremerton is wrapping up a three-year archaeological dig at the Yama site, where a Japanese-American community flourished at the turn of the 20th Century. Wochit

Historical photographs document the existence of the store in the Japanese-American town of Yama on the south end of Bainbridge Island near the Port Blakely Sawmill. Now, as the third and final year of an archeological dig at Yama wraps up, Aranyosi and his team from Olympic College know exactly where the store stood.

Through painstaking measurements and analysis of artifacts, they’ve mapped the town, which was home to about 200 people at its height. Colorful plastic tape winding through the ferns demarcates the road where the town’s first Model T rumbled along a wood plank surface, the Washington Hotel — owned by the Konos, one of the earliest and most influential Yama families — the bath house, the barber shop, the ballfield and a row of homes perched on the hillside.

The dig, on a 7-acre site now owned by the Bainbridge Island Metropolitan Parks District, is a three-year project the college undertook in 2015 in collaboration with the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum and the Kitsap County Historical Society and Museum. Researchers are taking a multi-disciplinary approach, combining traditional archaeology with cultural anthropology, history and various scientific fields of study to better understand the people of Yama and how they lived.

The Port Blakely Sawmill, which opened in 1864, was once the largest sawmill in the world, according to the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum. The first workers were of European descent. Chinese workers who came in the 1870s were edged out by federal anti-Chinese laws. Japanese workers began arriving in the Pacific Northwest in the late 1880s, filling a labor shortage at the mill. Continue reading