Author Archives: buddhistartnews

Kaikei Buddhist exhibit enlightens visitors

10:00 am, April 19, 2017
The Yomiuri Shimbun

NARA — Kaikei, one of the nation’s representative sculptors of Buddhist statues from the Kamakura period (late 12th century to early 14th century), developed a sophisticated form of sculpting that was followed by artists of later generations. An ongoing exhibition in Nara presents the various attractive aspects of Kaikei’s sculptures, helping visitors see why Japanese have been fascinated by the master’s works.

Kaikei, whose date of birth and death are unknown, has been seen as an equal to Unkei (d. 1223), whose father is said to have served as the young Kaikei’s teacher.

Currently being held at the Nara National Museum through June 4, “The Buddhist Master Sculptor Kaikei: Timeless Beauty from the Kamakura Period” is an unprecedented exhibition as the items on show include 37 works proven to have been created by Kaikei based on his signatures on the pieces or other clues. This accounts for 80 percent of such works definitely attributed to Kaikei today, both at home and abroad.

Kaikei carved out Buddhist images as a serious devotee of Amida (Amitabha), which can best be indicated by the Standing Amida Nyorai at Todaiji temple in Nara.

For some works, Kaikei used a signature that included Amida, as on the Seated Miroku (Maitreya) Bosatsu at Daigoji temple in Kyoto. The statue, on view from April 25, is described as the best work of the sculptor’s early years.

The signature can also be found on the powerfully carved, impressive Komokuten (Virupaksa) from the Four Guardian Kings at Kongobuji temple in Wakayama Prefecture. Continue reading

Illuminating Buddhism in a high-tech light

Gyosen Asakura performs a “techno hoyo” ritual in Fukui. He said he hopes that the ritual will invoke the Buddhist version of paradise in each attendee. (The Japan News/File)

Fukui, Japan | Mon, April 17, 2017

Faced with declining attendees among the young, one temple priest in Fukui has found a unique way to help them see the light. His “techno hoyo” fuses traditional religious images projected in brilliant lights with Buddhist sutras set to a techno beat.

Gyosen Asakura, 49, the master of Shoonji temple in the city, has experience as a DJ. Using his high-tech equipment, his ritual expresses images of life after death in the paradise that Buddhism says awaits us.

With many young Japanese shunning religion these days, Asakura hopes this creative take will stoke interest in Buddhism.

“Priests are publicity agents for Buddha,” he said. “I want to reach out to people in my own way.”

Asakura became interested in music around the time he was a first-year student in junior high school. His father, who also loves music, gave him a stereo system.

At that time, “Rydeen,” a piece by the techno music group Yellow Magic Orchestra, was all the rage. The priest was fascinated by it.

After graduating from high school, Asakura got a job in a club in Kyoto, working on the lighting staff on weekdays and as a DJ on weekends. He immersed himself in music.

At 24, he returned to Fukui and began working as a Buddhist priest. Since then, he has noticed a decline in families supporting the temple and worshipers. Most worrying to him was the lack of young temple supporters.

With encouragement from his family, Asakura decided to use his skills to promote Buddhism after he succeeded his father as the 17th temple master in 2015.

In Buddhism rituals, candles are used for lighting altars.

“After someone saw how the gold leaf on altars can shine so beautifully when bathed in light, people started to illuminate it with candle flames,” Asakura said.

If the olden days found their lighting through candles, Asakura thought modern times could find its lighting through colorful illuminations. Continue reading

When India Made Its First Major Animation Movie With a Little Help From a Disney Expert

from The Better India, Sohini Dey April 18, 2017

Cartoons may have been traditionally meant for children, but the global success of animated movies show that their audience is diverse and not limited only to children. Today, Indian animators are highly prized in the global film industry, lending their expertise to movies like How to Train Your Dragon, Shrek and even live-action movies like Life of Pi and Maleficent. But not many know that the country’s first tryst with animated movies goes back to the early decades of the 20th century.

India witnessed the release of its first animated movie in colour titled The Banyan Deer in the year 1957.

Though the movie is often hailed as the country’s very first animated movie, it’s only partly true. Hand-drawn, black and white movies had been made using elementary animation techniques in the earlier decades, such as The Pea Brothers by Gunamoy Banerjee and Jambu Kaka by Raghunath K Kelkar both released in 1934, Superman’s Myth (1939) by renowned animator and filmmaker GK Gokhale and Jumbo the Fox (1951) by Ranjit Movietone.

The Banyan Deer was the first major initiative undertaken by the Films Division of India to produce a full-fledged animated movie in colour format. FDI was established in 1948 to capture the stories of India on celluloid; less than a decade later, it began setting up its Cartoon Film Unit. Animation was considered a great medium to instruct children, and according to Year of Freedom: Vol 11, the unit was “set up to produce short films for children, instructional and educational films and films involving animation sequences.”

In setting up a quality cartoon unit, the Films Division hoped to present animated movies that would match up to international standards. The organisation sought the help of Clair Weeks, a Disney animator with deep ties to India. Clair was born in India in a missionary priest’s family, and went on to work for close to two decades on iconic Disney movies like Bambi and Peter Pan.

Clair arrived in Bombay, as Mumbai was then known, in 1956 on invitation from FDI to train those employed in the cartoon unit. He stayed on for close to 18 months, training the team that worked together to produce what is today acknowledged as India’s first serious foray in world-class, colour animation.

Produced in Eastman Color, The Banyan Deer was based on a popular tale from the Buddhist Jatakas.

The Jatakas are ancient tales, narrated to present the teachings of Gautam Buddha in a simplified manner. It is believed that the Buddha himself narrated these teachings to his disciples who, in turn, narrated them to the common people they encountered on their travels.

In this particular story, the banyan deer is a golden deer and the leader of his herd who steps into the execution altar to save a mother deer from being sacrificed for a human king who loves to hunt. His compassion pleases the king, who not only lets the banyan deer go, but also spares the lives of all the deer.

The FDI chose this particular story of the movie, perhaps in keeping with the moral values inherent in the story. Besides, Buddhism was after all rooted in India and the country boasted a long-standing legacy of exquisite art and heritage, which offered a wealth of inspiration for the team. Continue reading

Is it enough for Bojjannakonda to make it to World Heritage site list?

Times of India
, Mar 27, 2017, 01.03 PM IST

One reads in the newspapers that the Archaeological Survey of India plans to include Bojjannakonda Buddhist complex in the list seeking World Heritage status. There cannot be better news for the heritage lovers of the city. Such a move is long overdue for a state which has been actively promoting tourism. The cliche that comes to mind is, better late than never. However it is not enough to have grandiose plans, intentions of the government must be matched by its actions. It takes years of effort, preparation and sincerity of purpose to get on to UNESCO’s tentative list of world heritage sites. Protection, management and authenticity of the site are major criteria for qualifying for the world heritage tag. On those conditions alone Bojjannakonda will fail to make it to the list, unless the state addresses them immediately.

Bojjannakonda site faces many man-made dangers. One very major threat is the relentless blasting that goes on in the nearby hills. Many letters and remonstrations later, the state government finally woke up to the irreparable damage caused to the ancient site and instituted enquiry. Experts from Andhra University gave a report that only detonators of a certain intensity should be allowed in the immediate neighborhood of the site. An insider informs me confidentially that the recommendations of the report are routinely defied and high intensity blasting goes on unchecked. The result is that the fragile carvings both on Bojjannakonda and Lingala mettta have developed cracks and are fast deteriorating. Continue reading

Centre to aid Buddhist corridor in Srikakulam

Buddhist monument at Salihundam in Gara mandal in Srikakulam districtBuddhist monument at Salihundam in Gara mandal in Srikakulam district

THE HANS INDIA | Mar 30,2017 , 04:42 AM IST

​Srikakulam: In a major boost to Buddhist corridor proposed by tourism and archaeology departments to protect ancient monuments, besides attracting tourists, the Central government reportedly will grant funds worth Rs 8 crore.

While the tourism and archaeology officials are busy preparing a detailed project report (DPR), a consultancy team from Central government visited Buddhist spots at Nagaralapeta village near Kalingapatnam and Salihundam in Gara mandal, Danthavarapukota in Sarubujjili and Jagathimettu in Polaki mandals. The team also held meeting with additional joint collector P Rajani Kantha Rao.

While Nagaralapeta and Shalihundam are under control of Central archaeology department, Danthavarapukota and Jagathimettu are under control of state archaeology department.

“In coordination with Central and state archaeology departments state tourism officials decided to develop these spots with Central government aid,” informed1 additional joint collector, P.Rajani Kantha Rao The Central team identified that an approach road and a garden are required at Nagaralapeta for which Rs 50 lakh is needed.

For developmental works like parks, rest houses, rest benches and toilets at Danthavarapukota, Shalihundam Rs 4 crore are required. To develop Jagathimettu another Rs 2 crore funds are needed. For other development works another Rs 1.50 crore funds needed.

“We visited four Buddhist spots along with consultancy team and identified required development works at all the locations to attract tourists,” said district tourism promotion officer (DTPO) Nadiminti Narayana Rao.


Singaporean billionaire plans to build Asian art museum in Vancouver

Chuck Chiang
Vancouver Sun, April 19, 2017 | Last Updated: April 19, 2017 4:20 PM PDT

One of Southeast Asia’s richest men, and a part-time Vancouver resident, wants to build a “world-class” museum dedicated to Asian and Buddhist art in the city.

Oei Hong Leong, who is ranked by Forbes as the 19th richest man in Singapore with a personal net worth of $1.2 billion, usually keeps a low profile in Vancouver. But he said in a rare interview Wednesday that he wants to go public with the museum proposal because he believes it could be a significant cultural addition to Vancouver and B.C.

“I love Vancouver,” said Oei, who is currently in Singapore but will return to B.C. in June. “I want to do my part to contribute. The thing about Buddhism is that I don’t view it so much as a religion as it is a personal philosophy, a way by which to live life. It’s about peace and harmony, and it’s a perfect fit to what we have in Vancouver.”

Oei started collecting Buddhist artifacts 40 years ago and now has 50,000 pieces in his personal collection, some of which are housed in a private museum in Singapore. The billionaire said he is not sure if the museum he imagines for Vancouver would house some of his personal collection or pieces from other sources.

He would like to start building in 2018, with completion three years later. No cost figure has been announced.

“It’s too early to discuss where and what, because a lot of it still depends on discussions with municipal officials,” Oei said, noting he will meet with City of Vancouver planners in June. “But I’d like to have the opportunity to do something for the community.”

The possibility of an Asian art museum in Vancouver has been discussed by several groups in recent years. In addition to Centre A (the Vancouver International Centre of Contemporary Asian Art), proponents such as West Vancouver philanthropist Robert H.N. Ho and China’s Poly Culture Group have put forward ideas for a museum dedicated to Chinese art. Continue reading

All About Thangkas: Preservation Workshop, May 6, 2017 New York City

All About Thangkas
Workshop in New York City

Date: May 06, 2017
Time: 9:00 am – 6:00 pm
Location: Talas, 330 Morgan Avenue, Brooklyn, New York

Reserve your place in this intensely informative and comprehensive day-long workshop, with keynote presentations, open Q&A during catered lunch, and discussion of thangka examples.

Thangkas present conservators, curators, collectors, and dharma students with a unique challenge in choice of preservation measures and conservation treatment. It is crucial to have background in the techniques of their manufacture and historical use.

“All About Thangkas” presents the entire thangka form, textile and painting components, and details of their creation, use, deterioration and preservation.

Workshop is limited to 20 participants.
To register and for further information:

About the Instructor:
Ann Shaftel saw her first thangka in 1955 during a school trip to the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH). Since 1970 she has been working with thangkas in monasteries, museums, dharma centers and for private collectors. Ann has worked with the Rubin Museum collection, AMNH, UNESCO, Yale University, Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, Art Institute of Chicago, and many more.

Ann’s current conservation outreach project, trains monks and nuns to protect and preserve Buddhist sacred treasures in their own monasteries, with workshops in Bhutan, India and Nepal.

Ann is a Fellow of the American Institute for Conservation, a Fellow of International Institute for Conservation, Member of Canadian Association of Professional Conservators, ICOM-Canada, and ICOMOS. She trained in conservation at Winterthur/University of Delaware and ICCROM. Ann has an MA in Asian Art History.

Private tours of thangkas at the Rubin Museum and the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) on May 4, 5 are offered by arrangement.