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Early Art Beyond Europe Summary. Themes Styles/characteristics Subject matter Purpose Media. Chapter 6 : Paths to Enlightenment: The Ancient Art of South and Southeast Asia.

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early art beyond europe summary

Early Art Beyond Europe Summary



Subject matter



chapter 6 paths to enlightenment the ancient art of south and southeast asia
Chapter6: Paths to Enlightenment: The Ancient Art of South and Southeast Asia
  • The Indus civilization in the Indus River valley in present-day Pakistan and India had its formative phase from 5500-2500BCE
  • The urban phase ca.2500-1700BCE is contemporary with the Old-New Kingdoms in Egypt and the Royal Cemetery in Ur and the Stele of Hammurabi in the Ancient Near East in Mesopotamia; but there are no temples or palaces yet found from the period.
  • Buddha (Enlightened One), Siddhartha Gautama, c.563-483BCE, was born in India
  • Hinduism (the religion of the Indians) is the dominant religion in India today; it has no founder or prophet; ritual sacrifice by priests is central to its practice
  • Both religions began to represent deities in human form 1st c.BCE-1st c.CE
stupa: a large, mound-shaped Buddhist shrine
  • yakshis: female goddesses signifying fertility and vegetation
  • yakshas: powerful male equivalent of yakshis
  • circumambulation: walking clockwise, body’s right faces monument
  • torana: gateway in the stone fence around a stupa, located at the cardinal points of the compass
  • reliquary: a container for keeping relics
  • mandala:sacred diagram of the universe
  • mandorla: a circular shape (may be oval, pointed, etc.) that suggests incandescence signifying a spiritual glow; a nimbus signifying divinity
  • nirvana: the state of being free from suffering; literally means “blowing out”, as in blowing out the fires of greed, hatred, and delusion

Buddhism: Siddhartha Gautama 563-483 BCE was the oldest son of a king who was prophesied to become a world conqueror or a great religious leader; so his father wanted to groom him to become king by sheltering him from hardships; at 29 he abandoned his family and renounced his opulent lifestyle and encountered suffering-old age, sickness, death- out in the world; he sought knowledge, meditated and achieved enlightenment, becoming known as Shakyamuni (Wise Man of the Shakya Clan) Buddha; in his first sermon he set in motion the Wheel (chakra) of the Law (dharma) and taught the Four Noble Truths and the Eightfold path of right understanding; this path would lead to nirvana, the endless cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (a blissful state acquired by absorption of the individual soul or consciousness into the supreme spirit); he preached until he died at the age of 80; his disciples continued his teachings and established monasteries where other could follow Buddha’s path to enlightenment and nirvana; Buddha is not a god, but one who sees the ultimate nature of the world and is no longer subject to samsara, the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth.

  • Highlights of Buddha’s life:
  • Birth
  • 4 encounters: sick man, poor man, beggar, corpse
  • Renunciation of worldly life
  • 6 yrs of austerity
  • Enlightenment beneath pipal tree
  • Defeat of Mara (evil one)
  • Teachings (at left)
  • Death (reaches nirvana-bliss)
  • Four Noble Truths:
  • Life is suffering
  • The cause of suffering is ignorance/desire
  • Ignorance/desire can be overcome
  • Overcome by the eightfold path (at right)
  • Eightfold Path
  • Right view
  • Right resolve
  • Right speech
  • Right action
  • Right livelihood
  • Right Effort
  • Right Mindfulness
  • Right Concentration

Great Stupa, Sanchi, India, c.200BCE, Maurya Period, 50’H, Sanchi was a Buddhist monastery founded during Ashoka’s reign; consists of many buildings built through the centuries; stupa dome is solid and filled with earth and rubble, and includes a double stairway on the south side leading to an upper level walkway; the 3 parasol-like structures on top represent the heavenly hierarchy; relics of Buddha and important monks were buried in the stupa; symbolic meanings transform it into a model of the cosmos;


The circular (mandala) plan represents the wheel of life and death; the egg-shaped mound symbolizes the World Egg that supports and is covered by the heavens; the mound rests on a platform aligned to the cardinal points representing the axis of the earth holding up heaven; each point has its own gateway with symbolic relief carvings; inside the gates are the railings encircling the path of ritual circumambulation to achieve purity.


Yakshi on the eastern gateway of the Great Stupa; stories of Buddha’s life and past lives are told on the gates; this erotic goddess figure holds the mango tree in a gesture representing fertility; Buddha’s mother is often represented as such;


Buddha is represented symbolically by footprints, wheels, thrones, trees and other inanimate objects at the Great Stupa.Why no images of theBuddha himself? Perhaps because he achieved enlightenment and had been freed from the confines of the body;Later, he is represented in human form, first as a robed monk; he is distinguished from actual monks and bodhisattvas by lakshanas or characteristics indicating his superhuman nature; they include a curl of hair between the eyebrows shown as a dot; a cranial bump shown as hair; wheels imprinted on palms and souls of feet; elongated ears from wearing heavy royal jewelry in his youth; a mandorla or nimbus (halo or sun disk) behind his head; and various mudras or hand gestures.

The Seated Buddha Gandhara style is Greco-Roman in character, with stylized hair and heavy drapery; the Mathura Buddha more resembles the yakshas from India in his bulk and masculinity in a monk’s robe, yogic pose and gesture that tells worshipers to have no fear; the latest of the three is Buddha preaching his first sermon has elements of both styles with a robe on both shoulders and smooth surfaces with softer features and downcast eyes, his hand in the Wheel-turning gesture; this became the standard representation of Buddha in later temples built to house the statues.

The Trimurti of Hinduism




The Preserver

The Creator

The Destroyer

dancing shiva relief in cave temple badami india 6th century
Dancing Shiva: Relief in cave temple, Badami, India, 6th Century.
  • Earlier Hindu artists carved a series of reliefs in caves at Badami
  • “lalita” or “charming” pose.
  • Dancing; arms swing rhythmically in arc.
  • Hands: some holding objects; gestures (mudras).
  • Right: drummer accompanies dance.
  • Shiva’s son= Ganesha (elephant headed) mimics father
  • Left= Nandi (Shiva’s bull mount)
  • Indian artists did not try to show accurate body proportions, but graceful lines and expressive movement.

Shiva as Mahadeva in rock-cut temple, Elephanta, India, sixth century. Shiva 17' high; shiva as the “Great God” or Lord of Lords; middle face is quiet and balanced; right is the female or creative aspect and at left the male is the destructive side; symbolic representation of cyclic pattern of death and rebirth;

shiva as nataraja b ronze naltunai isvaram temple punjai india ca 1000
Shiva as Nataraja: bronze, Naltunai Isvaram Temple, Punjai, India, ca 1000.
  • Hinduism: Shiva is one of the 3 most important deities, representing destruction and regeneration
  • Represents cosmic dances; universe will end when he stops
  • Stamps out ignorance (dwarf figure) when dancing.
  • “Nataraja” – Lord of the Dance;
  • Multiple limbs and arms reflect superhuman nature; sometimes with 3rd all-seeing eye;
  • touching flaming nimbus (light of glory)
  • Two upper hands hold drum (right) and flame (left).
  • Points to foot: refuge and enlightenment
  • Lower right hand: “fear-not” gesture
  • As Shiva spins, matted hair comes loose and spreads like a fan on both sides of head;


Stupa, Borobudur, Java, Indonesia, ca. 800 A.D. cosmic mountain on earth, decorated with stupas, Buddha images, hundreds of relief carvings; four square terraces and three circular terraces lead to the closed stupa at the top, allows for circumambulation: the further one goes, the more one understands
Angkor Wat, Angkor, Cambodia, 12th c.; built by a Khmer king, surrounded by a moat (oceans) and is a temple mountain representing Mount Meru, home of the gods and center of the Hindu universe; dedicated to Vishnu, ; rises in pyramid-like steps; each level punctuated by tower shrines connected with covered galleries; reliefs depict kings holding court; may have astronomical alignment;
chapter 7 daoism confucianism and buddhism the art of early china and korea
Chapter 7: Daoism, Confucianism, and Buddhism: The Art of Early China and Korea
  • China is the only continuing civilization that originated in the ancient world.
  • Although many dialects of spoken language existed which prevented oral communications, a written language with characters-signs with meaning rather than sounds- people could share literature, philosophy, and religion.
  • The Silk Road was one of the world’s oldest and historically important series of trade routes for almost 2000 yrs.; crisscrossing Eurasia on land and sea it allowed a migration of arts, ideas and innovations between cultural groups.
  • Chinese inventions include the magnetic compass, movable type, paper money, gunpowder, silk, ceramic and lacquered arts, musical instruments, and mathematics.
  • Daoism and Confucianism developed during the 5th – 3rd c. BCE, along with the building of the Great Wall, which linked fortifications along the northern border of China.
  • Daoism was born of ancient folk beliefs and adapted many of Buddhism’s rituals and symbols (as did Confucianism); it rejected materialism and valued intuitive awareness acquired by a harmonious existence with nature. Dao=“path” or “way” of life.
  • Confucianism embraced the veneration of ancestors, great teachers and heroic leaders respecting such hierarchical relationships; it stressed social order and responsibility such as concern for the impoverished, mannerly behavior, morality, and rites and ceremonies reflecting societal relationships; pursuit of knowledge and the arts were also central to his teachings.
  • The two philosophies share many traits but here is an analogy which underlines the difference: If the Daoist goal is to become like a piece of unhewn and natural wood, the goal of the Confucians is to become a carved sculpture. The Daoists put the piece before us just as it is found, and the Confucians polish it, shape it, and decorate it.
calligraphy: beautiful handwriting of Chinese characters
  • pagoda: multi-storied towers used as relic halls in China and Japan, function as a stupa does in India
  • fengshui: a Chinese notion of “wind and water”, the breath of life, which is scattered by wind and must be stopped by water; thus the forces of the wind and water must be adjusted for in the orientation of Chinese architecture
  • handscroll: in Asian art, a horizontal painted scroll that is unrolled to the left and often used to present illustrated religious texts or landscapes
  • lacquer: In Chinese art, a varnish-like substance made from the sap of the Asiatic sumac, used to decorate wood and other organic materials

Army of Emperor Shi Huangdi in pits next to burial mound, Shaanxi Province, China, Qin dynasty, c.210 BCE, painted terracotta, average figure 5’10⅞” high.

7,000+ life-size soldiers and horses were to act as immortal imperial bodyguards (originally brightly painted)

Thought to be part of a vast funerary palace (unexcavated)

Many very similar in pose, but with slight differences in facial features (sharp realism of detail)

Discovered in 1974 when peasants were digging a well

Xuankong Si (Hanging Temple), Hunyuan, China, Northern Wei dynasty, 386-534, (reconstruction 1368-1644) the temple and monastery are light and airy contrasting with the heavy, bulky rock; constructed from the top down, pieces built separately and then lowered onto the structure; column-bracket-beam system withelevated, projecting eaves and a pitched roof; this allowed for light, non-load-bearing walls; its location keeps it safe from floods, rain and snow; also, following a Daoist principle, it is above noises, making it a quiet retreat.
Great Wild Goose Pagoda at Ci’en Temple, Xian. c.650. Tang Dynasty. Constructed for a famous monk on his return from a 16 year pilgrimage to India, he taught and translated the materials he had brought back with him here; the pagoda, a typical East Asian Buddhist structure, originated in the Indian stupa which evolved into a multistoried form and here blended with a traditional Han watchtower to produce the pagoda. Although built in masonry, it imitates wooden structures of the time. Originally it had 5 levels, but was restored and modified in mid-8th c. when 2 additional stories and a finial was added.


is the general term in the English language for a tiered tower with multiple eaves common in China, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, and other parts of Asia. Most pagodas were built to have a religious function, most commonly Buddhist, and were often located in or near temples. This term may refer to other religious structures in some countries.

The pagoda's original purpose was to house relics and sacred writings.

Column-beam-bracket construction:

Building method where beams are laid between columns with the beam length decreasing as it is stacked higher

The horizontal beams support vertical struts which in turn support higher beams

Purlins, roof support beams, ran the length of the building and held the rafters

Brackets were used to cantilever the roof to support the eaves (like capitals between the column and the architrave)

Bays were compartments formed by this construction that extended the length of the building


Seated Buddha, Datong, Shanxi, Wei Dynasty, c.460 CE,45’, cave 20 at Yungang; from the earliest phase of Buddhist sculpture in China; front of the cave no longer stands; has the elongated earlobes, protuberance on the head, and monk’s robe; style shows Central Asian influence.

Fan Kuan, Travelers among Mountains and Streams, Northern Song Dynasty, early eleventh century, Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 6’ 9”×2’ 5”.

Harmonious relationship between humanity and nature’s potential to transform the human spirit. Painters felt these works could transport them into a world of imaginary journeys.

Huge natural forms dwarf the human travelers making us aware of how small we are and how vast nature is.

Use of shifted perspective (some objects viewed from the top, others strictly from the side) and textured short staccato strokes (here raindropstrokes)

The central larger mountain flanked by smaller peaks reflects the Confucian sense of social hierarchy, and the Buddhist motif of the Buddha with bodhisattvas at his side, while the unspoiled nature conveys a Daoist ideal.