China: Buddha of Medicine Bhaishajyaguru (Yaoshi fo) Buddha of Medicine Bhaishajyaguru (Yaoshi fo), c. 1319, Yuan dynasty, water-based pigments on clay mixed with straw, 24 feet, 8 inches x 49 feet 7 inches / 751.8 cm x 1511.3 cm (Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York). In the Google Art Project: http://www.googleartproject.com/collection/the-metropolitan-museum-of-art/artwork/buddha-of-medicine-bhaishajyaguru-yaoshi-fo-unknown/650012/#
China: Buddha of Medicine Bhaishajyaguru (Yaoshi fo)
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- we are in the metropolitan museum of art, looking at
- an enormous wall painting on plaster. This is from
- the east caver of the bhaun saun Budda temple
- in Shansi province. This temple was rediscovered
- in the 1930s bcause a forested of the buddhist scriptures known
- as the sutras was found at this temple complex.
- And it put this monastery,on the map. The monks decided to take down the mural
- and sell them in order to restore the building. This was taken down
- and i believe so througha a dealer, who then sold it
- to Arthur Sacler and in 1964, Arthur Sacler gave
- that to the metropolitan museum of art. It is gorgeous. But it is unusual for me.
- I am used to looking at chinese glow painting. how common is
- wall painting?. Actually the first important format for painting in China
- was wall painting. And we know this from textual sources and
- have found secular subject matters in the last fifty years or so.
- But in NOrth West China, the moghul cave sites have a huge
- encyclopedia,really a buddhist wall painting, stretching from
- the fourth to the fourteenth century. Palaces and temples all
- over china had wall painting, and wall painting was a very important format that
- has not survived. So this painting is from the very early
- fourteenth century, and by this time, buddhism had been in china
- for about a thousand years. So this is an extremely well developed
- system of representation. Yeh, but this is from the Yun Dynasty.
- These were foreign rulers in china. So when this was painted
- China was actually undergoing a significant political transformation.
- The Mongols were now in control of china.
- as opposed to the Han. The Mongols had unified china
- and in the core, a very different style of painting was adopted.
- That was a style much more associated with
- healain art with betnart. i am seeing this extraordinary
- contrast between the buddhist orfice and the representation of
- buddha. Buddha seems so spare. he seems to be very restrained
- in style, as apposed to this dance costume,
- full of jewelry. the buddha had reliquished all worldly ties
- and thus is prsented in the garb of a monk.
- The buddhist eifers, were highly enlightened beings
- have vowed to remain in the earthly norm
- to help all sentinel beings, find relief from
- some sorrow, that is the endless cycle of rebirth.
- and in that regard, they are presented still in princely garb.
- the Buddha is represented in budhist posture and the
- hand gestures of the buddha are known as mudras. and often
- the specific hand gestures give us an indication of
- which buddha is being represented. So i am a little confused.
- because i am looking at this central buddha,
- i am seeing the long earlobes, i am seeing the little
- rise at the back of the head and i was assuming
- this was the historic buddha. All those characteristics that
- were carried over to other buddhas as well.
- Buddhism started in the northern plains of India
- and spread to
- china. So initially the Buddha was a person
- He was not a god. that is the historical Buddha Shakyamuni.
- He was born in the foothills of the Himalayas.
- As the religion developed, the budhism that spread in china is called the Mahayana.
- And in the mahayana buddhist sytem there are buddhas presiding over paradises.
- everywhere. This painting is most likely a representation
- of the assembly of Bhisajaguru, the medicine buddha.
- and the other central thing to mahayana buddhism is the
- buddhit offer, because it is a religion of compassion,
- and the bodhi sauper is a compassionate figure .
- So a lot of worship is focussed on the bodhi stupa in chinese
- budhism. as we down, we move from the celestial representation
- that we can see so clearly at the top to
- a new structure. you can see a large body suface
- and buddha are seated on lotus blossoms
- and there is a pedestaldbelow that which is
- beautifully decorated, and then below that we can see a
- series ofsecondary attendants seated at our level
- as the painting is hung in the museum, would have been still higher.
- you can see a whole variety of offerings that are
- isolated by a lotus pedestal and a halo behind.
- whether now we are looking at the large buddha, the body surface
- or his figures down at the bottom, there is such an
- emphasis on thsi most beautiful almosst cribilinear form
- almost everything is aligned with this very hard control.
- that is particularly apparent,in the scarves that drape off of the figures.
- you can see, that the movement and the flow is articulated thro line.\
- and look at the way the fullness of the figures is articulated
- and all comes back to this thickening and thinnin of lines.
- and then also this fabulous color. the color would have been
- much more vibrant and if you think of itin a temple complex
- it would have been in a space with other
- mural paintings , but would also have been with sculptures that would have been highly
- pigmented.this is from an astic environment. is this meant to be instructive?
- buddhist painting was created by craftsmen
- overseen by monks making sure that the iconography was
- correct. Buddhist sculpture and buddhist painting were used for didactic purposes
- This such specific iconography, i find it fascinating
- now its not quite sure, what the subject is.
- i think it is quite interesting that, in chinese buddhist art, there are still avenues
- for research.it is an important reminder, that artistry is still a living thisng.
- we still cahange in our minds.
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