The panels introduced by ancient artists from Gandhara region provide four important events from the life of the Buddha. By presenting the crucial moment in each event and relating each scene to the image of Buddha and his mother, the sculptures manage to provide bright elements of the Buddhist history.
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The show has presented four major events from the life of the Buddha: the Birth and the Dearth of the Buddha, the First Sermon at the Deer Park, and the Image and the First Teaching of Siddhartha. All four scenes are presented in a three-dimensional form. The exhibition of the Indian artistic works is skillfully combined with the Chinese works that also disclose the essence of the Buddhist culture.
A centre-focused composition is typical of all four panels because other figures carved in the stone address either the Prince Siddhartha, or his mother. All peripheral figures are looking at Buddha and their faces are overwhelmed with happiness, spirituality, and faith. Size is an important indicator in the presented friezes because it imparts some sense of priority and superiority while depicting the objects.
Hence, the Buddha is much bigger in size and he is always located in the central part of the panel whereas other objects are much smaller and are located to the right and to the left shoulders of the deity. Only the sculpture depicting the Death of Buddha represents all objects of identical size. Similar image can be viewed on the carving depicting the Birth of Buddha where all objects are standing and all of them are of a nearly similar height.
The objects’ positions and postures should also be taken into consideration because all of figures of the composition are meaningfully sited. This particularly refers to First Sermon of the Prince sitting at the Deer Park. The pupils surrounding him are standing and looking at him from the bottom; the Buddha is a bit elevated over the mortals. The Birth and Death of the Buddha provide a bit different composition and the objects’ positions.
Hence, the Prince lying in the center is surrounded by grieving people. While looking at the Birth of Siddhartha, attention should also be paid to the carved deepening which is more shadowy for the peripheral objects depicted on the frieze whereas the Prince seems to be more pushed forward one again proving his superiority over the others. In contrast, the frieze depicting the Buddha’s Death provide the image of the Buddha on similar carved level in relation to the surrounding objects.
Static and dynamic representations of objects can also be noticed while contemplating the panels. Hence, the picture of the Buddha’s First Sermons provides us with surrounding figures full of joy, vitality, and joisting movement whereas the Prince itself is presented more in static posture whose face expresses full detachment from reality.
The Buddha is depicted as a god who is removed from the sorrows and joys of humanity, which is quite typical foe later periods of the Buddhist art. This kind of representation creates an image of a mediating god who is detached from the world. Therefore, both the Prince and his mother are individualized on the panels whereas the people surrounding them symbolize the mass, faith, and god worship (Craven 82). Picture of Buddha’s teachings incorporate the same idea.
Buddhism impact on art development has spread beyond India and influence Chinese culture as well whose artists and painters devoted a great number of works to depicting the Buddhist diving creatures. Particular attention can be paid to the image of Bodhisattva performed by a Nepalese artist dating back to Yuan Dynasty. This is a smoothly-modeled body that is closely reminiscent of the image of the Indian Buddha. The sculpture is also presented in the mediating posture and shows its elevated status.
This deity who is now considered as bodhisattva or, according to the Chinese culture “one destined for enlightenment”, will descend as Buddha in his next cycle (Sullivan 97). In the Chinese culture, the divine is represented as the god of wealth and wisdom who reveals the infinite powers of god. In general, though the sculpture is created much later the Kushan period, it still serves as a continuation of the Buddhist culture incorporating the common motives of absolute beauty and grace, and spirituality.
In conclusion, the exhibition has provided in an impression of a holistic picture characterizing the issues of the Indian and the Chinese culture. Both, the Four Scenes of the Life of the Buddha and the Image of Bodhisattva are closely intertwined because they depicted within the same context.
These works are affiliated to portraying the life of the Buddhist god who descends to the Earth to bring salvation to all mortals. The monuments harmonize with each other and are located in a chronological order, which enables to track the sequence and changes in religious and cultural views. In whole, the exhibition provides a detailed description of the history of the Buddhist culture in India and China.
Craven, Roy C. Indian Art. US: Thames & Hudson, 1997. Print.
Sullivan, Michael. The Arts of China. US: University of California Press, 1984. Print.