December 10, 2019 0

Another World Lies Beyond: Chinese Art and the Divine | Ancient Art Links

Another World Lies Beyond: Chinese Art and the Divine | Ancient Art Links

>>>This exhibition is called
Another World Lies Beyond: Chinese Art and the Divine.
And here we’ve given the entirety of the Chinese
painting galleries to this topic of religious art from
China. We begin with six galleries of Buddhist art. Then
we move into a gallery related to Daoist art and then
into popular religious prints, from the early 20th century
and then finally we end with fantastic beasts;
dragons and things like that. And so the exhibition ultimately
attempts to use the Met’s permanent collection to
teach a little bit about the diversity of religious
expression and religious belief and the role that
art played in pre-modern China. [Chanting]>>>And Buddhist art,
although it originally came from India and was
brought to China about 2000 years ago by
itinerant teachers, it became a major force
in the spiritual life. We’re standing in a gallery
devoted to the Buddhist deity Guanyin. Guanyin is
a bodhisattva and Guanyin, who was known as
Avalokitesvara in India, in Sanskrit, but became
known as Guanyin in Chinese. The name literally means
the perceiver of sounds or the hearer of sounds, and so
that’s Guanyin’s whole reason for being is to listen for
what we need and to support us. Anything from rescuing
you from a fire or a disaster to helping you to give birth
to the child that you’ve longed for for many years. [Chanting]>>>The one that I’m standing
in front of here is really the piece that we built
this whole gallery around. This is a painting from
the late Ming dynasty. It’s dated 1629. And it is
a remarkably important survivor from ritual art of pre-modern
China. You can see that the deity has 11 heads
and one thousand arms. I would say many arms. Even
the palm of each hand is an eye. So this is a kind of overt
expression of Guanyin’s power as a listener and as
a seer. And then she’s surrounded by some 350
supporting deities. It’s almost 12 feet tall,
and it’s really built for monastery scale. So this
would come out and it would help to guide the
monks through this set of visualization and chanting. [Chanting] ♪ [Music] ♪>>>The luohan figures that this
whole gallery and the next gallery are devoted to,
these are figures who originally were the disciples of
Shakyamuni Buddha. He is the Buddha who lived
in this world 2,600 years ago and the luohans
were his disciples. They’re the people who heard
the teachings directly from the mouth of the Buddha.
Just before the Buddha left our world, he charged
them with the task of protecting his teachings.
And this is a painting of sixteen Luohans by Shitao.
He was born just before the fall of the Ming dynasty
and he was a member of the Ming Imperial family. So he
became a Buddhist monk and that was one of the safe
places to be. And it’s his early masterpiece painted
when he was around 25 years old. These luohan
figures are the guys who are charged by the Buddha
with protecting his teachings. They’re sitting in caves
and meditating, you know, passing hundreds of years,
doing various kinds of miracles because they have almost
Buddhist super powers and here a luohan sits with a pet
tiger. Luohans were capable of taming tigers. They
also were capable of controlling dragons. This is
the other treasure from our painting collection that
provided the Genesis for the idea for this exhibition.
This one is by Wu Bin. Here you have a luohan
who is sitting on a kind of sedan chair. He’s got
these long fingernails that stretch around. He’s
got sagging skin from his age. His head has an interesting
shape to it. You know, these images were meant to
be fun and compelling and eye-catching, but they were
also sacred. This is one of the great treasures of the
Metropolitan Museum collection. It’s a woven tapestry and it’s
from the Yuan dynasty court. This is the time when the
Mongols are ruling China. Mongol emperors were great
devotees of Tibetan Buddhism, and this image depicts
Vajrabhairava, this wrathful deity.
He is an emanation of the bodhisattva of wisdom. Now
we know that this came out of the court in part
because of its scale and its craftsmanship, but also
because it features portraits of the donors. We
have portraits of Tugh Temür, the emperor of Wenzong
and his brother, Kusala. They later, they engaged in a
power struggle over succession and Kusala ended up dead.
Was probably killed by his brother. Their wives are
also pictured on the lower right hand. The wife of
Kusala also ended up dead under sketchy circumstances. ♪ [Music] ♪ [Chanting]>>>I’m standing in
front of the earliest piece in the exhibition, a
piece from the 520’s AD and it’s gilt bronze. It depicts
the Buddha of the future. This is the next
Buddha who is slated to appear in our world. The
Buddha Maitreya. And you see him standing here with
these flowing robes as he emerges essentially from
a, from a wall of flame. ♪ [Flute Music] ♪>>>So Daoist belief divided
the cosmos into three regions; land, sea, and sky. And
each of these regions was overseen by a very serious
looking figure such as this one you see here. This
is a ceramic piece dated 1482 with an inscription on the
rear. At the core of Daoist belief is not a particular deity
though, but this larger idea of the Dao itself. This is
this larger force that sort of connects all things. The
goal of practice is to harmonize with this larger force called
the Dao, rather than to seek the approval of any
particular deity per se. Here we have an entire gallery
devoted to these popular prints that were made to be hung in
the home. These are sometimes called New Year’s prints or door
gods. And these would be hung at strategic locations
throughout the house to sort of protect against evil forces
or to invite positive forces into the house. We also
even have some stove guards that were made to
be hung in the kitchen. But here because we’ve
just looked at Guan Yu, a very lavish Imperial
painting of Guan Yu, this marshal figure, protector
figure, I wanted to show you this one, which is
done here in woodblock print, multiple colors. This is from
the early 20th century. You will often see still
these types of prints are used. The final gallery of the
exhibition is devoted to fantastic beasts, dragons,
and it may seem like a bit of a leap from Buddhism
through Daoism to dragons, but in fact, in pre-modern
China, in the belief system, dragons were a really important
force in the lives of people. They were connected to water.
If there was a drought and you needed rain, which in
an agricultural society was terribly important,
people who could communicate with dragons and dragon
forces were often Daoist’s. So we used the term dragon,
which is a translation of the Chinese term lóng. Unlike
the sort of Western idea of the dragon, which is this
beast out there that you have to kill, the Chinese
dragon is very different. Dragon forces were often seen
as powerful positive forces. There were associated with
the emperors. They were associated with kind of
auspicious types of symbols. Dragons also could be
negative forces in the lives of common people because
if they weren’t taken care of, and they weren’t treated
properly, they could either bring too much rain or too
little rain, and so dragons play a diverse set of roles in
pre-modern Chinese belief. ♪ [Music] ♪

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