Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Remembering Summer 2012

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"People usually consider walking on water or in thin air a miracle.
But I think the real miracle is not to walk either on water or in thin air, but to walk on earth.
Every day we are engaged in a miracle which we don't even recognize:

a blue sky, white clouds, green leaves, the black, curious eyes of a child -- 
our own two eyes. All is a miracle."
~ Thich Nhat Hanh

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"It is a glorious privilege to live, to know, to act, to listen, to behold, to love.
To look up at the blue summer sky; 

 to see the sun sink slowly beyond the line of the horizon;
to watch the worlds come twinkling into view, first one by one, 

and the myriads that no man can count, and lo! 
The universe is white with them; and you and I are here."
~ Marco Morrow

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"So will I build my altar in the fields, 
And the blue sky my fretted dome shall be, 
And the sweet fragrance that the wild flower yields 
Shall be the incense I will yield to thee." 
~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

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Sunday, May 20, 2012

Masters of Mercy: Buddha's Amazing Disciples

Between 1854 and 1863, Japanese artist Kano Kazunobu (1816-1863) created a series of 100 paintings of the Buddha’s 500 disciples. Very early Buddhist sacred texts suggested that during one of the Buddha’s famous sermons, 500 followers received instant enlightenment. These disciples became known as “the worthy ones,” and fascination with them was a staple of Japanese Buddhist iconography. Kazunobu interpreted this ancient idea of “the worthy ones” and intertwined with it popular themes from his own era to create lively, richly colored, and highly detailed scenes of the disciples. His 19th century scroll paintings range from depictions of monastic life and duties to images of the disciples performing miracles, such as saving people from hell or relieving a drought.

Interview about Buddhism and Kazunobu’s paintings with James Ulak, senior curator of Japanese art at the Smithsonian Institution’s Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery.

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Daily Life, Five Hundred Arhats: Scrolls 1 and 2

The opening section of this exhibition offers windows into the daily life and rituals of the rakan. At right, a gaunt and elderly rakan gossips with a youthful rakan holding a peacock fan. Before them, an acolyte hashes medicinal herbs while another turns out ground powder from a boat-shaped vessel. A rakan in a chair seated in half-lotus position is about to sample the freshly prepared incense. While the motif of acolytes working a mortar and pestle was frequently seen in medieval rakan painting, Kazunobu's treatment is remarkable for its vivid coloring, intricate detail, and vigor of expression.

To the left, a rakan with overgrown eyebrows stands with his palms together before a pink-robed rakan reading a sutra scroll. In the middle ground, a rakan offers a white garment to a beggar in rags. In the distance, a rakan with the head of a bull reposes by a river. He has removed his shoes to wash his feet, which appear to be hooves.

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The Bath, Five Hundred Arhats: Scrolls 9 and 10

At right, an acolyte beats drums to announce the hour of baths while, to the left, a group of rakan makes its way into the bathing pavilion, bundled toiletries in hand. Visible beyond reed curtains are two rakan already immersed in the hot water. Personal items such as robes, sticks, and prayer beads are left hanging on a rack. Outside, an attendant prepares a post-bath beverage.

With the codifying of daily rituals observed by monastic communities in China's Song period, bathing and tea drinking became important subjects of medieval rakan painting. Kazunobu inserted an array of rakan engaged in basic acts of personal hygiene: shaving, clipping toenails, and plucking out facial hair, thus giving them great human appeal.

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Tonsure, Five Hundred Arhats: Scrolls 17 and 18

The ritual of tonsure, or shaving of the head, upon entry into the Buddhist priesthood is a practice that continues to this day. Notable in the right scroll are the similarities between the paired elder rakan and youths. Beyond depicting an important moment of initiation for the aspirants, the message is that the rakan have a moral responsibility to ensure generational continuity.

In the left scroll, two boys with newly shorn heads bow down before a group of rakan. At top, a senior rakan holding a curved scepter is seated in a throne-like chair draped with a priestly stole. Parents observe the ceremony in the foreground with their backs to the viewer—a compositional device not often seen in Buddhist painting.

圖文轉載自:Masters of Mercy

Online Exhibition: Masters of Mercy: Buddha's Amazing Disciples