Part of ancient Vishnu statue head found

Part of the deity Vishnu head made of sandstone built in the middle of the 9th century found at Trapeang Phong temple during restoration. Apsara Authority

Part of an ancient Vishnu statue has been discovered by Trapeang Phong temple restoration team in Kork Srok village, Roluos commune, Prasat Bakong district, Siem Reap province, which was found on the right side of the temple’s central tower on March 31.

Apsara Authority spokesman Long Kosal told Khmer Times that the fragment of the statute head was handed to the authority by the restoration team and is made of sandstone and measures 38 centimetres high, 20 centimetres wide and 18 centimetres thick.

He said the recovered piece only shows one side of the head, with an eye, an eyebrow, part of a nose, lips and ears with a cylindrical crown on top of the head that runs from the hairline across the front to the back.

Kosal noted the short face, with brows not separated, and the high cylindrical crown on top of the head clearly depicts that it is a Kulen style sculpture.

Furthermore, he said, according to some scholars they are of view that the Trapeang Phong temple was constructed in the Kulen style in the middle of the 9th century during the reign of King Jayavarman III (850 -877) who was the son of a famous king, King Jayavarman II (802-850).

Therefore, it’s not rare for the fragments found to have been built around the same time as the Trapeang Phong temple, showing that they’re not later artefacts.

“The fragment of Vishnu’s head is being kept at the Apsara Authority depository for repairs and cleaning,” Kosal said, adding they would also register and record all the necessary information and data before handing the piece to the Heritage Protection Police.

According to the Apsara Authority website, people from Lvea village, Srenouy commune, Varin district, Siem Reap province, handed over four artefacts to Apsara in February, including one sandstone pillar, Tep Srey’s left hand made of sandstone, and two pedestals, one of which has four rows of ancient Khmer inscriptions on the side.

The items were removed from the original location by the villagers for the purpose of temporary storage, but the Apsara Authority requested to keep them at its centre for the safety of the items and to study, research and register them.

It said it is a good idea to transport these valuable artefacts in a timely manner, as some items may eventually be damaged or broken.

For example, it said, the pedestal that they brought to the store had important inscriptions, some of which were sharpened with a knife and some of which had cracks and bruises.

How ancient Gandhara art gave a body to the Buddha

A new travelogue investigates the Buddhist sites of ancient Gandhara and sheds light on an often forgotten confluence of civilisations

By Bibek Bhattacharya

In 2001, when the Taliban blew up the monumental statues of the Buddha at Bamiyan in Afghanistan, it marked a tragic low in the history of religious iconoclasm. The destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas, which had been constructed between 550-600 AD, broke a continuous 2,000-year-old historical and trading connection between what historians call “Greater Gandhara” and the Ganges Valley. While the core area of ancient Gandhara lies in north-west Pakistan, encompassing the foothills of the Salt Range, the area around Peshawar and the Swat Valley, Greater Gandhara includes eastern and northern areas of Afghanistan lying just across the Khyber Pass.

Journalist and author Sunita Dwivedi’s informative new book, Buddha In Gandhara, seeks to recreate the Buddhist culture and art of these regions. The first part of the book, set in Pakistan, is a conventional travelogue. The chapters on her travels are interspersed with historical and mythical tales of the region dating back to Alexander’s invasion in the fourth century BC. The second half of the book is a survey of Buddhist sites in Afghanistan, an area she had covered in an earlier travelogue, Buddha In Central Asia. The latest book marks the fourth in a loose series of books documenting a series of travels through Buddhist Asia.

The really impressive thing about Buddha In Gandhara is Dwivedi’s zeal in visiting every last stupa and monastic archaeological site that she can think of. The writing in the book hardly sparkles, and has a rushed quality to it, with a breathless unspooling of names of places and people that doesn’t always separate historical facts from legendary material. However, what the book lacks in polish, it makes up for in the tour of Gandhara that it offers. As a dedicated completist, Dwivedi does her readers a great favour. Through her travels we visit the giant stupa of Manikyala outside Islamabad, the monumental hill monastery of Takht-i-Bahi, the ancient monastic cities of Charsadda, the archaeological sites of Jamalgarhi, and the impressive Buddhist sites of Taxila, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Most of the Buddhist monuments that Dwivedi visits have their origins in the high Kushan era, built around the second and third centuries AD.

She even tries to visit the ancient Buddhist stupa and monastery of Ali Masjid on the Khyber Pass, but there’s a limit to even what someone with Dwivedi’s formidable diplomatic contacts can manage. However, reading the book gives a sense of the state of the Gandharan antiquities in Pakistan, and we learn of the efforts being made by Pakistani historians and archaeologists to preserve and cherish this heritage. Given current political relations with Pakistan, it is highly unlikely that most Indians will get to see the grand stupas and Buddhist art and excavated sites like Taxila or Takht-i-Bahi. Which is a shame, because the story of Gandhara is that of a time when South Asia, driven by Buddhism and trade, was cosmopolitan and international in outlook, and not sniping from behind heavily militarised borders.

The story of Gandhara is also a story of the Kushan empire, which, between the first and third centuries AD, ruled over a vast tract from Afghanistan to present-day Uttar Pradesh. At its height, the empire provided political stability and mobility to the diverse people it ruled over, including South Asians, Scythians, Greeks, Bactrians and Central Asian tribal groups. The Kushan empire was a melting pot of new ideas. The empire’s most notable contribution in terms of art history, however, was that it gave a body to the Buddha.

In their book Confluences: Forgotten Histories From East And West, Ranjit Hoskote and Ilija Trojanow have theorised that the greater international contact during the Kushan era, coinciding with a Buddhist proselytising push to new territories along major overland trade routes, threw up the need for fresh religious innovations. At this time, new Mahayana sutras started pushing Buddhism towards becoming a religion of the masses with a distinct devotional aspect centered on the Bodhisattvas and the Sakyamuni himself. Such devotional fervour required objects of worship.

By the first century AD, the Gandhara region had already developed local artistic traditions based on Greek art influences on the one hand, and those of north and central India on the other. It was a region of competing religious cults as well, mixing Hellenistic gods with those from Iran and the Ganges valley. Deities like the Iranian solar god Mithras influenced the cult of the Bodhisattva Maitreya. Others, like Oesho with his trident, and Nanaia riding a lion, entered the South Asian religious mainstream as Shiva and Durga. The cult of stupa worship, the prosperity of new monasteries, and an obsession with the relics of the Buddha as a source of suprahuman power, all came together to give the world the first iconic depictions of Buddha.

Under the Kushan emperor Kanishka’s patronage, the monk Ashvaghosha composed the first biography of the Buddha, codifying the oral legends into the Buddhacharita, the first great work of Sanskrit in the subcontinent. Such charitas, in turn, gave artists discreet scenes from the Buddha’s life to work with. Within a few centuries, these were codified in the ateliers of Gandhara and Mathura. Monks from Gandhara travelled to China to begin the translation cycles of the Mahayana sutras, while for the latter, the Buddhist sites of Gandhara took on a level of importance comparable to that of Bodhgaya. If the first six centuries of the first millennium AD marked one of the watershed moments in the history of ideas, Gandhara was right in the middle of it.

Influenced by colonial-era English historians like Vincent Smith and T.W. Rhys Davids, South Asian historiography has had, for over a century, internalised the narrative of sudden beginnings and endings of historical-cultural eras. Thankfully, in recent decades, a clearer picture is emerging of the how civilisation-level cultures actually begin and end—with a slow fade at both ends, like a grand piece of music. The existence of Buddhism in India didn’t come to a grinding halt with the destruction of the Nalanda and Vikramashila monasteries in the 12th century AD. For example, we have the account of the south Indian Vajrayana monk Buddhaguptanatha, who travelled to Tibet in the late 16th century and became the guru of the famous Tibetan monk and historian Taranatha. Similarly, Gandharan Buddhism didn’t just disappear into thin air sometime around seventh-eighth centuries AD.

Take the case of north Afghanistan’s Naubahar (from the Sanskrit Nava Vihara) monastic complex near the city of Balkh. Founded either during or immediately after the rule of the Kushans, the Naubahar grew to become an immensely prosperous and respected monastery. It was considered one of the finest repositories of Mahayana and early Vajrayana thought outside the subcontinent. During his visit in the seventh century AD, Hsüan-tsang sung his praises of the Navasangrahama, as it was known, and called it a mini-Rajagriha. When the area came under the dominion of Islamic Arab rule later that century, the hereditary family of high priests of the Naubahar, the Barmaks (from the Sanskrit Pramukh or chief) converted to Islam.

Indeed, first under the Umayyad Caliphate and later as chief viziers of the Abbasid Caliphs in Baghdad, the Barmakids achieved great political power and retained their reputation as wealthy patrons of the arts who showed great tolerance for other religions. In fact, many orthodox Muslims of the time considered the family to be half-hearted in their faith at best, given that some of their family members continued to officiate at the Naubahar monastery. The monastic complex was noted as active and prosperous till as late as the 10th century AD by Arab travellers in the area.

Balkh remained renowned as a centre of art and culture in the Arab world and called the “mother of cities” right up to 1220 AD when it was destroyed by the Mongols. As Dwivedi narrates in the book, there’s even record of the western gate of the city of Smarkand in the 10th century being called the Naubahar Gate. Today, the Nawbahar province in Afghanistan hosts the monumental Buddhist stupa of Top-e-Rustam and the hill-carved monastic complex ruins of Takht-i-Rustam.

The core area of Gandhara too continued to function as an important site of Buddhist teachings and art till at least the early 11th century, when Gandhara was overrun by Mahmud of Ghazni. While we know of Ghazni’s spectacular trail of destruction, this was nothing new. In the fifth century, Kashmir and Gandhara had been similarly overrun by the Huns from Central Asia. The most famous king of the Huns, Mihirakula, was a staunch Saivite and sought to end Buddhism’s pre-emince in the area. In fact, Dwivedi narrates the fate of the Dharmarajika Vihara near Taxila. The monastery was the site of a massacre, as the find of skeletons with severed heads attests. The Dharmarajika was also burnt down and abandoned around that time. Buddhism endured, and even rebounded, but state patronage to Brahminical Hinduism and, in particular, to Saivism, continued to grow till the advent of Islam.

The influence of Gandharan Buddhism endured right up to the 12th century AD at least. The texts and art of tantric Buddhism (the Vajrayana) gives great importance to Uddayana (the Swat Valley), as a major spiritual centre. Famous siddhas (tantric adepts who gained enlightenment in one lifetime) like the princess Lakshminkara or key figure of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava, all hailed from Uddayana.

Dwivedi’s book gives a physical shape to these important sites and forces us to re-imagine Gandhar beyond the status that Indian historiography gives it: as merely a transmission zone, somehow foreign to “Indian” civilization. The same can be said of the Kushans, often portrayed in Indian historiography as a placeholder dynasty sandwiched between the glories of the Mauryan empire and the Gupta empire. As a small step towards rectifying this historical error, Dwivedi deserves our thanks.

Afghans recall Taliban’s destruction of famed Buddha statues

BAMIYAN, Afghanistan: Afghanistan’s giant Buddhas stood watch over the picturesque Bamiyan valley for centuries, surviving Mongol invasions and the harsh environment until the Taliban arrived with an apocalyptic worldview that did not care about one of the great wonders of antiquity.

After years of scorched-earth offensives across Afghanistan, the militants — who saw any representation of the human form as an affront to Islam — turned their attention to the two Buddhas in Bamiyan, peppering the carvings with tank shells and rocket fire before ultimately dynamiting them in March 2001.

To finish the job, the Taliban conscripted locals as porters to lug stacks of explosives to the base of the Buddhas, carved out of the cliff face in the 5th century.

Bamiyan resident Ghulam Sakhi said he is still haunted by the role he was forced to play in the destruction.

“It is not like a memory you could ever forget,” he told AFP, saying he was snatched from a market along with dozens of others to help rig the two giant Buddhist statues.
“I was only thinking how to stay alive that day,” he said.

The destruction of the Buddhas has been considered one of the greatest archaeological crimes on record and put the Taliban’s uncompromising beliefs on the world’s radar just months before the September 11 attacks that triggered a US-led invasion of the country that ousted the jihadists.

First mentioned in the writings of a Chinese pilgrim in 400 AD, the statues served as a testament to what was once a great Buddhist civilisation in the heart of the Hindu Kush that straddled the famed Silk Road.

The statues — one 55-metres (155-feet) high, the other 38 metres — were believed to have been carved painstakingly by hand over lifetimes into the caramel-coloured sandstone cliffs in Bamiyan, alongside a network of ancient caves, monasteries and shrines, some of them still showing remnants of colourful frescos.

For generations Sakhi and his family took great pride in the archaeological treasures that briefly made the area a magnet for tourists flocking to Afghanistan along the famed “Hippy Trail” in the 1960s and 70s.

“Foreign tourists would come in big numbers to visit the statues and many, including my father, would provide them with food and other items in exchange for money,” said Sakhi.

“Work was good. Everyone — shopkeepers, drivers, landowners and others — would benefit from them.”
But the arrival of the Taliban in the valley, with their heavy weapons and hardline views, forever shattered the landscape of Bamiyan.

“They were a beautiful view, a source of hope for people,” said Hamza Yosufi, a resident who witnessed the destruction.
The massive explosion, caught on camera, sent a shockwave through the lush valley, filling it with dust and smoke.
“It was terrifying… I was extremely heartbroken, everybody was,” he said.

– ‘They will destroy everything’ –
Few places in Afghanistan have benefited as much as Bamiyan since the fall of the Taliban regime.

The largely Shiite population has rebuilt schools, welcomed aid, and catered to one of the few international tourism destinations left in the war-torn country thanks to the safety offered by its remote location.

“Had the Buddhas been still standing here, the tourism industry today would have flourished,” said Ishaq Mowahed, the director of the culture department in Bamiyan.

But even the empty niches still attract tourists, he insisted.
Bamiyan’s revival, however, is being eclipsed by fears the Taliban are on the verge of returning to power after signing a landmark deal with the US that could see foreign troops exit the country in coming months.

Few expect the government’s beleaguered security forces to last long against the Taliban’s withering onslaught without the protection of US airpower and its special forces.

“If the Taliban come back with the same ideology that led to the destruction of the Buddhas, they will destroy everything left,” said Mowahed.

In a statement last month, the Taliban vowed to protect the country’s archaeological heritage saying no one had the right to “excavate, transport and sell historic artefacts anywhere, nor to move it outside the country under some other name”.
But few in Bamiyan believe them.

“It was a crime that the world cannot and should not forgive or forget,” said Anar Gul, a 23-year-old graduate of archaeology studies at Bamiyan University.

The Thousand-Buddha Motif: On the Timelessness of Ancient Art

The Thousand-Buddha motif is a recurrent theme in the Buddhist art of Central Asia and China. The motif depicts a multitude of buddhas arranged in a grid fashion, all seated in meditation on a lotus pedestal, and its popularity increased predominantly during the Northern Wei dynasty (386-534) in northern China. It was carved on stone steles commissioned by groups of commoners, as well as in the imperially sponsored caves of the Yungang Grottoes in Shanxi Province.

The significance of the Thousand-Buddha motif is varied. Some suggest that the pictorial representation originated from texts on the names of buddhas, and was meant to complement related chanting and meditation practices. Indeed, Cave 254 of the Mogao Grottoes in Dunhuang, dating to the Northern Wei period (386), features 1,235 Buddha images in its wall paintings. With alternating color schemes, each buddha is accompanied by a small cartouche inscribed with a buddha name listed in the Guoqu zhuangyan jie qianfo ming jing (過去莊嚴劫千佛名經, “Sutra on the Names of the Thousand Buddhas of the Past Majestic Kalpa”). Others emphasize that the motif illustrates Buddhist cosmology in which our world, where Shakyamuni Buddha appeared, is only one of innumerable Buddha-lands across space and time. For instance, in the Mogao Grottoes’ Cave 12, sponsored by a Buddhist monk from Dunhuang in the late Tang dynasty (827–59), there are illustrations of 10 sutras on the chamber walls. When the viewer looks upward, one finds that the entire ceiling, in the shape of a truncated pyramid, is covered with Thousand-Buddha patterns, creating an awe-inspiring experience.


Mogao Grottoes, Cave 254, Northern Wei dynasty (386–534). From e-dunhuang.comMogao Grottoes, Cave 254, Northern Wei dynasty (386–534). From e-dunhuang.com
Mogao Grottoes, Cave 12, Late Tang dynasty (827–59). From e-duanhuang.comMogao Grottoes, Cave 12, Late Tang dynasty (827–59). From e-duanhuang.com

Ultimately, the Thousand-Buddha motif manifests a key teaching of Mahayana Buddhism, that is: all sentient beings equally have buddha-nature and can attain enlightenment. In the arts, devotees express such faith by replacing the names of the buddhas with their own. This can be found on a stele excavated near Xuanzhong Monastery in Shanxi Province, a patriarch monastery of the Pure Land school. According to the inscription, the stele was erected in the third year of the Heqing year of the Northern Qi dynasty (564) by a group of villagers wishing that their fathers, mothers, and relatives of seven generations, and all sentient beings on Earth would attain buddhahood. Another vivid example is the wall painting at Mingxiu Monastery in the same province. Made about a thousand years later, the Thousand-Buddha pattern adopts the traditional techniques and aesthetics from Dunhuang. While most cartouches adjacent to the buddha images are inscribed with donors’ names, some remain unfilled.

Stele, dated 564, Xuanzhong Monastery. Photo by Fu Yiqun
Wall painting, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Mingxiu Monastery. Photo by Fu YiqunWall painting, Ming dynasty (1368–1644), Mingxiu Monastery. Photo by Fu Yiqun

Throughout history, the Thousand-Buddha motif has manifested the faith as well as the interests of everybody; nobility and commoners, men and women, laity and monastics. At Dunhuang, to ensure the buddha images were of the same size, artists used pouncing when creating the wall paintings. Despite the different materials, craftsmanship, and scales, the Thousand-Buddha motif has a democratic, non-discriminatory, and even rebellious spirit. In fact, the emergence of the Buddhist teachings, particularly the Mahayana movement, presented a challenge to the elite Brahmin social caste in ancient India.

Similarly, in the 1950s, pop art emerged, rejecting the supremacy of fine art. In the Marilyn Diptych (1962), Andy Warhol made 50 images of American actress Marilyn Monroe, all based on a publicity photo from the film Niagara. Half are painted in bold colors, while half are black and white, supposedly to symbolize the fading life of the celebrity. However, Warhol also embraced tradition. Diptychs had long been a common format in Christian art; and contrary to popular notions, the silkscreen printing technique was not a new invention, but has a root in Song dynasty China (960–1279).

Moreover, the repetition of images has always been a powerful tool in expressing ideas and human emotions. In the Marilyn Diptych, repetition deifies a sex symbol in mass culture. In the works of Yayoi Kusama, a contemporary of Warhol, the repetition of polka dots and other imagery speaks to the anxiety and distress of the female artist that cannot be expressed in words. The audience may have different life experiences, but such sentiments are shared by many in modern times. Therefore, the visual discomfort becomes a means for catharsis. In the case of the Thousand-Buddha motif, repetition promotes a sense of equality, connects each of us with the divine, and creates infinite hope for a higher and more profound state of being.

Looking back, our understanding of the Thousand-Buddha motif may also cast some light on the hundreds of hand stencils at Cueva de las Manos in Argentina. Between 9,000 and 13,000 years ago, the local inhabitants created these images with their own hands by blowing pigments through bone pipes onto the rock. It has been determined that these hand silhouettes of men and women, adults and children, were added through generations. The living conditions of that time were much more hazardous and dangerous, but through these hand paintings, we can sense the strength and unity of this ancient hunter-gatherer community.

History repeats itself, as does art. The development of art motifs is complex and eclectic, but they all originate from the same human conditions and needs; anxieties about life and death, the desire for connection, and a yearning for liberation and immortality.

Chinese bowl bought for $35 at a yard sale could make half a million

A small floral bowl bought at a yard sale in Connecticut for just $35 has been identified as an exceptionally rare 15th-century Chinese antique.
The intricate blue-and-white artifact, which features motifs of lotus, peony, chrysanthemum and pomegranate blossoms, was originally commissioned by China’s imperial court during the Ming dynasty. It is now expected to sell for up to $500,000, according to Sotheby’s auction house in New York, where the auction is due to take place next month.
The discovery was made last year near New Haven, Connecticut. While Sotheby’s is not disclosing the owner’s identity, the head of its Chinese art department, Angela McAteer, revealed in a phone interview that the man “didn’t haggle over the $35 asking price.”
Rare blue-and-white bowl from China’s Ming dynasty to be auctioned at Sotheby’s New York.
Rare blue-and-white bowl from China’s Ming dynasty to be auctioned at Sotheby’s New York. Credit: Courtesy Sotheby’s
Shortly after making the purchase, he sent photographs of the bowl to auction specialists, who identified it as an item of historical significance. “We instinctively had a very, very good feeling about it,” McAteer said.
Upon closer inspection, the artifact was found to have originated from the court of the Yongle Emperor, who ruled from 1403 to 1424 — a period noted for its distinctive and celebrated porcelain techniques. Known as a “lotus bowl,” due to its resemblance to a lotus bud, the item is now valued between $300,000 and $500,000, with the top estimate nearly 14,300 times the amount it was purchased for.
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“(The bowl had an) incredibly smooth porcelain body” and a “really unctuous silky glaze,” McAteer said, which she noted “was never replicated in future reigns or dynasties.” In addition to its vibrant cobalt blue coloring, she added, “it had all the hallmarks that one would expect of these great commissions of the Yongle period.”
A ‘mystery’
During his reign, the Yongle Emperor transformed the porcelain craft, placing large orders for his court and exerting greater control over the imperial kilns at Jingdezhen, China’s most important porcelain-making city.
“The Yongle Emperor really promoted the artistic importance of porcelain,” McAteer said. “He elevated it from being a utilitarian bowl, for example, into a true work of art.”
Under the Yongle Emporer, porcelain-making proliferated with distinctive techniques perfected during his reign.
Under the Yongle Emporer, porcelain-making proliferated with distinctive techniques perfected during his reign. Credit: Courtesy Sotheby’s
With a diameter of just over six inches, the small but detailed bowl would likely have had both artistic and practical value to the court. McAteer said, however, that very little is known about its provenance or how came to be at the yard sale. “It’s a frustrating mystery,” she said, adding that there is “scant documentation” from the period.
Only six other similar bowls are known to have survived, according to Sotheby’s, with others housed by institutions including the National Palace Museum in Taipei, as well as the British Museum and Victoria & Albert Museum in London.
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Offering her advice to other porcelain bargain-hunters, McAteer said: “Look for an equilibrium and balance in the design… and assess the quality and the workmanship that has gone into it.”
The find will be auctioned on March 17 as part of next month’s “Asia Week,” a series of Sotheby’s sales featuring artifacts, antiques and contemporary art from across the region. Other notable Chinese lots include an ornate silver bowl from the Tang dynasty and an 18th-century jade brushpot, both of which carry a top estimate of $1.5 million.

10th century Buddha Vihar discovered in Jharkhand’s Hazaribag

As per the evidence found in Hazaribagh, it appeared that the Buddhist structures were built during the Pala period, said an archaeologist with the ASI.

A 10th century structure resembling a small ‘Buddha Vihar’ (Buddhist shrine-cum-monastery) has been discovered during an excavation, being carried out by Archeological Survey of India (ASI), in foothills of Juljul hill at Sadar block of Hazaribagh district, around 110-km from capital Ranchi, ASI officials said on Tuesday.

The ASI identified three mounds in the foothills having links to Buddhism last year. The excavation of the first mound last year led to the discovery of a complete shrine with a central and two subsidiary shrines, just two metres below the surface. However, the excavation work was suspended after two months due to Covid-19 pandemic triggered lockdowns and some other reasons.

In the second round of excavation, beginning the last week of January this year, the second mound, around 40-meters away from the first mound or central shrine, was excavated and a small Buddha Vihar like structure was discovered.

“We started excavation in the second mound of the area in January last week, where a huge structural mound, similar to a small Buddha Vihar, was found with three cells (rooms). In the west corner of the structure, we found five sculptures of Gautam Buddha in seated position and one sculpture of Tara, which indicates that it might also be a centre of Vajrayana,” said Dr Neeraj Mishra, assistant archaeologist at ASI.

Spread over a 50-metre long and 50-metre wide area, three cells and hoards of artefacts including statues of Gautam Budha and Tara, the female Bodhisattva in Mahayana Buddhism who appears as a female Buddha in Vajrayana Buddhism, were discovered.

“As per the evidence found here, it appeared that the structures had been built during the Pala period. During the excavation, we found an inscription on a stone slab. The paleographic dating of the inscription suggests that it was of 10th century AD, meaning the Pala period,” said Dr Mishra.

It might have been a big religious centre then, as it is located on the side of the old Grand Trunk road, connecting Sarnath in Uttar Pradesh to Bihar, home to historic Bodh Gaya where Buddha attained salvation, he added.

He recalled that a shrine and two subsidiary shrines, spread over 30 metres long and 50 metres wide area, were discovered last year. “It was a single storey temple. An entry gate and stairs were also found there.”

Historians and archaeologists find the discovery of great importance, which will help understand the history and influence of the dynasty in Jharkhand.

Historian Dr DN Ojha, dean, social sciences department at Ranchi University, said ancient history talks about the arrival of Buddhist monks in this area and the extension of Buddhism’s reach here.

“However, there was also a debate on this. The recent discovery in Hazaribag would work as a big evidence to support the theory of extension of Buddhism and arrival of monks here,” he added.

‘Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon: Masterworks from the John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society’ Resumes Museum Tour

Made in India, Tamil Nadu Shiva as Lord of the Dance (Shiva Nataraja) , Chola period, ca. 970. Copper alloy. Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.20 Courtesy American Federation of Arts
Made in China, Jiangxi Province Flask , Ming period, early 15th century (probably Yongle era, 1403 – 24). Porcelain painted with underglaze cobalt blue (Jingdezhen ware). Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.160 Court esy American Federation of Arts
Made in Pakistan, Gandhara area Head of Buddha , Kushan period, late 2nd – 3rd century. Schistose phyllite. Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.2 Courtesy American Federation of Arts
Made in North China Bottle , Northern Song period, 12th century. Stoneware with graffito design in slip under glaze (Cizhou ware, probably from Xiuwu or Cizhou). Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.141 Courtesy American Federation of Arts
Made in China, Henan Province Bowl , Northern Song period, 12th century. Stoneware with glaze with suffusions from copper filings (Jun ware) Asia Society, New York: Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection, 1979.137. Courtesy American Federation of Art

The New Orleans Museum of Art (NOMA) presents Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon: Masterworks from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society, on view March 6 through May 30, 2021. Initially planned for the Spring of 2020, the exhibition was on view for just three days before NOMA had to close its doors at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Now, in its return to the museum, the exhibition presents nearly seventy of the finest examples of Asian art in the United States.

Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon showcases the broad range of bronzes, ceramics, and metalwork assembled by John D. Rockefeller 3rd (1906– 1978) and his wife Blanchette Hooker Rockefeller (1909–1992) between the 1940s and the 1970s. With highlights including Chinese vases, Indian Chola bronzes, and Southeast Asian sculptures, the collection reveals great achievements in Asian art spanning more than two millennia. Featuring works from across the Asian continent—Cambodia, China, India, Japan, Nepal, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Tibet, and Vietnam, the selection of masterpieces presented in Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon illuminates social and artistic histories from across Asia and underscores the visual arts’ capacity to encourage cross-cultural dialogue.

“The stunning range of works selected by Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller represent a multitude of cultures across Asia, showcasing the diversity and complexity of the region,” said Susan Taylor, Montine McDaniel Freeman Director of NOMA. “The collection rarely travels beyond its home at the Asia Society Museum in New York, and never with the range of objects presented in this exhibition. We are delighted to be able to bring this remarkable collection back to New Orleans to be safely enjoyed and admired.”

When Mr. and Mrs. Rockefeller began collecting Asian art in the years after World War II, they chose to prioritize classical masterpieces that represented the great technical skill and creative breadth of Asian artistic practice. In addition to investigating themes of Buddhist sculpture, Hindu sculpture, and ceramics and metalwork, the exhibition also examines the Rockefellers’ collecting and exhibition practices in an age when political and economic circumstances informed the reception and availability of Asian artworks in the United States. With an emphasis on beauty, ingenuity, and tradition, Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon manifests the dynamic ideas and philosophies that animate histories of Asian art and renews the Rockefellers’ vision of promoting cross-cultural understanding.

Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon: Masterworks from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society is co-organized by the American Federation of Arts and Asia Society. See tour schedule.

Catalogue

Buddha and Shiva, Lotus and Dragon: Masterworks from the Mr. and Mrs. John D. Rockefeller 3rd Collection at Asia Society is accompanied by a fully illustrated catalogue by Adriana Proser, the former John H. Foster Senior Curator of Traditional Asian Art at Asia Society. Visit the NOMA shop online.

Hai Phong pagoda enshrines the Buddha in a cave

Leaning on a mountain and overlooking the beach, the Hang Pagoda in northern Hai Phong City is a spiritually and historically significant place of worship.
The pagoda, also known as Coc Tu, is situated in Zone 1, Van Son Ward in Hai Phong City’s Do Son District. Some scholars have reportedly said that this is where Buddhism first set foot in Vietnam. As its name indicates, the pagoda has its main altar and idol enshrined inside a cave. In the front stands a Bodhisattva statue and there’s an ancestral house on the right. The pagoda is decorated with carvings and statues of dragons and phoenixes.

The Hang (Cave) Pagoda, also known as Coc Tu, is situated in Zone 1, Van Son Ward in Do Son District. Some scholars have reportedly said that this is where Buddhism first set foot in Vietnam.
As its name indicates, the pagoda has its main altar and idol enshrined inside a cave. In the front stands a Bodhisattva statue and there’s an ancestral house on the right. The pagoda is decorated with carvings and statues of dragons and phoenixes.
The cave, 3.5 meters tall and seven meters wide, has two ground levels. The outer level has an area of 23 square meters and the inner one, 25 square meters.

The cave, 3.5 meters tall and seven meters wide, has two ground levels. The outer level has an area of 23 square meters and the inner one, 25 square meters.
The decoration objects and natural scenery here used to be material for poem themes.

The scenery here was material for poem themes.
Local legend has it that a Buddhist monk came here in second century BC.

Local legend has it that a Buddhist monk came here in the second century BC.
Buddha and bodhisattva statues in the Tam Bao Hall on the second floor of the three-storied pagoda.

Buddha and Bodhisattva statues in the Tam Bao Hall on the second floor of the three-storied pagoda.
Devotees offer their prayers in the hall. Hoang Hanh from An Dong in Haiphong City visits Hang the Pagoda every Lunar New Year. Although people worry about the pandemic, for me, a year would not be complete without going to the Hang Pagoda. I feel safe to some extent when I see everyone wearing masks,

Devotees offer their prayers in the hall.
Hoang Hanh from An Dong Ward in Haiphong City visits the Hang Pagoda every Lunar New Year. “Although people worry about the pandemic, for me, a year would not be complete without going to this pagoda. I feel safe to some extent when I see everyone wearing masks,”
Located in the city that borders current Covid-19 hotspots Hai Duong and Quang Ninh, the pagoda has witnessed a significant decrease in the number of visitors this year. Duc Thanh (L), an employee, said the number of visitors this year was just one third of the previous year.

Located in the city that borders current Covid-19 hotspots Hai Duong and Quang Ninh, the pagoda has witnessed a significant decrease in the number of visitors this year. Duc Thanh (L), an employee, said the number of visitors this year was just one third of the previous year.
On the sidewalk outside the pagoda, a red buffalo with a lotus leaf and lotuses on its back and a gift balanced on its head welcomes the Year of the Buffalo, also known as the Year of the Ox.

On the sidewalk outside the pagoda, a red buffalo with a lotus leaf and lotuses on its back and a gift balanced on its head welcomes the Year of the Buffalo.

Archaeological excavation recovers remnants of a Shiva Lingam at ancient Tamil temple site

An excavation by Sri Lanka’s archaeological department recovered ancient remains of a structure resembling a Shiva Lingam at the site of the Athi Aiyanar temple located in the Kurunthoormalai area of Mullaitivu.

This finding comes just weeks after Vidura Wickramanayaka, Sri Lanka’s state minister for ‘national heritage’, led an event where a new Buddha statue was placed and consecrated at the site, initiating archaeological excavations in the area.

The temple has been a target of intense land grab efforts by Sinhala Buddhist monks, aided by the archaeological department and the military, who have claimed the presence of Buddhist artefacts at the site. The Buddha statue was placed at the site despite a court order that no changes could be made to this site.

The archaeology department has not commented on the recent excavation of the Shiva Lingam.

China retrieves Buddha-head sculpture missing for a century

A stone Buddha head stolen from one of the statues in north China’s Tianlongshan Grottoes almost a century ago has been retrieved, the National Cultural Heritage Administration (NCHA) said Thursday.

The Buddha head, which was brought back from Japan on Dec. 12, is the 100th relic retrieved by China from overseas in 2020, according to the NCHA.

The NCHA first identified the Buddha head in September 2020 when the sculpture resurfaced at a Japanese auction house. The house cancelled the auction after the NCHA contacted it and requested that the sale be halted.

The NCHA said it contacted Zhang Rong, a Chinese national and board chairman of the auction house, in an effort to retrieve the relic. In late October, after buying the Buddha head from the Japanese owner, Zhang decided to donate the sculpture to the Chinese government, according to the NCHA.

Purchasing the relic was the simplest way to bring it back to China, instead of conducting lengthy negotiations with the foreign collector, Zhang told Xinhua.

Zhang said that, as a Chinese citizen, his actions in helping to retrieve the sculpture were also driven by patriotism.

The Tianlongshan Grottoes, in the city of Taiyuan in Shanxi Province, are notable for the Buddha statues located within them. Construction of the grottoes began in the Eastern Wei Dynasty (534-550) and continued until the Tang Dynasty (618-907).

In the 1920s, a large number of statues — over 240, according to the NCHA — were stolen from the grottoes and smuggled overseas, and are now housed in Japanese, European and American museums or have been obtained by individual foreign collectors.

There are now 25 caves and over 500 Buddha statues at the Tianlongshan Grottoes. With many of the sculptures missing or scattered overseas, researchers have been working for years to recreate the original splendor of the grottoes through digital imaging.

Examinations and evaluations conducted by experts after the Buddha head arrived in Beijing found that the relic had been stolen from a statue in Cave 8 of the grottoes in around 1924.

The Buddha head was shown to audiences on Thursday at the Spring Festival gala of China’s state broadcaster and will be exhibited at Beijing Luxun Museum from Feb. 12 to March 14. It will then be sent back to Taiyuan and archived in the museum of the Tianlongshan Grottoes, according to the NCHA.