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Featured Topic: Buddhism

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Visions of Enlightenment: Arts of Buddhism
Pacific Asia Museum of USC
An excellent site for students, with many additional resources for teachers. Text essays with images on the following four topics: 1) The Perfected One: The Buddha; 2) Compassionate Beings: Bodhisattvas, Deities, Guardians, Holy Men; 3) Buddhist Places; and 4) Signs, Symbols, Ritual Objects. Also features an extensive glossary of Buddhist-related terms and an excellent interactive map and timeline outlining the life of the Buddha and the spread of Buddhism. Teaching unit at the link below. See also Introduction.

Go to Museum Resource: https://pacificasiamuseum.usc.edu/exhibitions/past/exhibitions-at-usc-pam-prior...
The Art of Asia: Buddhism
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Provides an excellent short history of Buddhism from India to Japan illustrated with art from the MIA's collection. The four main topics are: 1) Origins of Buddhism; 2) Who's Who in Heaven; 3) Guide to Buddhist Sects; and 4) Guide to the Yamantaka Mandala, which includes a short video documentary of a mandala being created and consecrated. There is also a short video on Japanese Buddhism; eight featured objects, each accompanied by an interview with an MIA curator explaining the meaning of the work; and a glossary.

Go to Museum Resource: http://archive.artsmia.org/art-of-asia/buddhism/
The Art of Buddhism
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Buddhism arose in an area bordering present-day India and Nepal. As it spread across Asia, the religion both influenced and was influenced by the religious, cultural, and artistic life of the regions it touched. The Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery house a major collection of Buddhist art, selections of which are on public display. This guide briefly introduces a few key points about Buddhism in India, Tibet, China, and Japan and presents examples of the majestic holdings of Buddhist art in the Freer and Sackler galleries. See also The Art of Buddhism: a Teacher's Guide [PDF].

Go to Museum Resource: https://archive.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/buddhism/default.htm
Life of the Buddha
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A brief overview of the life of the historical Buddha. With links interspersed throughout the text to 20 artworks from the museum’s collection that illustrate various aspects of the historical Buddha’s life story.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/buda/hd_buda.htm
Buddhist Art and the Trade Routes
Asia Society
An extensive site, covering three main topics: 1) Trade Routes; 2) Buddhism and its Imagery; and 3) India: Origins of Buddhist Art. Also discusses the Buddhist art of specific regions -- Korea/Japan; China/Mongolia; Himalayas; Southeast Asia; and Sri Lanka. With maps, images, a glossary of terms, and bibliography.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.asiasocietymuseum.org/buddhist_trade/index.html
Cave as Canvas: Hidden Images of Worship Along the Ancient Silk Routes
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Buddhist Cave Temples in Chinese Central Asia. Buddhism reached Chinese Central Asia (modern Xinjiang) from India around the first century A.D., brought by missionaries via the ancient Silk Routes. By the third century A.D., this new religion was flourishing in all the oasis kingdoms in the Tarim Basin (the Taklamakan Desert), also known as eastern Turkestan. As the Buddhist religion took hold and piety increased, the Indian tradition of excavating caves to serve as Buddhist sanctuaries proliferated in this region. In many of the Central Asian states, monasteries and temples were hewn out of the cliffs in secluded river valleys. With the patronage of local rulers, the elite, and wealthy merchants, these institutions gradually became major Buddhist centers. They continued to grow and prosper until the advent of Islam. Today, such Buddhist rock-cut cave complexes are some of the finest, if little known, monuments preserved in Chinese Central Asia.

Go to Museum Resource: https://archive.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/cave/default.htm
Monks and Merchants: Silk Road Treasures from Northwest China, Gansu and Ningxia, 4th-7th Century
Asia Society
Features more than 35 objects organized into the following topics: 1) Heavenly Horses; 2) Nomadic Rulers; 3) Buddhism and China; 4) Buddhist Cave Temples; 5) Bodhisattvas; 6) Monks; 7) Merchants and Currencies; 8) The Tang Dynasty. Each topic has overview text, and each object is accompanied by short descriptive text. An additional topic on the Silk Road itself gives extensive background information on the geographical, historical, religious, and cultural context of the Silk Road.

Go to Museum Resource: http://sites.asiasociety.org/arts/monksandmerchants/index.html
Art Access: Art of India, Himalayas, and Southeast Asia
The Art Institute of Chicago
This introduction to the art of South and Southeast Asia features 15 representative objects (mostly Hindu and Buddhist sculptures) from the Art Institute's collection. The objects have good descriptive text with links to an excellent glossary and maps. The site also includes four lesson plans (specifically for grade levels 1-3, 4-8, 7-8, and 9-12, but adaptable for all age groups). Each lesson plan includes a list of the fulfilled Illinois Learning Standards for that plan, and the lesson plan Divine Faith Discussion lists some Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic places of worship in the Chicago area. There is also a Family Activities section (with hands-on activities for younger children) and a bibliography of books and media.

Go to Museum Resource: https://archive.artic.edu/indian/
Buddhism and Buddhist Art
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
An overview of the development of Buddhism and Buddhist art in South Asia from the 1st century BCE to the 6th century CE. With images of 10 related sculptures.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/budd/hd_budd.htm
Recognizing the Gods
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A guide to the iconography of Hindu and Buddhist deities in South Asian sculpture. Discusses specific poses, hand gestures, postures, vehicles, and accoutrements. With images of 11 related artworks and an explanatory drawing of five mudras (hand gestures).

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/gods/hd_gods.htm
Sacred Texts: The Gandharan Scrolls
The British Library
These fragments "from an extraordinary collection of birch bark writings from ancient Gandhara in present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan may represent the oldest surviving Buddhist texts (and also the oldest South Asian manuscripts) ever discovered." Featuring excellent high-resolution images of the scroll fragments, along with background information about Buddhism, the kingdom of Gandhara, and the significance of these particular scrolls.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/gandhara.html
University of Washington, Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization
"This unit offers evidence of how Buddhism changed China's visual culture, showing the evolution of images of deities, plus views of temples and people practicing Buddhism." A Visual Sourcebook of Chinese Civilization was prepared by University of Washington history professor Patricia Buckley Ebrey. With questions for discussion, timelines, maps, and suggested readings. Select HOME to find link to teachers' guides for all topics featured on the website.

Go to Museum Resource: http://depts.washington.edu/chinaciv/bud/5budhism.htm
Return of the Buddha: The Qingzhou Discoveries
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
"In 1996 a chance discovery in Qingzhou ... in the northeastern province of Shangdong, brought to light an incredible buried treasure. Workers leveling a school sports field stumbled upon a pit brimming with hundreds of broken, but otherwise well-preserved, sixth-century Buddhist statues." Content organized into five topics -- Discovery (about the excavation), Color, Styles, Gallery (featuring 9 sculptures), and Resources (links to related websites).

Go to Museum Resource: https://archive.asia.si.edu/exhibitions/online/returnofbuddha/base.html
Sacred Texts: The Diamond Sutra
The British Library
The British Library's copy of the Diamond Sutra, printed in China and dating to 868 CE, is the world's earliest dated, printed book. A central text of Indian Buddhism, the Diamond Sutra was first translated from Sanskrit into Chinese in about 400 CE. This webpage gives background information on Buddhism, sutras, and the significance of the Diamond Sutra. There is also a link to detailed information about this particular copy of the Sutra, as well as excellent images and even a "Turning Pages" feature that gives viewers a close-up look at the Sutra.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.bl.uk/onlinegallery/sacredtexts/diamondsutra.html
Korean Buddhist Sculpture (5th–9th century)
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A discussion of Buddhism's introduction to the Korean peninsula in 372 CE and its influence on artistic developments during the Three Kingdoms period (BCE 57 - 668 CE), specifically in architecture and sculpture.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/kobs/hd_kobs.htm
Look for the Symbol in the Sculpture
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Uses a 12th-century wooden sculpture of the Japanese Buddhist deity Fudô Myô-ô to demonstrate the role of symbolism in art.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/works-of-art/1975.268.163
Zen Buddhism
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
A brief introduction to Zen Buddhism and its influence on Japanese culture and art.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/zen/hd_zen.htm
Circle of Bliss: Buddhist Meditational Art
The Huntington Archive of Buddhist and Asian Art
Online presentation of a 2004 exhibition, with images of art, artifacts, ritual objects and practices, and related diagrams organized into 13 topics covering a range of issues related to enlightenment, meditation, and other Buddhist practice. In-depth explanatory text for all topics and images. Most of the artworks are from Tibet, Nepal, India, and China.

Go to Museum Resource: https://huntingtonarchive.org/Exhibitions/circleOfBliss.php
Tibet Information Zone
The Newark Museum
Online version of the museum's Tibet Information Zone, "an interactive educational resource where individuals, families and school groups can gain valuable information on Tibetan life and culture, as well as learn about the Museum's extensive and world-renowned collection of sacred and secular Tibetan objects." With a virtual tour of the Tibet Buddhist Altar created by artist Phuntsok Dorje, along with images of a mural Dorje has created at the museum. Images from the mural ("depicting the vast snowy mountains, nomad tents, and rural villages of Tibet") illustrate a special section on Tibetan life, with overviews of nomadic life, Tibetan festivals, aristocratic life in old Lhasa, agriculture and farm life, and animals in Tibet.

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/tibet-information-zone
Yamantaka Mandala
Minneapolis Institute of Arts
With an introduction to the mandala; a guide to the symbolism of the Minneapolis Institute's Yamantaka mandala, created by Tibetan monks from the Gyuto Tantric University; a step-by-step guide to the mandala's creation; plus technical details about the preservation of the mandala, a short video documentary of the mandala consecration ceremony, and background information about Tibet. See also Teacher's Guide.

Go to Museum Resource: http://archive.artsmia.org/art-of-asia/buddhism/yamantaka-mandala.cfm
The Buddha Project
American Museum of Natural History
The Buddha Project contains a total of 1,038 images of objects drawn from the museum's Asia archives - an electronic database of images of objects from the American Museum of Natural History's Asia collection. The images represent a diverse spectrum of Buddhist iconography, differing by time period, country acquired, mode of representation of the Buddha, and object type. Four major events depicted in Buddha iconography - his conception, enlightenment, first sermon and death - are examples of images which may show the Buddha symbolically rather than anthropomorphically. The Buddha's enlightenment, for example, can be represented by the Bo Tree, his first sermon by a wheel, and his death by a burning funeral pyre without a visible body. Such images are often found at pilgrimage sites, where stone carvings were created which depicted either four or eight scenes of primary events from the Buddha's life including those described above. Such pilgrimage sites include monasteries, temples, and stupas - solid architectural structures believed to contain bodily relics of the Buddha and other holy persons. Since stupas, themselves, are often believed to be physical representations of the Buddha they, too, have been included into the Buddha Project. Catalog No. 70.0/4600 is one example of a stupa in the database.

While a good deal of attention has been paid to the importance and variety of symbolic representations of the Buddha, it is also significant, and potentially advantageous to researchers, to highlight the diverse and surprising variety of objects which were found to contain images of the Buddha in his human form which are also included into the Buddha Project. The variety of human forms of the Buddha found in the database, and also the variety of objects on which he is depicted, is demonstrative of the span of Asian countries and time periods from which these objects were collected.

Go to Museum Resource: https://anthro.amnh.org/buddha

Exploring the Mandala: Symbols of the Universe
Asia Society
A background essay for teachers about mandalas: "Buddhist devotional images often deemed a diagram or symbol of an ideal universe."

Go to Museum Resource: http://asiasociety.org/countries-history/traditions/exploring-mandala
Mandala Sand Painting: Creating an Enlightened World
Asia Society
Over a 10-day period In September 2003 the Tibetan monks of Drepung Loseling Monastery constructed a sand mandala – a sacred cosmogram – "in commemoration of September 11 and as an offering of peace and healing to the people of New York City." This archive website includes images showing day-by-day construction of the mandala, as well as the original press release describing the event, an interview with Geshe Lobsang Tenzin, founder and director of Drepung Loseling Institute, and a Teacher's Guide to the Mandala.

Go to Museum Resource: http://sites.asiasociety.org/arts/mandala/index.html
Tibetan Medical Paintings
American Museum of Natural History
"This rare, complete set of 79 Tibetan medical tangkas was painted by the Nepalese tangka artist Romio Shrestha and his Tibetan, Nepalese, and Bhutanese students in Kathmandu during seven years in the late 1980s and early 1990s. ... The medical tangkas form a unique document in the history of medicine. Firmly rooted in Buddhism, Tibetan medical practice drew on diverse earlier traditions, from India, ancient Greece, Persia, pre-Buddhist Tibet, and China, to form a synthesis visually documented in these paintings."

Go to Museum Resource: https://anthro.amnh.org/tangkas
Wutaishan: Pilgrimage to Five Peak Mountain
Rubin Museum of Art
"The sacred mountain Wutaishan (Mount Wutai), located in Shanxi Province, China, is believed to be the earthly abode of the Bodhisattva of Wisdom, Manjushri, and for a thousand years it has been a focus of transnational pilgrimage for the Chinese, Tibetans, Mongols, and Manchus alike." This online archive of a 2007 exhibition features an excellent interactive tool for viewing the "focal point of the exhibition: ... an intricately-detailed, hand-painted woodblock print map of Wutaishan, created in the 19th century by a Mongolian monk at a monastery on Wutaishan, called Cifusi. Six feet wide, this rare map offers a panoramic view of Wutaishan, which can be read as both a primary historical record of the lay of the land and as a declaration of the political primacy of Tibetan and Mongolian Buddhism, claiming Mongolian ethnic and sectarian identity over the mountain."

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.himalayanart.org/search/set.cfm?setID=1274
The Arts of Kashmir
Asia Society
"The Arts of Kashmir comprises works of Buddhist, Hindu, and Islamic art, including sculpture, painting, and calligraphy loaned from collections in the U.S., Europe, and India. Many of the objects have never been seen outside of India; in some cases they have never been exhibited or published anywhere. To provide a sense of the broad artistic contributions of this famously lush and beautiful region, the exhibition includes examples of stone and bronze sculptures and manuscript paintings, in addition to the fine examples of papier-mâché, carpets, shawls, and embroidery for which Kashmir is renowned."

Go to Museum Resource: http://sites.asiasociety.org/arts/kashmir/
The Arts of Thailand
Victoria and Albert Museum
An introduction to the V&A's new Arts of Thailand exhibit, which "features the museum's finest Thai Buddhist sculptures in bronze and stone spanning the period from the 7th to the 19th centuries, together with works of decorative art in a wide variety of media associated both with the Thai court and with monasteries." Thirty-eight objects are featured online; all objects have descriptions.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/t/the-arts-of-thailand/
Asian Art Objects in 3D
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
The Freer|Sackler boasts several 3D models on the Smithsonian X 3D website—including the “Cosmic Buddha”—which can be found here.

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.si.edu/feature/celebrate-asia/3d
Beliefs Made Visible: Understanding Hindu and Buddhist Art in South Asia [PDF]
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
"Explore the basic tenets and influences of Hinduism and Buddhism throughout Asia. Special attention is given to the evolution of Hinduism and Buddhism in India, and the representation of these beliefs in sculpture and religious architecture (stupas, temples, caves, and so on). Includes lessons on the traditions of threshold art and handouts on the symbolic gestures of Buddhas."

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2019/09/Beliefs-Made-...
Buddhist Art from China and Japan
The Cleveland Museum of Art
This lesson explores new objectives for art and examines how Chinese painting reflects Buddhist principles. Students learn to consider the meaning and significance of Buddhist mudras through the examination of images from the Cleveland Museum of Art.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.clevelandart.org/lesson-plan-packet/buddhist-art-china-and-japan
Buddhist Art in Asia
Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Learn about 12 Buddhist works of art in the Johnson Museum's collection. This website explores the rich visual language that Asian cultures have used to convey Buddhist teachings and the history of Buddhism from its beginnings in India and its spread throughout East and Southeast Asia. Click the picture to start exploring.

Go to Museum Resource: https://museum.cornell.edu/buddhist/
Buddhist Cave Temple Sculpture
Victoria and Albert Museum
The Central Asian tradition of building such complexes was been practiced for centuries, primarily with Imperial sponsorship in the Northern regions, where Buddhism first took hold. The very act of creating these vast monuments, hollowed out from rock faces and decorated so lavishly within, was considered an act of 'piety' resulting in the accrual of merit, which in Buddhism is accumulated as a result of good deeds, acts or thoughts. This merit is then carried over to later in life or to a person's next birth. The sculptures and paintings also functioned as an important focus for worship and as symbolic links between the worldly and heavenly realms. People would have travelled great distances to see them and to worship and make offerings before them.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/c/chinese-buddhist-cave-temple-sculpture/
The Buddhist Cave Temples of Xiangtangshan
New York University, Institute for the Study of the Ancient World
Carved into the side of a mountain, the Buddhist cave temples at Xiangtangshan (“Shahng-tahng-shahn”) are the crowning cultural achievement of the short-lived Northern Qi (“Chee”) dynasty, which ruled over most of northeastern China from 550 to 577 ce. The name Xiangtangshan translates as “Mountain of Echoing Halls,” and refers to two groups of rock-cut shrines in Hebei province close to ancient Ye, the Northern Qi capital. The emperors and courtiers who commissioned the temples were non-Chinese, of mixed ethnicities from north of the Great Wall, and practiced Buddhism, a religion favored by this elite. In their entirety, these cave temples housed an awe-inspiring world below ground and reflect a long tradition, begun in India, of situating holy places within the earth itself. Includes 12 over life-size sculptures from this Buddhist cave temple complex with a full-scale, digital, 3-D reconstruction of the interior of one of the site’s impressive caves.

Go to Museum Resource: http://isaw.nyu.edu/exhibitions/echoes
Buddhist Caves at Ajanta
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Learn about Buddhist caves. This is one of a series of caves excavated out of the volcanic rock that extends along a cliff overlooking the Wagora River at Ajanta, about two hours north of the present-day city of Aurangabad, in Maharastra state in western India.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/buddhist-caves-at-ajanta/
Buddhist Sculpture
Victoria and Albert Museum
An introduction to the V&A's new gallery exploring "the major Buddhist sculptural traditions of Asia." Twenty objects are introduced online; all objects have descriptions.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.vam.ac.uk/content/articles/b/buddhist-sculpture-v-and-a/
Buddhist Sculpture from China
China Institute
“The period covered by Buddhist Sculpture from China fits within Era 4 of the National History Standards, “Expanding Zones of Exchange and Encounter, 300-1000 CE”: Buddhist, Christian, and Hindu Traditions: Not only Islam but other major religions also spread widely during this 700-year era. Wherever these faiths were introduced, they carried with them a variety of cultural traditions, aesthetic ideas, and ways of organizing human endeavor. Each of them also embraced peoples of all classes and diverse languages in common worship and moral commitment….The entry of Buddhism into China and East Asia at the beginning of the Common Era is central to any perception of cultural exchange as playing “a crucial role in human history, being perhaps the most important external stimuli to change, leaving aside military conquest” (Curtin 1984: 1).”

Go to Museum Resource: https://china360online.org/?property=buddhist-sculpture-from-china
Chado: The Japanese Tea Ceremony
The Cleveland Museum of Art
This lesson introduces students to the Japanese tea ceremony to consider the art and the tradition of the tea ceremony and study the serving pieces used in the ceremony by participating in a tea ceremony. Students will learn the importance of the performance of tea ceremony through the history of how it became what it is today.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.clevelandart.org/lesson-plan-packet/chado-japanese-tea-ceremony
Chinese Buddhist Cave Shrines
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Explores ancient Buddhist cave shrines in China, including why the sites were created and the major sponsors and patrons. Includes 4 min video.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/chinese-buddhist-cave-shrines/
Confucianism, Daoism, Buddhism: How do different belief systems fit together in one country? [PDF]
The Field Museum
In this lesson plan students will explore three major belief systems in China–Buddhism, Confucianism, and Daoism - through art and artifacts. Through discussion and object-study, students will wrestle with how these different belief systems co-existed in China, and how they influenced and Informed each other. Spanish PDF also available.

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.fieldmuseum.org/sites/default/files/lifeways.pdf
Confucius, Shotoku, and the Golden Rule
The Cleveland Museum of Art
Confucian thought, Prince Shotoku’s Constitution, and the Golden Rule provide an opportunity for teachers and students to develop a shared vision for learning and classroom relationships. By looking at these ancient sayings, modern-day students can formulate their own rules of conduct.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.clevelandart.org/lesson-plan-packet/confucius-shotoku-and-golden-rule
Create a Lotus Lantern for the Lotus Lantern Festival
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Students will: 1.) Learn that Buddhism is a religion founded by an enlightened young Indian prince who became the Buddha. 2.) Learn how the Buddha’s birthday, a national holiday, is celebrated in Korea. 3.) Discuss how the lotus flower is symbol of purity and wisdom. 3.) Construct a lotus blossom lantern. Downloads include visual guides and instructions, a slide show activity, and stencil.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/create-a-lotus-lantern-for-the-lotus-l...
Create Your Own Mandala
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
The act of creating the mandala can be a quiet, meditative act, as well; drawing repeating patterns, especially of meaningful images or symbols, can be a calming experience that helps keep the artist centered and focused.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/create-your-own-mandala/
Cultivating Enlightenment: The Manifold Meaning of Japanese Zen Gardens
Education About Asia
An excellent visual and narrative introduction to Japanese Zen, and perhaps its most iconic symbols. While Zen gardens have been a fixture of Japanese aesthetics since the Muromachi Period (1336–1573), the purposes and meanings of these austere landscapes have been far less fixed, and indeed have changed somewhat since their first appearance as places for meditation in the Zen temples of medieval Japan. ...The image of the Zen garden, however,... “speaks” for itself, and provides us with a representation of spiritual quality that is best experienced rather than discursively argued. This is only appropriate since the transmission of Zen wisdom is supposed to be nonverbal. With PDF download.

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.asianstudies.org/publications/eaa/archives/cultivating-enlightenmen...
Digging Deeper into Buddhism: Mapping the Buddhist Cosmos
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Students already familiar with Siddhartha Gautama, or Shakyamuni, the Historical Buddha, will deepen their understanding of Buddhist beliefs and artwork. They will analyze and interpret works of art that reveal how people live around the world and what they value. They will identify how works of art reflect times, places, cultures, and beliefs. See also Reading the Cosmic Buddha interactive on Google Arts & Culture.

Go to Museum Resource: https://asia.si.edu/learn/for-educators/teaching-china-with-the-smithsonian/les...
Diving Deeper into Buddhism – Guanyin
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Students who are already familiar with Siddhartha Gautama, or Shakyamuni, the Historical Buddha, will deepen their understanding of Buddhist beliefs and artwork. They will analyze and interpret works of art that reveal how people live around the world and what they value. They will identify how works of art reflect times, places, cultures, and beliefs.

Go to Museum Resource: https://asia.si.edu/learn/for-educators/teaching-china-with-the-smithsonian/les...
Diving Deeper into Buddhism – Western Paradise
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Students already familiar with Siddhartha Gautama, the Historical Buddha, will deepen their understanding of Buddhist beliefs and artwork. They will analyze and interpret works of art that reveal how people around the world live and what they value. They will identify how works of art reflect times, places, cultures, and beliefs.

Go to Museum Resource: https://asia.si.edu/learn/for-educators/teaching-china-with-the-smithsonian/les...
Educator Resource Packet: Shukongojin
The Art Institute of Chicago
"The Art Institute’s figure of Shukongojin, with his demon-like body, flaring eyes, and mouth stretched in a scream, might have originally terrified an oncoming visitor to the temple he guarded, but might have also instilled a sense of protection and reassurance for the visitor who hoped nothing would disturb his meditations once inside. For the viewer today, Shukongojin looks down from his rock-like pedestal, imposing both a sense of awe and curiosity about the target of his aggressive presence. This teaching packet includes an essay, discussion questions, activity ideas, a glossary, and an image of the artwork."

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.artic.edu/collection/resources/educator-resources/34-educator-resou...
Educator Resource Packet: Southern Barbarians (Namban byobu)
The Art Institute of Chicago
"This screen portrays a ship arriving in Japan from Portugal with European merchants in pantaloons and broad-brimmed hats bearing exotic products. The Japanese, in long, flowing patterned robes and sandals, are on the shore picnicking and curiously watching the arrival of the Portuguese. This teaching packet includes an essay, discussion questions, activity ideas, and a glossary."

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.artic.edu/collection/resources/educator-resources/35-educator-resou...
Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Buddhism—and the art it inspired—helped shape the cultures of Asia. Today, its extraordinary art is a source of beauty and contemplation for audiences across the world.Encountering the Buddha brings together more than two hundred artworks, spanning two millennia, to explore Asia’s rich Buddhist heritage. They represent diverse schools that arose from the Buddha’s teachings.Throughout the exhibition and the website, we explore how Buddhist artworks are endowed with sacred power. We ask, why were they created? How did Buddhists engage with them? And how do Buddhist understandings of such objects differ from those of art museums?

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.freersackler.si.edu/exhibition/encountering-the-buddha-art-and-prac...
Exploring through Visual Narratives Through Thangkas [PDF]
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Students will apply the composition, storytelling, and symbolism found in Tibetan Buddhist art to their own thangkas, expressing personal perspectives and visual narratives.

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.freersackler.si.edu/wp-content/uploads/2018/02/Thangka-Lesson-Plan....
Faith and Empire: Art and Politics in Tibetan Buddhism
Rubin Museum of Art
How do political leaders rise to power? What gives them the right to rule?... The force of religion to claim political power is a global phenomenon, and Tibetan Buddhism once offered such divine means to power and legitimacy to rule. Faith and Empire explores the dynamic historical intersection of politics, religion, and art in Tibetan Buddhism.

Go to Museum Resource: https://rubinmuseum.org/events/exhibitions/faith-and-empire
Five Faiths Project
Ackland Art Museum, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Combines original works of art, photographs, storytelling and community events to introduce information about the world religions of Hinduism, Judaism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam. For art-related teaching, see the subtopic Art On-line for links to five works of art from each of the five religious traditions.

Go to Museum Resource: http://ackland.org/five-faiths-project/
Fold a Paper Lotus Flower
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Activity in which students will create a paper lotus. Downloads to support to the project.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/fold-a-paper-lotus-flower/
The Four Religions of East Asia
The Cleveland Museum of Art
This lesson provides an introduction to China and Japan's four major religions: Buddhism, Confucianism, Daoism, and Shinto.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.clevelandart.org/lesson-plan-packet/four-religions-east-asia
Getting Started with Zazen (Seated Meditation)
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
In Zen Buddhism, zazen (pronounced: zah-zen) is a sitting meditation. Zazen is not focusing on a specific object or thought. Instead, it is the liberating of one’s mind of all thought into a state of emptiness (a complete emptiness that is also complete fullness) from which the practitioner hopes to experience spontaneous awakening to the inner self (enlightenment). Download Includes a glossary.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/getting-started-with-zazen-seated-medi...
Goryeo Dynasty: Korea’s Age of Enlightenment [PDF]
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Few people are aware that the name Korea is derived from the name of the Goryeo (previously tranliterated as Koryo) dynasty. It was during this period (918–1392) that Korea became known to the world outside East Asia. This packet provides an overview of aspects of Goryeo society and Goryeo Buddhism as depicted in the arts of the period.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2019/12/GoryeoDynasty...
A Guide to Decoding Buddhist Symbols in Tibetan Art
Asia Society
“Buddhist thangka paintings are visually captivating and impressive — but there is more to them than meets the eye. Thangkas often focus on a specific deity and scene, and their form and surrounding details are often rich with symbolism, turning them into a medium for religious storytelling. Because of this, extracting all the intricacies and meanings from the paintings requires training.” Site has visuals of symbols with annotation on their meaning.

Go to Museum Resource: https://asiasociety.org/new-york/guide-decoding-buddhist-symbolism-tibetan-art
How does Art Tell Stories?
Seattle Art Museum
Game about gods from India and Southeast Asia. See Ganesa dance, and discover why Vishnu changes into a boar and Buddha has a bump on his head. After learning about gods from India and Southeast Asia, use this guide for discussing the sculpture, Hinduism, Buddhism and for leading related activities. The unit theme links visual art with language arts, and in some activities with performing arts. Questions and discussion ideas, classroom activities, stories, glossary, and other resources are included. (Activities on Buddha, Vishnu, Hinduism and Buddhism.)

Go to Museum Resource: http://www1.seattleartmuseum.org/onlineActivities/ArtStories/
How to Identify a Buddha
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
"The earliest surviving representations of the Buddha date from hundreds of years after his death, so they are not portraits in the usual sense. Buddha images vary greatly from place to place and period to period, but they almost always show these conventional features..." Downloads includes student handouts and a teacher packet on Hindu Buddhist Art. See also An Introduction to Buddhism.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/how-to-identify-a-buddha/
How to Paint a Lotus
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
The lotus flower is a Buddhist symbol of purity. Students will learn how to paint a lotus flower using Chinese brushpainting techniques in this hands on activity. Downloads include a lesson plan, teacher packets, visual instructions for the activity, and other resources.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/how-to-paint-a-lotus/
Illuminated Manuscripts: The Sacred Art of Narration
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Students will: 1.) Identify the format and elements of a sutra. 2.) Examine why sutras (the teachings of the Buddha) are important historical and religious documents. 3.) Analyze why the writing of sutras is considered an important religious act. 4.) Construct and illustrate an accordion book manuscript based on the sutra format used during the Goryeo dynasty. Downloads include Visual Guides, a Lesson Plan, and Teachers Packet.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/illuminated-manuscripts-the-sacred-art...
An Introduction to Japanese Buddhism
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Buddhism was officially transmitted to Japan in 525, when the monarch of the Korean kingdom of Baekje sent a mission to Japan with gifts, including an image of the Buddha, several ritual objects, and sacred texts. Buddhism’s journey from India to China, Korea, and Japan had taken about a thousand years. See also An Introduction to Japanese Buddhism video with Professor Robert Sharf, University of California, Berkeley, discusses Japanese Buddhism at the Medieval Japan Teacher Institute at the Asian Art Museum.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/an-introduction-to-buddhism-in-japan/
Japanese Mandalas: Emanations and Avatars
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Online presentation of a 2009 exhibition on the mandalas of Japanese Esoteric Buddhism. With images of 25 artworks, mostly from the 12th to the 14th century.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2009/japanese-mandalas
A Journey to Xiangtangshan
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
Carved into the mountains of northern China, the Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan ("Shahng-tahng-shahn") were the crowning cultural achievement of the Northern Qi ("Chee") dynasty (550-77). The name Xiangtangshan translates to "Mountain of Echoing Halls." It refers to two groups of caves: northern Xiangtangshan and southern Xiangtangshan, located about nine miles apart in Hebei province. Commissioned by devout Buddhist emperors and courtiers, the manmade caves represent the power and prestige of the throne and an eternal appeal for divine protection. They also reflect a long tradition, begun in India, of situating holy places within the earth's mantle.

Go to Museum Resource: https://archive.asia.si.edu/explore/china/xiangtangshan/
The Life of the Buddha
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
"The Buddha—that is, the 'Enlightened One'—lived nearly 2500 years ago in northern India. His followers have always seen his life as a shining example to all, but what 'really happened' is now impossible to know for certain. Even the earliest stories of his life include miraculous events that may seem hard to take literally. Later versions are even more elaborate, and they differ from one another in many details." Downloads includes a Student Handout and Teachers Packet.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/the-life-of-the-buddha/
Mandalas, Polygons, and Symmetry
The Kennedy Center, ArtsEdge
Students will explore the mathematics behind mandalas, including but not limited to shapes and symmetry.

Go to Museum Resource: https://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/educators/lessons/grade-6-8/Mandalas_and_Po...
Montien Boonma: Temple of the Mind
Asia Society
Online presentation of a 2003 retrospective exhibition of works by Thai artist Montien Boonma (1953-2000). The exhibition, according to the introductory text here, "traces Boonma's artistic development in the context of his deep engagement with Buddhism." Five of his works -- all sculptural installations -- are featured here, with brief descriptive text and additional images showing the installation process.

Go to Museum Resource: http://sites.asiasociety.org/arts/boonma/index.html
Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art
Asia Society
"Pilgrimage, a journey to a sacred place as an act of religious devotion, is important to many faiths. In Buddhism, the practice is especially significant. Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art is the first major exhibition to explore the relationship between Buddhist pilgrimage and Asian art. Through over ninety objects—including narrative paintings and sculptures, as well as mandalas, prayer wheels, and maps—from significant North American collections, this exhibition examines the ways in which Buddhist pilgrimage became the impetus for the development of new forms of art and visual culture as well as a source of inspiration to artists and craftsmen across Asia."

Go to Museum Resource: http://pilgrimage.asiasociety.org/
Puppets on the Move: China and the Silk Road
The Kennedy Center, ArtsEdge
This lesson is part of the unit: 'Teaching Shadow Puppetry.' Through map-making, research, and class discussions, students will gain an understanding of the dynamics of trade in China along the Silk Road and the role of trade in urbanization throughout the Han, Tang, and Song dynasties. The lesson will culminate in student-produced and student-created shadow puppet performances that demonstrate students’ understanding of Chinese culture during the days of the Silk Road and of the connection between trade and urbanization.

Go to Museum Resource: https://artsedge.kennedy-center.org/educators/lessons/grade-6-8/Puppets_on_the_...
The Rubin Museum's Buddhist Art "Looking Guide" [PDF]
Rubin Museum of Art
An excellent guide to help you recognize common symbols and important figures, including types of deities, hand gestures, postures and implements, as you explore the Museum's galleries. In addition figures and symbols featured in this guide, see also: Educational Interactive Library.

Go to Museum Resource: http://rubinmuseum.org/images/content/2014_Looking_Guide4.pdf
The Sacred Arts of Tibet [PDF]
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
“An overview of the culture, history and arts of Tibet, with a focus on the influence of Buddhism.” Activities include making a sculpture in the style of a Tibetan torma (traditionally, a sculpture of butter and roasted barley flour made as a devotional offering) and readings that address topics ranging from traditional Tibetan arts to contemporary Tibetan culture.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2019/12/Sacred-Arts-o...
South Asian and Himalayas Art: Overview
Freer Gallery of Art and Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution
The arts of South Asia and the Himalayas are closely intertwined with the subcontinent's many religious traditions. This region, which includes India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan, and Tibet, is the birthplace of three major religions: Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. The Islamic kingdoms that were established in South Asia in the twelfth century brought new visual traditions to the subcontinent. Explore their past exhibits on South Asian and Himalayan art.

Go to Museum Resource: https://asia.si.edu/exhibitions/south-asian-and-himalayan-art/
The Spread of Buddhism Across Asia
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
Understand, through the analysis of artifacts and maps, how Buddhism changed as it spread across Asia and came to reflect the countries that embraced it. Downloads include a slideshow and handout on Buddhist artifacts and a lesson plan.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/the-spread-of-buddhism-across-asia/
Temple, Palace, Scholar’s House: Three Settings of Traditional Korean Culture [PDF]
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
This packet introduces teachers and other readers to several traditional settings of Korean culture: Buddhist temples, palaces, and scholar’s houses, as well as Confucian academies where scholars were trained. These settings provide a framework or backdrop for many of the historical art objects on display at the museum.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/wp-content/uploads/sites/6/2019/09/Temple-Palace...
The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860-1989
Guggenheim Museum
The Third Mind: American Artists Contemplate Asia, 1860–1989 considers the dynamic impact of Asian art, literature, music, and philosophy on the development of American art. This guide for educators focuses on seminal American artists who took inspiration from Asia and reflected that engagement in their creative work. Teachers guides reflect the structure of the exhibition, which is divided into seven chronological and thematic sections, and selects a representative artist from each. Looking at and discussing these works with students can enhance their understanding of American art and how its development has been influenced by specific sources of Asian art and thought. Video and audio content available. See also: Teaching Materials.

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.guggenheim.org/exhibition/the-third-mind-american-artists-contempla...
Tianlongshan Caves Project
Center for the Art of East Asia, University of Chicago
The Buddhist cave temples of Tianlongshan (Heavenly Dragon Mountain) are located in the mountains thirty-six kilometers southwest of Taiyuan city in the central part of Shanxi province. They exist today in a damaged state with so many of the sculptures now missing, that visitors to the caves cannot imagine how they looked in the past. Many of the sculptures from the caves are now in museums around the world. However, though the sculptures may be preserved and displayed, visitors to museums cannot understand them in their original historical, spatial, and religious contexts. For these reasons the Center for the Art of East Asia in the Department of Art History at the University of Chicago initiated the Tianlongshan Caves Project in 2013 to pursue research and digital imaging of the caves and their sculptures. The Project seeks to record and archive the sculptures and to compile data that can identify the fragments and their places of origin. In carrying this out, the Project aims to foster better understanding of the sculptural art, the history, and the meaning of the Tianlongshan Caves through creation of this website and through an exhibition of the results of the Project based on digital information.

Go to Museum Resource: https://tls.uchicago.edu/
The Newark Museum
The most distinctive collection of Tibetan art in the Western Hemisphere is on view in eight permanent galleries. The centerpiece of which is a Buddhist Altar consecrated in 1990 by His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama. See also: Virtual Tour of a Tibetan Altar .

Go to Museum Resource: https://www.newarkmuseum.org/tibet
Using Mystery Objects to Draw Conclusions about Ancient Chinese and Japanese Culture
The Cleveland Museum of Art
In this lesson, students use art to draw conclusions about ancient Chinese and Japanese civilizations and cultures.

Go to Museum Resource: http://www.clevelandart.org/lesson-plan-packet/using-mystery-objects-draw-concl...
Xiangtangshan Caves Project
Center for the Art of East Asia, University of Chicago
The Northern Qi dynasty (550-577) produced a large body of important works of art during its brief existence. A central achievement of the period is the complex of Buddhist caves of Xiangtangshan and their stone sculptures and engraved inscriptions, created near the Northern Qi capital with official sponsorship. Unfortunately, the cave shrines are now severely damaged and the sculptures and fragments of carvings from the cave sites scattered around the world. The Xiangtangshan Project has sought to acquire a better understanding the caves in broader narratives of the art and visual culture of the Northern Qi period and of the history of Buddhism in China. Its components and objectives were to 1) to conduct collaborative research, 2) to create a digital database of images and information on the caves and sculptures of Xiangtangshan, and 3) to present of the results of research with digital reconstruction of the caves, an exhibition, and international conferences. This website serves as a database of the project's results and a resource for future research. See also: supplemental website with Buddhist sutras and dedicatory inscriptions.

Go to Museum Resource: https://xts.uchicago.edu/
Zen Buddhism
Asian Art Museum of San Francisco
An introduction to Zen, a form of Buddhism that emphasizes seeking one’s own Buddha nature through meditation. Download a Zen glossary and activity.

Go to Museum Resource: https://education.asianart.org/resources/zen-buddhism/
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