Diverse Arts of Southeast Asia

Featured Books

* Flames of Devotion: Oil Lamps from South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayas
* Art of Island Southeast Asia: The Fred and Rita Richman Collection
* Cham Sculpture of the Tourane Museum (Da Nang, Vietnam): Religious Ceremonies and Superstitions of Champa
* Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery
* Arts of Ancient Viet Nam: From River Plain to Open Sea

Flames of Devotion: Oil Lamps from South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayas

Flames of Devotion

by Sean Anderson
UCLA Fowler Museum of Cultural History, 2006

Fire and light have long symbolized the relationship of human beings to the universe and its creators. In South and Southeast Asia and the Himalayas, the lamp, as a bearer of light, came to be perceived as a vehicle through which the divine could be accessed. The design, construction, and use of the lamp in these regions have been synonymous with the faith of the devotee since ancient times. Today, the lamp continues to play a pivotal role in Hindu and Buddhist religious contexts, allowing the faithful to concentrate on the image or nature of the deity. The 76 remarkable metal lamps and incense burners illustrated in “Flames of Devotion” form the heart of a collection assembled by the preeminent scholar of Indian and Himalayan art Pratapaditya Pal and his wife, Chitralekha. They are noteworthy for their ingenious design and diverse crafting, as well as their iconographic richness. They represent fourteen states in India, a majority coming from Rajasthan and Gujarat in the west, the tribal areas in central Madhya Pradesh and Chhattisgarh, and the southern states of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. In addition, stunning examples of lamps from Nepal and Tibet showcase the skill with which precious metals were employed during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and a small selection of early incense burners and lamps from Cambodia, Indonesia, and Vietnam show the role these objects played in the ancient imagination. In an engaging and highly informative text, architect and art historian Sean Anderson investigates why lamps have endured and remain omnipresent in Hindu and Buddhist practice. While examining the historical importance of the lamp, Anderson emphasizes that as altar and tool, icon and fine sculpture, it is an evocative reminder of an undying devotion forged with the most common yet enigmatic of materials: metal and fire. He considers as well the liminal space the lamp occupies between the secular and the sacred in societies where it is often used to mark every event of significance from birth to death.

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Art of Island Southeast Asia: The Fred and Rita Richman Collection

 Art of Island Southeast Asia

by Florina H. Capistrano-Baker
Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012

The sprawling geographic region that is Island Southeast Asia comprises more than seventeen hundred islands, including the modern nations of the Philippines, Indonesia, Brunei, and eastern Malaysia. A common language and culture may at an early time have unified the peoples of this vast region, and in spite of the impact of colonialism and extensive contact with four of the world’s great religions, a commonality remains. The visual arts powerfully illustrate this tenacious unity.

The Fred and Rita Richman Collection in The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, is an impressive assemblage of the art of these myriad islands. Many of the art forms represented no longer survive, and those that do are seldom created in their original social and religious context,making the work a valuable record of an irretrievable past. Made in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the art in the collection represents a dynamic period in Southeast Asia’s history, during which mercantile exploits gave rise to social, political, and economic changes. The art of Island Southeast Asia is thus one of continuous change. Nevertheless, because of shared ethnic, linguistic, and cultural sources, different forms of artistic expression remain formally and conceptually related, and while the meanings given to similar art forms and their stylistic renderings vary, the concepts they reflect are universal.

Broadly stated, the art addresses two fundamental concerns, fertility and protection. Four important images evoke these themes: the seated human figure, the omega-shaped mamuli ornament, the water buffalo, and the naga serpent-dragon. The works, many rendered powerful by natural and supernatural forces, visually conjoin spirit worlds and island realms.

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Cham Sculpture of the Tourane Museum (Da Nang, Vietnam): Religious Ceremonies and Superstitions of Champa 

 

Cham Sculpture of the Tourane Museum (Da Nang, Vietnam): Religious Ceremonies and Superstitions of Champa

by Henri Parmentier, Paul Mus, and Étienne Aymonier
White Lotus Co Ltd, 2003

The first report in this book offers an overview of Cham art with sixty-five photographs and an introductory text by the eminent French archaeologist Henri Parmentier. Originally published in 1922, this book remains one of the best introductions to the treasures preserved in the Tourane Museum in Danang. It features splendid photographs of Cham art discovered in the main areas of this long lost culture-Mi Son, Dong Duong, Khuong My, and Tra Kieu. The development of Cham art is sketched against the background of Annamese migration pushing the Cham people and their kingdom ever further south. The second part consists of two research reports. The first one by Paul Mus summarizes what is known about the religious practices of the Cham people and is based on artifacts and translated inscriptions. The author also reviews evidence from contemporary Cham culture. The religious inheritance of Champa is related to Vedic, Indian, Chinese, and Annamese forms of worship, and the significance of the Champa king as intermediary between the gods and the soil is also discussed. The second report by Étienne Aymonier contains an overview, dated 1884-85, of the religious practices, ceremonies related to veneration of divinities, marriage, birth, priesthood, death, agriculture, collection of eagle wood, and other customs of both groups of Chams, Muslims and non-Muslims, in Vietnam, and Chams in Cambodia.

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Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery
 

 

Old Javanese Gold: The Hunter Thompson Collection at the Yale University Art Gallery

by John N. Miksic
YU Art Gallery, 2011

While ancient Javanese bronze and ironwork have long elicited interest, there is a lesser-known yet equally fascinating aspect of the Indonesian island’s history: gold artifacts, including jewelry, clothing accessories, statues, coins, and containers. Not only do these objects display exceptional craftsmanship, they also provide a significant source of information on Javanese society, culture, religion, economy, technology, and art from the 1st century BCE to 1500.

This revised and expanded edition of the 1990 publication Old Javanese Gold celebrates Valerie and Hunter Thompson’s 2007 gift of Javanese gold objects to the Yale University Art Gallery and the subsequent founding of the Department of Indo-Pacific Art. Along with entirely new photography and a fresh design, the book’s essays have been updated to incorporate recent discoveries—including the Wonoboyo hoard, one of the most important gold hoards ever excavated in Southeast Asia.

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Arts of Ancient Viet Nam: From River Plain to Open Sea

Arts of Ancient Viet Nam: From River Plain to Open Sea

by Nancy Tingley
Museum Fine Arts Houston, 2009

Once a strategic trading post that channeled the flow of riches and ideas among countries situated along the South China Sea and places as far away as India and Rome, Viet Nam has a fascinating history and an artistic heritage to match it. This lavishly produced catalogue will help introduce English-speaking audiences to Viet Nam’s amazing body of artwork, ranging from the first millennium B.C. to the 18th century.

The authors begin by discussing, for example, the elegant burial jars, iron axes, bronze artifacts, and jewelry of the early Sa Huynh culture; the bronze ritual drums of the Dong Son; and the jeweled gold pieces, excavated from the walled center of Oc Eo in the kingdom of Fu Nan. New scholarship investigates the trade in gold and Chinese ceramics between Cham and the Philippine kingdom of Butuan. The final section is devoted to art from Hoi An, once a major international port. Of note are the ceramic wares produced in northern and central Viet Nam from the 16th to 18th century.

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