Inside/Outside Empty/Solid (Buddhist Shrine)


I liked this 8th century Tang Dynasty Chinese Buddhist shrine at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, acquired by the museum in 1922.  You can see here photos of the the external walls of the shrine, busy with a thin veneer of inscriptions and decorative carvings. In contrast, the Buddha and attending bodhisattvas are viewed from outside a window; they are peacefully set in high relief inside the interior of the large block of limestone. Unlike the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the MFA provides very little information about the art in its collection. Scrambling online for information of Tang Dynasty the most I could find  is here at an old  Bulletin of the Art Institute of Chicago. In the photo here and the one provided online and the Bulletin, the image is flattened out by the frontal shot.

For anyone who was wondering, this is the end of my recent posts here at the blog looking at regarding mostly Japanese Buddhist art from a recent trip to the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston while attending the conference for the Association for Jewish Studies. I left the conference early on Tuesday morning, and ran into a bunch of colleagues also capping off the conference with a visit to the museum. Apart from the integrity of the actual objects, my own connection to this stuff comes from ongoing interests in art, culture, and visual religion. What I like so much about this shrine is the strange constellation of characteristics –tensions between outside and inside, between low relief and high relief, between the physical structure of the object and the way the figures stand out inside the empty space of a solid box-like frame.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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1 Response to Inside/Outside Empty/Solid (Buddhist Shrine)

  1. dmf says:

    I like the worn parts too tho I imagine the makers wouldn’t

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