Long before any sūtra was written or monastic rule recorded, art and architecture were at the center of Buddhist life. Images served as storytellers, as objects of devotion, and as the means for merit-making from the tradition’s origins. Monastics and layman, royal patrons, and average people across Asia and throughout history have visited pilgrimage sites marked by Buddhist monuments, commissioned artworks for personal and public use, and received blessings from consecrated sculptures. When we consider the spread of Buddhism to the far-flung corners of the continent, we can imagine intrepid monks carrying both scriptures and images in their packs.
This course introduces some of the major figures, forms, ideas, and issues that define the history of Buddhist art through the close examination of exemplary artworks and important landmarks. Drawing on religious and artistic traditions from across the Buddhist world, each module will center on a single theme, utilizing one painting or sculpture and one site, as the starting point for deeper exploration. Students will learn how to read Buddhist art, understanding not only what the objects of Buddhist material culture mean, but how they are inextricably connected to Buddhist doctrine, practice, and patronage. What will emerge is a complex picture of Buddhist art that reflects both diversity and uniformity, creativity and conformity.
Module 1 — The Buddha Image
Module 2 — The Book as Art & a Cave as Library
Module 3 — Idealized Figures
Module 4 — Sex, Violence, & Maṇḍalas
Students Will Receive:
- 4 Video + Audio lectures (90 min)
- 4 Pre-recorded Q&A sessions (90 min)
- 4 BS Credits
- 12 Hours of CE credit with YA
- Course Syllabus (PDF)
- Weekly Readings (PDF)
- 4 Multiple Choice Quizzes
- Yogic Studies Certificate (PDF)
- Access to the private Community Forum
Dr. Rebecca Bloom
Diane P. Stewart Assistant Director, Curatorial Affairs at the Southern Utah Museum of Art
Rebecca Bloom is a scholar and curator who specializes in Tibetan Buddhism, Buddhist material culture, and issues surrounding the intersection of religion and museums. She holds a BA in Art History and Religion from Middlebury College, an MA in Asian Religions from Yale Divinity School, and she recently received her PhD from the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan, where she also earned a Graduate Certificate in Museum Studies.
Dr. Bloom began her career at the Rubin Museum of Art, where she curated and co-curated more than a dozen exhibitions of Tibetan and Himalayan art, as well as contemporary and historical photography. At the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Asian Art, she co-curated a multi-year exhibition of Buddhist art entitled Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia, for which she designed the Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room and created the related app, Sacred Spaces. Assembly of the Exalted: The Tibetan Buddhist Shrine Room, coauthored with Donald S. Lopez, Jr., focuses on the shrine’s history and its objects. Dr. Bloom also contributed to a multi-disciplinary project dedicated to the pilgrimage of the eighth-century, Korean monk, Hyecho. The project produced two apps, a website, and a book that each explore the world of Buddhism Hyecho encountered on his journey, with special attention paid to Buddhist material culture.
This course is eligible for 12 hours of Continued Education (CE) credits with Yoga Alliance
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