Manifestations of the Buddha: Ideas and Visuality of Buddhist Icons
Buddhism in Contemporary Society Lecture Series
Free admission; registration required.
Professor Junhyun Rhi, Professor of Art History, Seoul National University
Why have Buddhists been so much tempted to make and worship images? What did they, or do we, see in Buddha images? What are the images meant to tell us in their visual forms? Since its inception around the beginning of the Common Era, Buddhist icons have dominated the devotional practice of Buddhists along with Buddhist funerary monuments. The current Asia Society exhibition shows a glimpse of this prominent tradition in Buddhist art. This lecture will explore ideas underlying diverse manifestations of the Buddha in visual imagery focusing on those exhibited in the current show.
Professor Junhyun Rhi is Professor of Art History at Seoul National University. He received his Ph.D. at the University of California, Berkeley, specializing in Indian and Buddhist art. A renowned expert in the field, he has written extensively on early Indian Buddhist art, particularly the tradition of Gandhara, as well as Korean Buddhist art. The majority of his publications concern the ancient Indian tradition up to the fifth century CE, especially focusing on ancient Gandhara, and the Korean tradition. In these works, he attempts to draw comprehensive pictures of the two regional traditions, treating their diverse aspects such as the religiosity of visual monuments, the narrative art and textual tradition, the formulation and transformation of visual features, the function and perception of visual objects, and the materiality of religious monuments. Simultaneously, he has explored theoretical issues in stylistic reasoning, iconography, and conflict between aesthetic and devotional attitudes and attempted to apply them to Korean Buddhist art in a critical spirit. He has also produced works on East Asian pilgrims who traveled to India.