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Art of South and Southeast Asia before 1200: Portrayal of the Buddha
Sabrina Hashem
Art History Survey I
Christine I. Wilson

This paper analyzes the art of Southeast Asia before 1200, specifically the depiction of Buddha. A general idea of Buddhism and Buddhist art is presented as well as two specific works of Buddhist art. A study of how different cultures and time period influenced these pieces follows their descriptions, and finally a critique of each and a comparison of the two are also presented.
Buddhism began in the late medieval period in India during the rule of the Pala dynasty with one man, Siddhartha Gautama. Known today as Buddha Shakyamuni, Siddhartha was born to a ruler of a small kingdom in present day Nepal. With the rise of an urban society replacing the agricultural lifestyle this was a time of great social turmoil in the sub-continental India. The Aryan people, with whom caste system began in Hinduism, became more and more complex in their social and religious practices. The Brahmins, the priestly class grew powerful and began to impose rigid ideas about social order to ensure their place in power over the rest of the society. Many sages and philosophers at the time began to resist this unequal society and began preaching of social equality and a more direct and personal access to the spiritual world. Siddhartha would have experienced this revolutionary movement as a young boy. Around this time he also encountered sickness and death among the people he would one day rule and met an ascetic wanderer who changed his view of life forever. The young prince left his young bride and son, renounced his princely comforts and eventually withdrew into meditation until one day he became Buddha or the awakened one. He understood the cosmic relationship between cause and action and the cyclical nature of life. Buddhism was adapted to…...

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