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Category: literature/performance/film/music

The Longest Way

7 September, 2009 (06:00) | china, contemporary, literature/performance/film/music | By: xensen

This fellow walked across China and made a spectacular time-lapse video about it.

Samurai samba

21 May, 2009 (05:00) | contemporary, japan, literature/performance/film/music | By: xensen

Check out this entrancingly nutty samurai samba. Via Kenneth Ikemoto at the Asian Art Museum blog.


Lopen Neten and Lopen Gyem performing pujas

16 April, 2009 (05:00) | himalayas, literature/performance/film/music | By: xensen

In conjunction with its exhibition The Dragon’s Gift: The Sacred Arts of Bhutan, the Asian Art Museum is hosting two Bhutanese monks, Lopen Neten, who is from eastern Bhutan, and Lopen Gyem, who is from western Bhutan. The monks created a beautiful sand mandala that can be glimpsed in this video and are now working on a second one.

Usually work on the mandala occurs around 1:00. At about 11:00 and 3:00 the monks perform their prayer, or pujas, as viewed here from the second floor walkway.


Ani Choying Drolmna

3 March, 2009 (05:00) | himalayas, literature/performance/film/music | By: xensen

The recording of Ani Choying Drolma, a nun from Nepal, was made at a concert in Munich in 2007. The YouTube posting entitles the performance “Ganesha Mantra.”


Trailer for Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul

27 October, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, literature/performance/film/music, west asia | By: xensen

Here’s a trailer for the exhibition Afghanistan: Hidden Treasures from the National Museum, Kabul, on view at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco from Oct 24, 2008 through Jan 25, 2009.


Photo Wednesday: Bali cremation ceremony

20 August, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, southeast asia | By: xensen

This dramatic photo from a Balinese cremation ceremony comes from BALIwww.com’s photostream.

Photo Wednesday: Kechak

30 July, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, southeast asia | By: xensen

kechak, a dance performance of bali

While we’re on the subject of Indonesian ritual, here is an image of a Kechak dance from www.viajar24h.com’ s photostream.

This dance tells stories from the Ramayana myth. One of its features is a large chorus of young men, said to represent a forest full of monkeys. The men provide the music for the performance by making percussive sounds.


Some posts related to Southeast Asia:
[catlist ID=9 numberposts=10]


The endangered Indonesian dagger (kris)

28 July, 2008 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, literature/performance/film/music, southeast asia | By: xensen

indonesian kris ritual

According to legend, Ken Arok, founder of the 13th-century Hindu-Buddhist Singosari kingdom, won his throne through a series of murders accomplished with a wavy dagger called a kris. Ken Arok’s dagger was powerful but it was also cursed, and ultimately it also killed its owner.

In Indonesian trance rituals, celebrants in trance states may stab themselves with krises. (Krises are also found in Malaysia, Brunei, Southern Thailand and the southern Philippines.) I think the stabbing is mostly symbolic, as several observers report they result in little or no blood.

Read more »

The jester Togog

21 July, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

wayang golek clown puppet togog

A couple of people were asking for more images of Indonesian jester puppets. Here’s another one from the Asian Art Museum (where the puppets are difficult to photograph because they are displayed in very low light). His name is Togog.

Earlier I posted an image of the jester Semar. There is more information about Indonesian clown puppets at the Museum of Folly.


The jester Togog, ca. 1800-1900. Ondonesia; Bandung, West Java. Wood cloth, and mixed media. Asian Art Museum; From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.85.33.


The jester Semar

7 July, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

the clown semar, a rod puppet from java

Many people are familiar with the shadow puppets that are a popular court art of central Java. Rod puppets (wayang golek) are a puppet form that is popular among nonartistocratic audience in western Java and the northern coast of central Java. The puppets perform tales from the Ramayana and Mahabharata, as well as other Hindu and Islamic texts.

This figure is Semar, a jester. Jesters are a popular element of rod puppet performances. This puppet is part of a large collection at the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco. The is more information about Indonesian rod pupet jesters at the Museum of Folly (and some more images).

The jester Semar, ca. 1800-1900. Ondonesia; Bandung, West Java. Wood cloth, and mixed media. Asian Art Museum; From the Mimi and John Herbert Collection, F2000.85.29.


Smoke on the Water

5 February, 2008 (05:00) | contemporary, japan, literature/performance/film/music | By: xensen

On Thursday I showed a Japanese song performed on a Western instrument (the ukulele). Here now is Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” performed on traditional Japanese instruments.

This has got to be seen to be believed.


via Book of Joe


Sakura for Ukulele

31 January, 2008 (05:00) | japan, literature/performance/film/music | By: xensen

The ukulele began as a Portuguese instrument, which was taken up and modified in Hawaii. Now its popularity has spread worldwide. Outside Hawaii, nowhere is it more popular than in Japan. So I suppose it was inevitable that traditional Japanese songs would begin to be performed on ukes.

Tribes of Burma

22 January, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

tribes of burma: tai

This image is said to represent costumes of the Tai people of Burma, according to A Hand Painted Manuscript, in Color, of the Kaw, Lahu, Kwi, En, Ahko, Hpin, Tai-Loi, Yang Hsek, Palawng, Kachin, Wa Lu, Lem, Tai-no, Lisaw, Hkun and Tai tribes. Hand drawn, hand colored ethnographic manuscript showing people from various ethnic groups in Burma at their daily chores and in their native costume, ca. 1900. It has been slightly cleaned by BibliOdyssey, from which I have taken it; on that site several more examples are presented.

The manuscript comes from the South East Asia Digital Library at the Northern Illinois University Libraries, Special Collections. The paintings are charming in themselves, and also provide a valuable ethnological record.

BibliOdyssey notes “The 60th anniversary since Burma achieved independence from Britain passed by on 4 January 2008. There doesn’t seem to be a great deal to celebrate.”


Tezuka Osamu self-portrait

10 January, 2008 (06:00) | 20th c, japan, literature/performance/film/music | By: xensen

Here’s a ten-second self-portrait by anime pioneer Tezuka Osamu.


Isfandiyar struggles with the simurgh

20 December, 2007 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, medieval, west asia | By: xensen

Isfandiyar struggles with the simurgh

Isfandiyar is one of the heroes of the great Persian epic the Shahnama, or “Book of Kings” by Firdawsi. The image above is from a 1330 edition. The legendary bird the Simurgh figures prominently in the story.

The Simurgh is always represented as female. Although not depicted so in this image, she was often shown with the head of a dog, and sometimes with the claws of a lion. She was very large — large enough to carry off an elephant. The Simurgh was sometimes said to live at the top of the tree of life and to have seen the creation and destruction of the world three times. She represented the union between the earth and the sky, and was charged with purifying the waters of the earth.

When the albino prince Zal was abandoned by his parents, the Simurgh nurtured him. Later Zal returned to human society and married a woman named Rudaba. In due course she became pregnant, but her labor was difficult. Zal summoned the Simurgh, who performed a cesarean section with her claws. The baby who was born was Rostam, the national hero of Persia.

Later in the story, Rostam and Isfandiyar engaged in combat. Rostam had the worst of the encounter, because Isfandiyar had immersed himself in a magical water that made one invulnerable. Again summoned, the Simurgh healed Rostam and advised him that Isfandiyar had kept his eyes shut while immersed in the magic water, and Rostam was able to defeat him by shooting an arrow through his eye.

In an alternate episode from the story, however, Isfandiyar kills the Simurgh (or perhaps a different Simurgh) as part of one of a series of heroic labors. This is the scene depicted here.



23 November, 2007 (19:10) | literature/performance/film/music, southeast asia | By: xensen

AP released this great photo of performers watching the opening ceremony of the 5th Indonesia Art Festival in Sanur, Bali, Indonesia.

faces in the crowd


Haein-sa Temple

23 November, 2007 (09:35) | korea, literature/performance/film/music, medieval | By: xensen

haein-sa temple, korea

Haein-sa Temple is located in Hapchon County, North Kyongsang Province, Korea. It is home to the most complete set of woodblocks of the Buddhist Tripitaka, the canon of Buddhist scriptures. (Tripitaka means “three baskets.” It refers to the conventional division of the scriptures into the sutras, or teachings of the Buddha; the vinaya, or precepts for community members; and the abhidharma, or commentaries.) The Tripitaka Koreana consists of 81,258 blocks (comparable to nearly 7,000 printed volumes), containing more than 52 million characters.

Korea was a leader in print technology from early times. Koreans invented and employed moveable metal type long before Gutenberg. In my article at rightreading.com called “Gutenberg and the Koreans,” I argue that awareness of East Asian printing processes may well have reached Europe during the early renaissance (thanks to the Mongol empire, which connected the two areas). The article is schedule for publication in Arts of Asia magazine in 2008.
The image above is from Discover Korea. For more images and a brief description of the temple and the blocks, see this Granite School page.