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Category: southeast asia

Photo Wednesday: Red house in Singapore

9 September, 2009 (06:00) | southeast asia | By: xensen

Indra’s lute

6 August, 2009 (05:00) | paintings, premodern-modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

Indra, a major Hindu deity, also figures in the Thai Buddhist belief system, where he seen as powerful but limited and subservient to the Buddha (and sometimes as one of the four guardian kings of the cardinal directions). He is recognizable by his green skin.

The image shown is a detail from a large painting of the story of the life of the Buddha in the collection of the Asian Art Museum (Scenes from the life of the Buddha, 1800-1850. Thailand; paint and gold on cloth. Gift from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation’s Southeast Asian Art Collection, 2006.27.122.15).  The painting will be displayed during the museum’s upcoming Emerald Cities: Arts of Siam and Burma exhibition

In an essay I wrote on the subject of translation, I talked about the “middle way” of the Chinese translator Xuanzang (who lived in the seventh century but may be most familiar from his role in the Ming dynasty “Monkey” stories). Xuanzang insisted that translation be both “truthful” and “intelligible to the populace.” In the essay I go on to discuss other advocates of the middle way, such as the Mexican poet Octavio Paz.

In this detail Indra makes a case for the middle way in a charming manner. The Buddha-to-be (shortly before his enlightenment) has been troubled about whether to give up the extreme austerities he has been practicing. Here Indra appears to him and plucks three strings of a lute-like instrument. One string is too slack, and it makes only a dull sound. One string is too tight, and it breaks when plucked. Only the properly tightened string makes a beautiful sound.

Photo Wednesday: Wat Rajabophit

29 July, 2009 (05:00) | architecture/public, premodern-modern, southeast asia | By: xensen

Photo Wednesday: Indonesian election officials

8 July, 2009 (05:00) | southeast asia | By: xensen

Wat Pa Maha Chedi Kaew

20 November, 2008 (05:00) | architecture/public, contemporary, southeast asia | By: xensen

Photo Wednesday: Bali cremation ceremony

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

Filipino costumes

4 August, 2008 (05:00) | decorative arts / textiles, southeast asia | By: xensen

filipina woman in native costume

The estimable Peacay of BibliOdyssey has posted a series of images of Filipino men and women in typical costumes. Most of the images, like this one, simply called “Old Woman,” are taken from a 1941 an 1841 book available online from the New York Public Library. While the images have a bit of the whiff of colonialism and the specimen book, they are still fascinating historical documents, not least as examples of the watercolor arts of the nineteenth-century.

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.

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Some posts related to Southeast Asia:
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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.

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Photo Wednesday: Borobudur

23 July, 2008 (05:00) | medieval, sculpture, southeast asia | By: xensen

The jester Togog

21 July, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, premodern-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.

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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.

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Photo Wednesday: Bali kite

9 July, 2008 (05:00) | southeast asia | By: xensen

The jester Semar

7 July, 2008 (05:00) | literature/performance/film/music, premodern-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.

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Photo Wednesday: Bali monkey

25 June, 2008 (05:00) | southeast asia | By: xensen

Walter Spies

23 June, 2008 (05:00) | 20th c, paintings, southeast asia | By: xensen

walter spies

The other day I commented on Deb Clearwaters’s new blog on Bali. Subsequently, I found this collection of paintings by the Russian-born German painter Walter Spies. Spies, who was born in 1895, moved to Bali in 1927. His painting swings between mannerist and expressionist tendencies, but often with overtones of the primitivism of someone like Dounier Rousseau. With decent connections to the international art community, Spies helped to popularize the notion of Bali as an idyllic and exotic Shangri-La. This painting dates from 1929.

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Photo Wednesday: Bali Rice Farmer

18 June, 2008 (05:00) | southeast asia | By: xensen

A new blog on the arts of Bali

9 June, 2008 (05:00) | southeast asia | By: xensen

Photo Wednesday: Balinese flower bowl

16 May, 2008 (05:00) | southeast asia | By: xensen