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Photo Wednesday: Omikuji

26 August, 2009 (06:00) | japan | By: xensen

This image of two women viewing omikuji, or rolled-up fortunes, comes from kalandrakas’ photostream. Kalandrakas writes:

Omikuji are random fortunes written on strips of paper at Shinto shrines and Buddhist temples in Japan.

The omikuji predicts the person’s chances of his or her hopes coming true, of finding a good match, or generally matters of health, fortune, life, etc. When the prediction is bad, it is a custom to fold up the strip of paper and attach it to a pine tree in the temple grounds. A purported reason for this custom is a pun on the word for pine tree (? matsu) and the verb ‘to wait’ (?? matsu), the idea being that the bad luck will wait by the tree rather than attach itself to the bearer. In the event of the fortune being good, the bearer should keep it. Though nowadays, this custom seems more of a children’s amusement, omikuji are available at most shrines, and remain one of the traditional activities related to shrine-going . . .

Friday roundup

21 August, 2009 (06:00) | links | By: xensen

“Take advantage of what exists.” — Laozi

The spirit of stones

17 August, 2009 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, japan | By: xensen

Stones in Japan are used for bridges, water containers, lanterns, and many other purposes. They are especially used as steps on paths.

In an echo of Japan’s animistic native beliefs, stones are chosen for the spirit they emanate. They form a link between people and the earth. Stones that are scored or pitted or covered with moss evoke the spirit of wabi-sabi — of harmonious simplicity and impermanence (more on this in a subsequent post).

This image of petal-covered stepping stone as Shokokuji, a Rinzai Zen temple in Kyoto, comes from EYLC’s photostream.

Friday roundup

14 August, 2009 (06:00) | links | By: xensen

Photo Wednesday: Hongkong lights

12 August, 2009 (07:00) | china | By: xensen

Friday roundup

7 August, 2009 (05:00) | links | By: xensen

Indra’s lute

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

Friday roundup

24 July, 2009 (05:00) | links | By: xensen

Photo Wednesday: Indonesian election officials

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

Friday roundup

19 June, 2009 (05:00) | links | By: xensen

Friday roundup

29 May, 2009 (05:00) | links | By: xensen

Samurai samba

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

Asian Art Museum blog

20 May, 2009 (05:00) | links | By: xensen

Indian Summer

7 May, 2009 (05:00) | south asia | By: xensen

Kew Gardens and the British Museum have teamed up on a project called Indian Summer that sounds very cool.

J. S. Marcus writes in the WSJ:

Kew has … installed a special Indian garden in the museum’s forecourt. Designed by Kew horticulturalists Steve Ruddy and Richard Wilford, “India Landscape” transforms 440 square meters of lawn into a concise overview of the Indian subcontinent’s three main habitats: the Himalayan Mountains, the temperate woodlands of the Himalayan foothills and the humid subtropical lowlands.

The Himalayas are conjured up with a vertical rock garden, surrounded by pine trees and cranesbill. The temperate zone includes a Himalayan walnut tree and a blue poppy, one of the world’s truly blue flowers. The subtropical regions come to life thanks to a lotus filled pond, and a mature banyan tree. The winding path, in the shadow of the British Museum’s neoclassical façade, has a dense but spacious quality, and the gardeners have somehow managed to create a sense of north-south travel as we make our way from barren rocks to the spidery lushness of the banyan.

The British Museum will collaborate with Kew on:

  • Garden and Cosmos: the Royal Paintings of Jodhpur, May 28 to August 23.
  • India Landscape, May 2 to September 28, British Museum forecourt, free.
    Culture of import
  • A Bollywood film festival
  • Evenings of Indian performance, dance, music, and food
  • Lunchtime lectures in the new garden, by museum curators and Kew gardeners, on Indian medicinal plants, horticulture, landscapes and ecology
  • Painting and printing workshops, recreating traditional Indian craft techniques

A nice program!

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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.

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Ani Choying Drolmna

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

The Portland Ganesha

17 February, 2009 (05:00) | ceramics/metal/stone, medieval, south asia | By: xensen

Portland Art Museum Ganesha

Yesterday the Portland Art Museum unveiled a recent purchase: an eleventh-century stone Ganesha from northeastern India.

The Portland Ganesha is shown seated in the posture of “royal ease,” with one knee raised. His rat mount looks up from below, a wisdom bearer (vidyadhara) reaches down from above with a garland of flowers. One of Ganesha’s hands is held in the gesture of reassurance, while the others hold various objects.

How was this object removed from India? No one seems sure.

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