Gandhara Art might be familiar to you if you have paid close attention to the term in history books. However, it is indeed a rare chance to actually take a look at relics from Gandhara. Gandhara, meaning “fragrant land” in Sanskrit, refers to the fertile land located near the middle of the Indus River in the Middle East. It is undeniable that Gandhara Art best shows the peaceful coexistence of various religions, ideologies and ethnic communities. As it is an ideal example of the most successful cultural fusion of the East and the West, it is more than just a form of art. Gandhara Art exhibition is being held at Seoul Art Center, with relics from Pakistan on display. Let’s follow along with the historic encounter of Alexander the Great and Buddha!
1. Look around the exhibit
Alexander the Great: Fulfilling his Ideals
Gandhara Art started off from the ideals of Alexander the Great. He was a powerful and wise leader who made Macedonia a great empire in a short period of time. Influenced by his mentor Aristotle, he was able to pursue a policy of engagement, embracing different cultures, customs, and rules in his conquests instead of suppressing them. This resulted in the occurrence of “Hellenism” in which each part of Greek culture merged. After the expedition towards the East, a new art form, named Gandhara Art, emerged from active interchange of Eastern and Western civilizations.
When you enter the exhibit, one side of the wall is fully occupied by sculptures of Greek gods and mythology, which inspired Gandhara Art. There are various kinds, ranging from the head of Hercules, later modified into a trustful guard of Buddha, to an ectype of Dionysus, a figure representing pleasure. If you have understood the ideals of Alexander the Great, you will nod your head to his saying, “Ground can be dominated by physical power. However culture can only be dominated by the power of spirit. It is not until we share one another’s culture that we become truly one.”
The Ideal of Coexistence Goes On
King Kanishka, who inherited the ideals and policies of Alexander, has achieved the golden age of cultural art. Nothing shows this better than the king’s sarira case. Located in the center of the hexagonal case, sits Buddha, surrounded by King Kanishka, geese, flowers, the sun and the moon. All the designs that are carved around the case were from traditional symbols of Greek, Roman, Persian, and Indian cultures. On the opposite side of Kanishika, stands a stupa sarira case, shaped like a sacred tower. The case was found in ruins located in Pakistan.
The Birth of Statue Buddha
Before Alexander's expedition, people in eastern Asia thought that transcendent beings like God could not be expressed as human figures. The period when the Buddha was unable to be shaped as figures went on for about 500 years. Later, as the Greek culture was delivered to the East, the first statue of Buddha appeared in Gandhara region. As a result, the statues were influenced by ancient Greeks’ pursuit of ideal beauty from harmony and balance.
Looking through the display, one can easily find similarity between the pose of statues unearthed from the Gandara region and with the Greek ones. Not only the overall appearances, but also delicate features such as the shape of the hand, visual wrinkles of the clothes, curly hair, and deeply carved eyes are alike. These gray colored statues are made from a specific rock type called schist. At first, detailed works can be done due to its soft texture and as time passes, it gradually hardens to the form preserved today.
2. Eye-catching Exhibit Techniques
Magical Work Presented by Hologram
Streak of sparkling blue light from the hologram swirls around the destroyed Statue of Buddha in Penance, which was unfortunately broken into three pieces. It gives a clear image of how it would have originally looked like by mending its broken parts through visual images. Also referred to as a masterpiece of Gandhara Art, it is a symbol of both artistic and religious values. Thanks to the technological support, the Statue of Penance is now reproduced in front of our eyes.
Video Clips Leading You Through the Ages of Chaos
If you walk through the curtains, you will find a room with three walls as a screen. A video clip, “Now, Here, in the Age of Chaos” is projected to the walls. The video leads to the harsh reality of war, famine and the cry of refugees that are all happening in the same area from where Gandhara Art originated from. It makes people stop and think for a while.
Statues: Wearing Virtual Reality
Outside the entrance, there is also a place where you can experience virtual reality of Gandhara Art. By using special censors, you are able to not only come face to face with the Sakyamuni Statue, but also actually feel it. Do not miss this corner as well!
Gandhara Art well suits the statement from the first president of West Germany, Theodor Heuss: "Politics cannot make culture, but politics can be made from culture." The harmonious coexistence shown from Gandhara Art resonates great meanings to this day. However Pakistan, the same region where Gandhara stemmed from, is now suffering from terrorism, destruction of cultural heritage, and division. This is not just Pakistan's problem. Gandhara Art is once again suggesting the value of coexistence and harmony, which has become more important in contemporary times. Why not go visit the exhibit and feel the message from Gandhara Art by heart?
Time: 11am~8pm (Closed on the last Monday of every month)
Location: Seoul Art Center Seoul Museum of Calligraphy
Price: Adults 10,000 won, Students 8,000 won< 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >