Les Conférences Iéna

Art, archéologie et
anthropologie de l’Asie




Buddhist art is famed word-wide for its beauty and rich variety. In the last century, the image of the Buddha has carried Buddhism around the world, conveying the idea that Buddhism is a religion of balance, harmony and peace, and inspiring interest in the “Awakened One” and his teachings.

But Buddhist art is not simply a beautiful by-product of Buddhist faith or worship, and it is by no means peripheral or passive. Art has been a dynamic expression of ideology and ritual, profoundly meaningful on multiple levels – from spiritual to psychological, from liturgical to social and political. Art was an integral part of a complex of ideas and practices that travelled with Buddhism and actively invited the participation of courts, artisans and ordinary people. Iconographic forms changed as they travelled, adapting to local needs, costumes and languages. The success of Buddhism cannot be separated from its artistic productions – text, image, ritual, practice are all part of the stream of the history of Buddhism.

What is the relation between art and practice? Between art and politics, art and trade, or art and economic power? What has been the role of art in the spread of Buddhism? Who sponsored artistic production, and why? What has been the relationship between canonicity and imagination, between traditions and innovation?

Inaugurating Les Conférences Iéna, an annual lecture cycle jointly organised by the Guimet Museum of Asian Art and the French School of Asian Studies EFEO, “Images and imagination” will explore new perspectives, offer new insights, and ask new questions about the roles and meanings of Buddhist art over its 2500 years of history across Asia. The lectures, by internationally recognized scholars, will present the results of the latest research into primary sources and into the field.

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