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Does Iconography Really Matter? Or Why Do all Buddhas Look Alike?

Colloquium Talk by Prof. Juhyung Rhi, Seoul National University

Tuesday, April 12, 2011
2:00 PM - 4:00 PM
Dodd 275

Identifying various divinities in visual images is one of major preoccupations for Buddhist art specialists.  The task is sometimes quite straightforward but sometimes not as simple due to inconsistency of visual evidence or its incongruence with literary prescriptions or the lack of enough specificity.  Its difficulty also often varies in different classes of divinities.  Minor deities are in general more readily identifiable for their idiosyncratic appearances.  Bodhisattvas are often distinguishable for their special attributes but equally often pose problems.  However, Buddhas are more difficult and more complex in identification, paradoxically due to its lack of complexity in appearance.  They generally look alike despite minor differences, which are rarely indicative of different identities.  Art history students may be taught on the possibility of distinguishing Buddhas according to hand gestures or attendant figures, but this method in fact works in a limited range of instances.  In reality, Buddhas were made in indistinguishable shapes throughout regions in the Buddhist world especially in the pre-esoteric period.  This lecture will explore this phenomenon in India, especially focusing on Gandhara, and attempt to seek its ramifications for understanding the significance of Buddha images in India.  

Cost : Free and Open to the Public


Sponsor(s): , Art History

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