Buddhist sculptures, films on show in London

Mon Apr 27, 2009 9:12am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - Britain's first gallery dedicated to Buddhist sculpture opens this week at London's Victoria & Albert Museum, and next month the capital hosts a film festival devoted to the religion.

The gallery, funded by and named after the Robert H.N. Ho Family Foundation which promotes Chinese culture and arts as well as Buddhism internationally, features sculptures from as early as the second century and as recently as 1850.

"Buddhism is one of the fastest growing religions in the world and there is tremendous interest (in Britain)," said gallery curator John Clarke at a press preview.

"We have had many people coming to look at things in storage, and now here they have the opportunity to see things in a unified and coherent space," he told Reuters.

The works all come from the V & A's collection of Buddhist sculptures, regarded as one of the finest in Europe. Many have been kept in storage for decades due to a lack of space.

A spectacular 19th century Mandalay shrine is on display at the museum for the first time in 30 years, and depicts a royally clothed and crowned Shakyamuni Buddha on a throne that recalls the Burmese royal thrones of the period.

The three-meter tall teak and gilded lacquer work decorated with semi-precious stones is a rare surviving reminder of former Burmese royal patronage, and underlines how monarchies across Asia used Buddhism to legitimize and strengthen their rule.

The royal palace in Mandalay, Myanmar's second city, was destroyed during World War Two.   Continued...

<p>Ritual master of the Charya Nritya Buddhist dance tradition Prajwal Rata Vajracharya poses between the Nepalese "Bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara Padmapani" and a Tibetan "Seated Buddha" during the press launch of "The Many Faces of Buddhism" at the V&amp;A (Victoria and Albert) Museum in London April 27 2009. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor</p>