Carrying Buddhism

The Role of Metal Icons in the Spread and Development of Buddhism

Robert L. Brown

2014 | 40 pages | ISBN 978-90-6984-689-7 | free

Twentieth Gonda Lecture 2012 by Robert L. Brown, Professor of Indian and Southeast Asian art at the University of California at Los Angeles, and Curator of South and Southeast Asian art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, on the role of metal icons in the spread and development of Buddhism.

Professor Brown will explore the implications of this dating of Buddhist metal image production. He will argue that the creation of metal images was tied to the turning away from stone stupa structures as an explanation for the decline in India of narrative reliefs of the Buddha’s life stories and jātakas in the fifth century. He will also state that the creation of metal images in India happened at the same time as the appearance of metal images in Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia.

Thus, the appearance of the icons in both South and Southeast Asia does not follow the standard scholarly explanation that Buddhism arrived sequentially as Hīnayāna, Mahāyāna, and Tantric. In fact, the Buddhism of the sixth and seventh centuries reflects elements of all these categories that were moving together at the same time. It also means that there was not a layering of artistic influences over time with the early metal images but a mixture of influences all at one time.