On the assigned reading of week 2: “Modern Buddhist murals in Northern Thailand: a study of religious symbols and meaning”, written by John P. Ferguson and Christina B. Johannsen.
The title pretty much says it all. In brief, the reading aims to explore some symbolic realms of Buddhist murals located in Northern Thailand (Chiengmai) as an attempt to achieve a better understanding of Theravada Buddhism world view. Founded on the belief that religious graphic art does deliver as important religious and cultural messages as language and behavior communicate, the two authors went on to identify basic objects and events in the mural scenes, discover iconographic codes as well as concepts behind them, and finally reveal their underlying meanings and values known as “intrinsic value of content” stated by Panofsky (1939:3-17).
First of all, I particularly like the argument regarding the reasons why murals should be seriously considered for the study of religion and culture. When it comes to religion studies, people usually think of existing documents, traditions, or music first as reliable sources of information before turning their mind to visual symbols such as murals in temples. This may be because of the indisputable fact that the symbolic system of certain religions may not be profound enough to be taken in to account for the purpose of scholarly research. I experience this in Vietnamese Buddhism, of which rarely are sophisticated and beautiful murals seen inside worship halls in comparison to the neighboring Buddhism in Thailand. Buddhism came to Vietnam as early as the 2nd century CE through the North from Central Asia and China and via Southern routes from India; however, the art of using murals as symbolic statements of Theravada world view is not well established due to some reasons. It is argued that to express the meaning of the religion, religious graphic art like murals has undeniable advantages over language and behavior. Murals,...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document