14 October 2010 –
3 April 2011
Through sacred texts, painted scrolls and sculptures from Sri Lanka to Japan, discover the shared traditions of Buddhism – the ‘three gems’.
The exhibition features depictions of the ‘three gems’ from across Asia. The ‘three gems’ consist of the Buddha himself, his teachings (dharma), and the Buddhist community (sangha). Despite regional variations, the ‘three gems’ show remarkable similarities, sometimes across hundreds of years.
Objects featured in the exhibition include exquisite gold sculptures and paintings of the Buddha, beautiful Buddhist texts on palm leaf and paper, and a selection of images of Buddhist monks.
The objects come from across the whole of Asia, including India, China, Mongolia, Tibet, Thailand, Cambodia, Korea and Japan. The earliest objects are from the 1st–2nd century AD, and the latest date to the 20th century.
Many of these objects have never been on display before, making this is a unique opportunity to view rarely-seen items from the British Museum’s collection. Due to the fragility of the paintings and texts, some items in the display will be changed after three months, halfway through the exhibition run.
This exhibition provides an insight into the key elements which hold the Buddhist world together in Asia and, now that Buddhism is a worldwide faith, across the world as a whole.
Figure of the Buddha Amida seated on a lotus pedestal, made of lacquered and gilded wood. From Dairenji Temple, Osaka, Japan, mid 18th century.