A multi-part picture essay on our recent visit to the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco.
On Saturday, 17 January 2015, we enjoyed the afternoon in this museum located in the civic center area of San Francisco. This multi floor museum is much larger than I had envisioned it would be. There were permanent exhibits on China, Japan, Korea, India and various countries of southeast Asia (including the offshore archipelagoes of The Philippines and Indonesia). There was also a large visiting exhibit on Arabia with artifacts on loan from a Saudi museum.
Here we see a simple house from 2nd century AD China (probably is about one foot long and one foot high).
Here is another example from the same country and time.
From the same time, a dog with harness.
A camel. This is from China. Camels were likely known to the Chinese from the Silk Route. Far northwestern China is a harsh desert bordering central Asia where camels would feel at home.
An impressive early work of art here.
Dear readers, I am not going to stress over how to order these photos. Just enjoy these images.
As with much art from earlier times, there were religious themes or motifs used. In these next several images, we are seeing head stones or tomb stones from China in the 3rd and 4th centuries AD. This is after the collapse of the Han Dynasty (circa 220 AD) when China was not united but fragmented with many small states or independent provinces. A Buddhist influence is clearly visible.
It gives one pause to consider that the artisans who made these grave markers so long ago are no more, their bodies long since crumbled to dust, but their art survives today and expresses the hopes and aspirations of the Chinese of their time (for a better after life or more fortuitous rebirth).
More funerary art speaking to us across the many centuries.
Taking these pictures just a few feet away from these old stones with their intricate art work was a moving experience for me. Most of these (small) monoliths were not behind glass. A few feet but many centuries separated us from the artisans and the deceased whose graves these stones marked.
Man has always been preoccupied with thoughts of his mortality and what may lie beyond the veil of bodily death. To reach enlightenment, that is the way to end the cycle of birth – suffering – death – rebirth. To attain Buddhahood and final release is the goal for some. (A co-worker of mine many years ago remarked that the Egyptians (with their mummies and pyramids and practice of placing so many objects in the funeral crypts) had “an obsession with death”.)
More funerary art. Note the prominent halos for the 2 seated figures.
In college, I took a few art history courses as electives in my last semester. The early Christians also made elaborate funerary art with sculpted scenes on the stone sarcophagi for their dead in the early centuries of the Christian era – contemporary with these last several works from China.
Remaining in this same room at the museum, we practically had this large room to ourselves at the time, we see an early Chinese sculpture of Buddha. Smiling? – Perhaps.
More art work in stone.
A Buddha seated on a large lotus flower. I think this may be from the Japanese section.
A colorful Buddha.
A Buddha in gold leaf? Not sure of the materials used here.
A mythological scene seen in this next photo.
A carving of a goddess?
This next exhibit dominated the first floor of the museum occupying five rooms. Coincidentally, this was the last weekend for this exhibit before it would be carefully packed and then shipped either to the next museum on its tour, or back to the Saudi museum in Arabia (which owns these artifacts). This sign or poster is at the entrance to the exhibit.
Pictures of this exhibit were not permitted. However, I can say that there were Islamic grave markers with Arabic writing from the 8th to 10th centuries and other Islamic artifacts. What is interesting to note is that during the pre-Islamic period, before about 600 AD, the artifacts from the Arabian peninsula are quite similar to artifacts from Egypt during the same period.
Visitors were allowed to photograph this statue from pre-Islamic Arabia. It was outside of the main exhibit rooms.
Lucy poses in front of this statue.
A final comment on the exhibit on Arabia: Many people were spending time in these rooms on the first floor. In fact, this exhibit was quite crowded. Yet, we did not see many of these same visitors when we visited the upper floors where exhibits from other parts of Asia were located. It seems that many guests that day were only focused on Arabia.
We have more pictures for the next installments of this essay.
copyright 2015 – larrysmusings.com