Itchyfingers were delighted to find another interesting exhibit at the Asian Civilisation Museum (ACM) when we were there visiting the “Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda” exhibition. This is an exhibition about the Batak, a group of six communities related by language and culture from the mountainous interior of northern Sumatra. Over 80 works in wood, stone, and bronze on loan are on show, 20 of which have been donated to the ACM.
The Batak were greatly feared by their coastal neighbours as headhunters and sorcerers….Wow…makes you think of black magic….and something on the dark side….But maybe because all the artefacts were already cleaned up and now displayed nicely in museum, Itchyfingers think they are actually very cool pieces of art….very graphical and stylised…
The magic staff is the most important tool of the priest. This one, called tungkot malehat, is in the form of a human figure riding a singa, or a mythical lion-like beast. He is usually surrounded by smaller figures with their hands pressed together, possibly as a sign of respect or deference
This magic staff is topped by a horse and rider surmounting small squatting figures with hands clasped over their knees…Can’t see them here cos all the artefacts were displayed behind glass and there were so much reflection from the surrounding windows. Also, since most of the pieces were dark in color, photographing them with proper exposure was a real challenge.. The magic staffs are also so long, so most of our photos show just close-ups or parts of the magic staff…
The star of this medicine container is the stopper with this regal figure riding a singa. The Batak probably learned of lions from Malay or other sources but had little concept of what it looked like. Hence, the depiction of the beast often combined elements of a horse and a naga (mythical serpent), and often have an almost human face
Guardian figure like this one were meant to look fierce to ward off evil…But why the smile leh…hahahah….The hair was fashioned from palm fibre and the bright red eyes were seeds of the saga tree….Remember the hug pile of saga seeds at the recent Singapore Biennale? The metal plate nailed to its chest seals a cavity that would have held pupuk, a substance that was believed to animate and give power to the figure…Wow! So he could move?! That’s quite intimidating! And I thought he looked as if he was wearing a graphical tee with a thick-lipped face…wahahahahah!!!!!!!
One of my favourite. At first glance, they looked as if they were dancing!!!! Hahahah….Each of these guardian figures has a second pair of arms attached to the shoulders, giving them a level of dynamism. It also recalls multi-armed Hindu-Buddhist figures, though such a connection has not been proved
Beginning of the Becoming: Batak Sculpture from Northern Sumatra is now on show till 1st June. Admission is free! Do spend some time there!
Also see related posts:
> Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda
Tags: Arts, Culture, Design, Education, History, Museum
The capital of Tang China (618-907), Chang’an (present day Xi’an), was a hub for economic and cultural exchange. One of the most revered Buddhist sites in China was the Famen Temple. But for more than 1000 years, a finger relic of the Buddha and many gold, silver, ceramic pieces from the Tang dynasty lied forgotten within an underground crypt in the temple, only to be rediscovered in 1987 when the temple pagoda was being repaired.
China at that time not only became prosperous and powerful, but also culturally diverse. This was mainly due to trade with foreign lands through the Silk Route to Central Asia. Camels were highly valuable in these arid lands, transporting goods and food
Tang tombs were supplied with objects thought to be of use to the deceased, with ceramic figures being a key feature
Figures dating to the earlier Tang period are generally simpler in form, and one of the pair often has a clearly distinguishable human face…Wow…this looks a bit scary and forbidding….more so than the lion….It actually reminded me of the Egyptian Sphinx…
I like these four miniature Buddhist figures made with gilded bronze…
These collections of small statues were very likely buried to save them from being melted down during the intermittent periods of Buddhist persecutions during the Northern Dynasties and Tang periods….
But this has to be my favourite piece….It was what attracted me to the exhibition…. :p
Oh while you are at the gallery hall, do pick up this activity sheet and try embossing the various designs on it…I love the turtle one! So much details! 🙂 Oh, remember to press hard enough to get the full picture…hahaha
A coffin-shaped reliquary carved from a single block of jade. It is thought to have held the genuine finger bone relic of the Buddha. Er, that’s up to you to believe…but I thought only a grasshopper or cricket can fit into the little casket …so small….wahahahah…. 😀 There is another made from bronze on exhibit
I find this jug with faces unique. The silk routes brought traders, pilgrims and envoys from near and far. The Chang’an capital during the Tang dynasty became a cosmopolitan city. “This cast bronze jug is one of the most enigmatic objects excavated in China in recent years. It relates to pottery of Iran and of Khotan, a city in southwestern China. Both areas were on the Silk Route, connecting Tang China to Central Asian and beyond.”
The fanciful and complex hairdos of Tang women often involved the use of wigs, which made hairpins a vital accessory. Hairpins also served as status symbols. So the higher one social’s rank, the more hairpins one was entitled to wear….Er, of course lah, poor people how to buy so many gold hairpins like this? Wahahahahah….
Tang women are so lucky….they are considered beauties when they are so chubby with slits for eyes and look of a certain Asia leader…wahahah….This looks like the bee-hive hairstyle from the 60s…hahhaah….
The Secrets of the Fallen Pagoda – Treasures from Famen Temple and the Tang Court is ongoing at the Asian Cilivisation Museum until the 4 May. Admission is $8.
Also see related post:
> Tales from the Tomb – Terracotta Warriors: The First Emperor and His Legacy