Treasures from the past

Treasures from the past
The Asian Civilizations Museum is launching a new Buddhist treasures exhibit. Preview of exhibit with Minister Lawrence Wong in attendance.

The Asian Civilisations Museum's (ACM) latest exhibition, Treasures From Asia's Oldest Museum: Buddhist Art, is a collaboration with the Indian Museum in Kolkata and is sponsored by the Indian government.

The exhibition's opening on June 18 was co-officiated by Minister for Culture, Community and Youth Lawrence Wong and India's minister of state for culture, tourism and civil aviation Mahesh Sharma at the ACM.

Featuring over 80 rare objects on loan from the Indian Museum, the exhibition showcases the evolution of Buddhist art from the second century to the 12th century.

It traces the cultural shifts and changes in style as Buddhist art progressed from the Shunga dynasty, to ancient Gandhara, the Gupta Empire and the Pala Empire.

Also on display are sculptures and paintings tracing the past life stories of the Buddha, scenes from the life of the Buddha, and symbols used to represent Buddhist concepts.

Visitors can view sculptures, such as a 1.2m-tall sandstone Standing Buddha from Sarnath, dating to the fifth century, a Buddha Preaching; seated cross-legged, from Gandhara (present-day Pakistan and Afghanistan), which shows the influence of Mediterranean classical art.

Later sculptures show stories from the Buddha's life and various bodhisattvas. Among them is a 10th-century carving from Nalanda of Queen Maya giving birth to the Buddha; an 11th-century fearsome rendition of Samvara, the deity of protection, with fangs bared, garlanded with skulls and engulfed in flames.

The exhibition also showcases a symbol of the longstanding relationship between Singapore and Kolkata - an obelisk, erected in 1850 to commemorate the visit to Singapore by the British Viceroy of India Marquess Dalhousie, recognising Singapore's status as a port city under the British rule through the government of India.

Said director of ACM Dr Alan Chong: "Singapore's heritage owes a great deal to India. Founded in 1814, the Indian Museum in Kolkata is the oldest museum in Asia, and inspired other institutions, including the Raffles Museum, the forerunner of Singapore's national museum."

The exhibition, which runs till Aug 16, takes place in the 50th year of Singapore's independence, and celebrates the 50th year of diplomatic relations between India and Singapore.

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