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Artistic & Architectural Traditions of Asia

Instructor: Joshua Sipper

Dr. Sipper holds a PhD in Education, a Master's of Education, and a Bachelor's in English. Most of his experience is in adult and post secondary education.

Asian art and architecture are considered some of the most beautiful examples of cultural and religious fusion in the history of the world. As in most cultures, Asian art and architecture have been strongly influenced by religion, especially Hinduism and Buddhism. Additionally, art and architecture in Asia have been marked deeply by trade with other cultures.

The Beginnings of Art and Architecture in Asia

When studying art and architecture throughout Asia, it's important to remember that Asia is a huge place inhabited by literally billions of people from many different religious and cultural backgrounds. Nevertheless, Asian architecture as a whole does have interesting and beautiful architecture that tends to fall into some general categories and themes. Most of these themes are centered around the religions of the people of Asia, however the art and architecture throughout Asia has been historically influenced through the interactions of the various Asian communities and cultures with people of other cultures and backgrounds. This is due to the ancient trade routes that brought traders into Asia from all over the world.

A Buddhist temple in Taiwan. Notice the stacked roof architecture, common throughout Asia today.
Taiwan Buddhist Temple

During the early to late 700s AD, Hindu Brahmins and Buddhist monks began to reach deeper into China and other areas of Asia, bringing with them the religious imagery and monastic lifestyle they practiced. Much of the imagery from the Hindu religion included idols of cattle and other animals as well as various gods. Naturally, Buddhist monks brought the ubiquitous statue of Buddha and made it just as popular and widespread throughout the Far East. Along with the idols came the structures, sweeping and closely tied to nature in their appearance.

Asian Art

As Hindu and Buddhist influence flooded into Asia along with the riches of many other countries, the capacity for creating beautiful works of art was magnified exponentially. Traditions from Buddhism and Islam became especially prevalent during the Silk Road expansion, when Indian and Middle Eastern cultures exported silks and spices by the ton. Many of the intricately decorated panels that are synonymous with Asian art found their beginnings from this happy infiltration of other religions and cultures. Chinese landscape painting, also widespread in ancient China, was an offshoot of Buddhist artistic design.

Green Hills and White Clouds inspired by ancient Buddhist traditional landscape painting.
Green Hills and White Clouds

Large statues and paintings also became more widespread as the materials and technologies used to produce them became more available to the people of Asia. Buddhanandi, a Buddhist monk from Sri Lanka, introduced a statue of Buddha in the courts of China that was so large and beautiful the Chinese royalty called it 'incomparable'. The accessibility to these artistic resources were again due to the Silk Road expansion which brought not only physical, but religious and intellectual imports. Scenes from Buddhist and Hindu stories and texts also began to adorn Asian houses and businesses which further influenced the Asian people and furthered not only the artwork, but the religions they represented.

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