Dates: Until Nov. 30
Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Closed Mondays
Venue: Shenzhen Museum, Block A, Civic Center, Futian District (福田区市民中心A区深圳博物馆新馆)
Metro: Shekou or Longhua Line, Civic Center Station (市民中心站), Exit B
A grey-schist sculpture of Vishnu, Shiva and Brahma dating from the 10th century.
A sculpture of Shiva.
The Los Angeles County Museum of Art in the United States is presenting "India's Universe," a fascinating exhibition of Indian deity sculptures and paintings, at the Shenzhen Museum in Civic Center.
The 127 works, dating from the third century B.C. to the 19th century, provide a glimpse of India's three main religions, Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism, and vividly reveal how religion has played a central role in Indian civilization.
"The exhibition is about the religions that originated in the Indian subcontinent, which includes Bangladesh, Nepal and Pakistan, not just today's Republic of India," said Huang Yangxing, an ancient art researcher for the Shenzhen Museum.
A sandstone sculpture of Vishnu from the 11th century.
The exhibition is divided into seven sections: Hindu deities, Buddhism, Jainism, demigods, demons, humans and animals. The sculptures were carved from stone onto temple walls or from bronze and marble for use in religious processions.
The majority of the exhibits are sculptures of Hinduism's three lords (Vishnu: the preserver, Shiva: the destroyer and Brahma: the creator), their consorts and their various incarnations. Since the lords are shown in various forms and dozens of other deities also have specific avatars, identifying them can be challenging.
A sculpture of Buddha Shakyamuni.
"Hinduism is the dominant religion of the Indian subcontinent and has various gods and goddesses. According to Hinduism, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma rule the world. Vishnu did his job of preserving the world by manifesting in different forms at times of crisis. At the exhibition, visitors can see a sculpture of Vishnu reclining on the coiled-up thousand-hooded Shesha Naga (serpent deity) with Vishnu's consort Lakshmi seated beside him, massaging his feet. Brahma is depicted as sitting on a lotus that grows out of Vishnu's navel," said Qiao Wenjie, an ancient art researcher for the Shenzhen Museum.
Huang added that ancient India's religious mythology and associated artistic imagery had great influence on other Asian cultures, including China. "Today, you can name a few frequently used Chinese words that were borrowed from Indian religions, like karma, idol and ksana (a short moment)."
Exhibits on display in the “India’s Universe” exhibition being held at the Shenzhen Museum in Civic Center.
Another impressive Hindu sculpture on display is the sandstone sculpture depicting Ganesh, a son of Shiva and his consort Parvati. "Ganesh is an easy-to-identify god because of his human body and elephant head. It is a widely worshipped deity in the Hindu pantheon, and his image is found throughout India and Nepal because Ganesh is widely revered as the remover of obstacles, the patron of arts and sciences and the deva of intellect and wisdom," said Qiao.
One of the oldest pieces in the exhibition is an impressive grey-schist Buddha Shakyamuni sculpture from the Gandhara area (today's Peshawar, Pakistan) dating from A.D. 200. Qiao pointed out that visitors should pay attention to the face of the Buddha Shakyamuni sculpture because it shows a strong Hellenistic influence.
"The Gandhara area was a central Asian frontier region ruled for some time by the Greeks, which resulted in a fascinating Greek artistic tradition. Sculptors in Gandhara sought inspiration from statues of Greek and Roman gods, and this remarkable piece is an intriguing mix of East and West," said Qiao.
The exhibition also displays various goddesses, which are supremely beautiful with curvy figures and fine facial features. The proportions of the images' bodies and faces usually follow rules and standards established many centuries ago, according to Qiao. "Images are not made to imitate or re-create reality; they are produced as idealized forms with well-understood symbolism indicating the unlimited powers of the divine."
This is the first time the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's collection of Indian art has traveled to Shenzhen. The museum is the largest art museum in the western United States and holds more than 120,000 works that span the history of art from ancient times to the present.