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date: 26 September 2022

The Study of Visual Culture in South and Southeast Asian Buddhismlocked

The Study of Visual Culture in South and Southeast Asian Buddhismlocked

  • Nicolas RevireNicolas RevireThammasat University Faculty of Liberal Arts


The overwhelming focus on textual or dharma studies in Buddhism, to the relative neglect of artistic production, has led to a bias in understanding the close and intricate relationships between Buddhist art (usually comprising sculptures, mural paintings, architectural facades and ornamental elements, illuminated paintings, cloth banners, and drawings in manuscripts), rituals, and the written word. The constant dialogue between material, visual, and ritual cultures should be approached in tandem. Visual culture is a significant part of Buddhism and must be treated as part of the same social, historical, and geographical contexts as texts and practices. Buddhist visual culture, including art media, graphic aids, and physical objects or monuments associated with Buddhist practices, does not merely serve to illustrate sacred texts, legends, and doctrines. In addition, the textual tradition does not always have to explain or justify the presence—or absence—of a material object such as a Buddha icon or a Buddhist painting. While visual culture studies have become increasingly important in various academic fields over the years, a critical and complete overview of the precise relationship between art, ritual, and text in the study of south and southeast Asian Buddhism has yet to be written.


  • Buddhism

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