Tag Archives: culture

The Unexplained Mystery of Buddha Hair

Seated upon a stone bench in the corner of an ivy garden, this Buddha meditates with calm reflection of the peaceful and beautiful scene around him. It is very popular to position Buddha statues in gardens. They serve to remind the casual garden wanderer that the garden is a perfect place for personal reflection.

The Buddha statues you see in a garden are often varied in size, color and origin. The Buddha’s teachings traveled all over India and into China. From China it moved wherever the traveling missionaries/monks went.   Some took the teachings into the countries of the Southeast Asian peninsula, while others went through the Korean kingdoms into the Japanese Isles.

Thus, we find all sorts of versions of Buddha statues. Some are fat, some thin, some happy, some sleeping, and some wearing strange ornamentation on their heads. The key is that no one has any idea what the actual Buddha looked like.   We often forget in our technologically dependent civilization, that cameras and photography are not even 200 old years.   So, these statues are decent representations of people whom received the rank of enlightenment known as a Buddha.

This particular Buddha has the characteristic snail Buddha Statue in Gardenknots on his head. It is lost to history and speculation about what, if anything, the strange bumps actually represent. Historians know that the Buddha shaved his head after he became enlightened. According to a logical earthly artistic interpretation, the bumps therefore show the artists were artistically attempting to display the short curls of the Buddha as the hair grew back in.

However, since the Buddha is often seen in a spiritual nature, it makes sense that there is a story that covers this characteristic also. Indeed, there is a popular story of garden snails who martyr themselves to the sun while protecting Buddha’s shaved head from sunburn as he meditated in the garden one day.

It was also thought that upon enlightenment you would receive a cranial bump that signified your advancement into higher levels of thinking. One possible interpretation being that bigger thinking needs bigger brains that have bigger skulls. Therefore, the Buddha could have all these bumps to signify how spiritually advanced he was.

Regardless of your interpretation, the Buddha statue remains one of the focal points to most gardens. A simple reminder that harmony and peace should exist there.

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Blue Door: Cultural Influence in Action

In southwestern art there is a set, or palette, of colors that appear more than any other. These popular colors are part of the local culture and seen in the Spanish and Pueblo inspired architecture in the area. Whether you find blue, green, red, tan, white and brown they all follow the pattern of being a natural color. That is a color found in the natural environment.

In my mind, any southwestern architectural design must include the color blue.   Namely, the brilliant sky blue you find on the doors and windows of the houses and business in the Taos and Santa Fé areas.

This light blue color not only distinguishes itself by creating a wonderful contrast between the tan and brown of the usual adobe, but in a sense draws your attention to the doors and windows and highlights the reds and whites of the colorful chili ristas and fragrant flowers that are so common in the local gardens.

Not only does the blue work as a wonderful artistic counter to the other rich colors of the Southwestern palette, but it has a religious and spiritual significance too.

In the Southern areas of the United States, especially located where the original Spanish existed, blue is the color chosen to paint the ceilings of the porches that typically surround the colonial houses.   This is not by accident.   There was a belief, now more of a prescribed tradition, that the blue ceiling would confuse any evil spirits from entering the house. The spirits would think the blue ceiling is the sky and become trapped on the porch without the ability to enter the house proper.

The same tradition occurs in areas of the southwest. Blue DoorHere, The doors, gates, and especially windows show off the brilliant bright blue paint. So when the evil spirits try to enter the house either of their own volition or by following someone, they become trapped in the window or door unable to enter the house proper.

Whether you believe such stories or not, the fact remains that between the crystal blue skies of the mountains and the bright and cheerful colors of the houses, the Southwest has a lot to offer for artistic inspiration.

So, I leave you with a famous doorway that has been the focus of many an artist due to its size, color and sheer beauty. Enjoy.

 

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Art In The Japanese Tea Ceremony

The Japanese Tea Ceremony is a cultural icon that easily boggles the western mind.  A tea ceremony is not a host and a bunch of her friends sitting on the porch eating biscuits and gossiping. Everything is precisely planned with precision. This is a social event, and as such it promotes the cultural ideals of the Japanese and provides a glance into a very complex culture.

It is also about imagery and how image is very important to the Japanese. A special room or house is often built, such as the one in Reflections of a Tea House. Cleanliness is constantly maintained.  They beat the tatami mats (reed mats placed on the floor for sitting); sweep the wooden floors and replace any damaged Shoji (paper wall) screens.  Gardeners trim the garden bushes, weed the plant beds, and finally, remove dead leafs.  Interestingly, some of the leafs are left so that it maintains the image of the garden being a living thing.   Even the art displayed during the ceremony is important to the image and must follow specific rules.

 

The tea ceremony is not the place to find the gaudy or outrageous “in your face” style of art.  It is a traditional form that has developed rigid rules on how things proceed. Those rules differ slightly depending on the style or school where the host learned and practiced. However, socially prescribed rules will still exist for just about everything.   Including a particular way to light the charcoal, stacked in a particular way to heat the water.  Every aspect of the ceremony has a purpose and an artistic yet meditative and deliberate movement.

 

The host chooses utensils for the ritual with the utmost care.  The style of utensils depends on the theme for that particular ceremony.  Some of the utensils are intricate and ornate, obviously of great cost or value, while others are of a simple plain artistic taste, but never “cheap”.  Balance with the theme and style of the ceremony remains vital to the idea of the ceremony itself.

 

Indeed, every aspect of the tea ceremony remains planned to not upset the natural balance in the surroundings according to the chosen theme.   For instance, the carefully arranged and picked flowers in a vase only serve to enhance the natural beauty of the room.

 

However, the floral pattern displayed on the vase does not mirror the flowers themselves.  The pattern provides an artistic and pleasing flow with the flowers, but neither the flowers nor the vase detract from one another.

 

Further, the use of a wall hanging is often seen in tea rooms.  This wall hanging follows the same principles as the flowers or vase.  You want nothing that would detract from the other items in the room.  So, if a wall hanging displayed shows chrysanthemums then you would neither find the same pattern on the vase or in it.

 

The tea served is Japanese matcha tea.  It is an astringent, somewhat bitter, green tea pounded to a powdered form.  Placed into a cup, hot water is then poured and finally whipped using a wooden or bamboo whisk.

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