Unique beauty of Buddhist art

By Kim Tong-hyung, The Korea Herald, Jan 12, 2005

Seoul, South Korea -- An immensely influential mode of cultural tradition since the fourth century, Buddhist art has developed a rich aesthetic legacy that extends to today, featuring some of the world?s most sophisticated and technically accomplished works.

However, the admired tradition has faced obstacles in recent decades. The spiritually intense Buddhist works of the past are being replaced with mass production and crude replicas.

Located in the quiet suburban town of Yeoju, Gyeonggi Province, the Moka Buddhist Museum is devoted to recapturing the beauty of traditional Buddhist art and exploring its place in modern society. Established in 1993, the country?s only museum exclusively dedicated to Buddhist art holds more than 10,000 artifacts -- many of which date back to the Unified Silla Dynasty (668-935) and Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392). It was during these two dynasties when Buddhism flourished.

?Buddhism forms the essence of our traditional culture and arts, which gives Korea a unique identity of its own. It?s an identity that is clearly distinctive from the Buddhist arts of India, China and Japan,? said Park Chan-soo, the founder and director of the museum.

?Understanding Korean Buddhist culture and the modernization of its art is integral in finding the aesthetic roots of our traditional culture.?

Maestro?s ambition

The 54-year-old Park, who named the museum after his penname, which means ?new bud on a severed branch,? is one of the most accomplished sculptors in Korea. He is known for his widely imaginative, wood-based works, which have garnered acclaim here as well as in the United States, Europe and Japan. Japan has taken special interest in Park because the country has long used wood for its Buddhist creations. Korea, meanwhile, have predominantly used wood and stone. The government named Park an ?Intangible Cultural Asset? in 1996.

The museum was once used as a storage, where Park kept his ancient artifacts. It was also a place where he did his sculpting. As Park?s reputation grew, he decided to revamp the workshop into a museum in 1989. Park envisioned a space where people could compare Buddhist arts of the past to the conceptual wooden works of today.

After more than a decade, the Moka has established itself as one of the most successful privately owned museums in the country. The museum attracts more than 300,000 visitors annually.

?I hope this museum has contributed to the restoration of the various genres and forms of Buddhist art, and in the passing of them to modern society,? said Park, who plans on building an additional art gallery and an outdoor sculpture exhibit near the museum by next year.

The museum itself more closely resembles a quiet Buddhist monastery than a exhibition building. After entering the front gate made of massive granite, visitors are confronted with towering Maitreya figures that were sculpted by Park. Around a small artificial pond, modern adaptations of Buddhist art are scattered about. One in particular is the white-clad Avalokitesvara Boddhisattva, a colossal three-story pagoda.

The main attraction is located on the second floor. It showcases more than 200 items, such as palanquins, wooden drums and statues, that were recovered from the ruins of Buddhist temples. Many of the artifacts date back to the Silla, Goryeo and Joseon Dynasties. Three designated ?national treasures? are also displayed.

The third floor features a collection of wooden Buddhist sculptures, many of which were created by Park. The basement has an indoor theater that plays the documentary ?The Wood That Wished to Become a Buddha.? The film outlines the history of Korean Buddhist sculpture.

Park is currently focused on passing his artistic skills to the next generation. In December, he established a craft school near the museum, where he teaches seven hours a day, five times a week. Park also plans on taking part in an art exhibition in Japan next month.

Operating hours: 9:30 a.m. ~ 5:00 p.m.
(Open every day throughout the year)
Admission: 3,000 won for adults and 1,500 won for students
For more info: (031)885-9952~4.

We Need Your Help to Train the
Buddhist AI Chat Bot
(Neural Operator for Responsible Buddhist Understanding)

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your name in the payment slip. Thank you.

Dear Friends in the Dharma,

We seek your generous support to help us train NORBU, the word's first Buddhist AI Chat Bot.

Here are some ways you can contribute to this noble cause:

One-time Donation or Loan: A single contribution, regardless of its size, will go a long way in helping us reach our goal and make the Buddhist LLM a beacon of wisdom for all.

How will your donation / loan be used? Download the NORBU White Paper for details.

For Malaysians and Singaporeans, please make your donation to the following account:

Account Name: Bodhi Vision
Account No:. 2122 00000 44661
Bank: RHB

The SWIFT/BIC code for RHB Bank Berhad is: RHBBMYKLXXX
Address: 11-15, Jalan SS 24/11, Taman Megah, 47301 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Phone: 603-9206 8118

Note: Please indicate your purpose of payment (loan or donation) in the payment slip. Thank you.

Once payment is banked in, please send the payment slip via email to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv. Your donation/loan will be published and publicly acknowledged on the Buddhist Channel.

Spread the Word: Share this initiative with your friends, family and fellow Dharma enthusiasts. Join "Friends of Norbu" at: https://www.facebook.com/groups/norbuchatbot. Together, we can build a stronger community and create a positive impact on a global scale.

Volunteer: If you possess expertise in AI, natural language processing, Dharma knowledge in terms of Buddhist sutras in various languages or related fields, and wish to lend your skills, please contact us. Your knowledge and passion could be invaluable to our project's success.

Your support is part of a collective effort to preserve and disseminate the profound teachings of Buddhism. By contributing to the NORBU, you become a "virtual Bodhisattva" to make Buddhist wisdom more accessible to seekers worldwide.

Thank you for helping to make NORBU a wise and compassionate Buddhist Chatbot!

May you be blessed with inner peace and wisdom,

With deepest gratitude,

Kooi F. Lim
On behalf of The Buddhist Channel Team

Note: To date, we have received the following contributions for NORBU:
US$ 75 from Gary Gach (Loan)
US$ 50 from Chong Sim Keong
MYR 300 from Wilson Tee
MYR 500 from Lim Yan Pok
MYR 50 from Oon Yeoh
MYR 200 from Ooi Poh Tin
MYR 300 from Lai Swee Pin
MYR 100 from Ong Hooi Sian
MYR 1,000 from Fam Sin Nin
MYR 500 from Oh teik Bin
MYR 300 from Yeoh Ai Guat
MYR 300 from Yong Lily
MYR 50 from Bandar Utama Buddhist Society
MYR 1,000 from Chiam Swee Ann
MYR 1,000 from Lye Veei Chiew
MYR 1,000 from Por Yong Tong
MYR 80 from Lee Wai Yee
MYR 500 from Pek Chee Hen
MYR 300 from Hor Tuck Loon
MYR 1,000 from Wise Payments Malaysia Sdn Bhd
MYR 200 from Teo Yen Hua
MYR 500 from Ng Wee Keat
MYR 10,000 from Chang Quai Hung, Jackie (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from K. C. Lim & Agnes (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from Juin & Jooky Tan (Loan)
MYR 100 from Poh Boon Fong (on behalf of SXI Buddhist Students Society)
MYR 10,000 from Fam Shan-Shan (Loan)
MYR 10,000 from John Fam (Loan)
MYR 500 from Phang Cheng Kar
MYR 100 from Lee Suat Yee
MYR 500 from Teo Chwee Hoon (on behalf of Lai Siow Kee)
MYR 200 from Mak Yuen Chau

We express our deep gratitude for the support and generosity.

If you have any enquiries, please write to: editor@buddhistchannel.tv