The Human Form:                   Portraits in Vietnam Art

          Vietnam is the eastern and southern part of the Indochinese peninsula in Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese people are descendants of nomadic Mongols from China and migrants from Indonesia. My gallery focuses on the portraits of the human form in Vietnamese art. The use of the human figure in art requires an analysis and admiration of the beauty of the human body in its arrangement. This study means examining all of the components of the natural body structure in various postures and actions. In the pieces to come, whether the body is sitting or standing, the mudras depicted and the figures facial expressions all play a role in how the figures are perceived by the viewers.                                                                 The first four art works in my gallery all represent different depictions of the human form. My last art work is meant to lead thought into the way animal forms are depicted in Vietnamese art. All four human sculptures are of worshiped figures that were highly treasured by the Vietnamese people.               In Asian societies, particularly Vietnamese society, people have a habit of being superstitious and this has been part of their daily life. Their spiritual life and concept of respect are very important Vietnamese traditional cultural values. The figures and the mudras and small details are all carefully determined to symbolize the Vietnamese culture and their religion.                                                                       Works Cited:                                                                 "Vietnam." Infoplease. Infoplease, n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.                                                                                     "Socialist Republic of Vietnam." Culture and Society. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.                                                                                                                                                 CRAM101. "E-Study Guide For: Adventures in the Human Spirit by Philip E. Bishop, ISBN 9780205765379." Google Books. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.                                                                                                                             "Vietnam Traditional Culture, Vietnam Travel Service, Vietnam Tours, Vietnam Trip, Vietnam Trips, Vietnam Tourist, Vietnam Tourism, Vietnam Travels." Vietnam Traditional Culture, Vietnam Travel Service, Vietnam Tours, Vietnam Trip, Vietnam Trips, Vietnam Tourist, Vietnam Tourism, Vietnam Travels. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Apr. 2016.

Dating to the tenth century, this crisply carved, sandstone image of a deified king relates stylistically to sculpture found at ancient temple complexes like those at My Son and Dong Duong south of Da Nang, in Vietnam's central highlands. It is a rare and classic example of Cham sculpture, a product of Champa, an Indianized kingdom that flourished in South Vietnam between the third and fifteenth centuries. Champa reached its zenith in the tenth century and maintained economic, political, and religious links with China, India, and the Khmer civilization in Cambodia. While the concept of deified kingship is most likely Khmer in origin, Cham rulers enthusiastically promoted it and their stylized portraits were occasionally integrated into court sponsored Hindu and Buddhist temples. The male deity sits trance-like, meditating in a yogic posture (satvaparyankasava), his stomach distended in a form of breath control. Meant to be wise and intelligent, the king has been portrayed in meditation to symbolize his intellectual rather than martial power. His hair is elaborately plaited, and he wears a finely carved necklace of large beads with a central pendant. He holds lotus flowers in his outstretched hands, and the flame-shaped aureole behind him has floral ornamentation.
This elegant and stately figure of the Hindu god Shiva, a major god of the Hindu trinity, reflects the importance of the Indian influence in Southeast Asia. It reveals the extent to which trade mobilised ideas and shaped cultures in Southeast Asia, bringing new influences into the region. The founders of the Cham dynasty brought together an already Indianised culture and adopted Shiva as the patron deity and emblem of their people. Shiva was revered as the founder and protector of Champa, the primacy of this god being established by one of the earliest Cham rulers, Bhadravarman I at the important religious centre of My Son. This sculpture of a seated Shiva from My Son, dating to around the 9th or 10th century, represents a high point of Cham art and culture, and represents the resurgence of Shaivism as the primary religion of Champa after a period of Buddhist dominance. This elegant sculpture depicts the powerful god in a relaxed yet stately posture, seated cross-legged on a stepped pedestal, with his vehicle, the bull Nandi kneeling before him. His broad, squarish face is crowned by a three-tiered 'jata' (chignon) which helps to date the sculpture stylistically. Other ornaments include an elaborate neckpiece, armbands and the Brahamin's sacred thread in the form of a 'naga' cord worn across his chest. This sculpture is a particularly elegant example of the diverse influences that have informed the development of Cham art, the distinctive moustachioed face and the regal bearing of the deity being suggestive of the hieratic figures produced bythe Khmer culture. However, the relaxed, slightly fleshy softness of the deity's body and his distinctive seated posture reveals the kinship of Cham sculpture to Javanese forms. Yet despite these recognisable influences this sculpture is wholly unique and represents Cham art at its zenith: the figure being balanced in form and proportion, the deity appearing naturalistic yet noble. This sculpture is an exceptional example of Cham art. Asian Art Department, AGNSW, October 2002 Though it's a depiction of a god, the form and proportion in this figure depicts the Vietnamese ideals of the human form.
An enlightened Buddhist being, the compassionate bodhisattva Avalokiteshvara appears here as Padmapani, the lotus bearer. Encircled by a halo, he can be identified by the long-stemmed lotus, a symbol of purity, held in one of his four hands, and the tiny image of the Amitabha Buddha in his matted locks. According to legend, Avalokiteshvara was born of a beam of light from Amitabha’s right eye. One of the attendant figures flanking this extremely rare gilded bodhisattva shares his attributes.
During the height of the Tang dynasty, camels were often referred to as “ships of the desert,” for they carried an assortment of exotic commodities across the Eurasian trade route known as the Silk Road. In addition to the commercial goods transported along this important intercontinental passage, ideas and information were also disseminated by the network of oasis trading posts. One of the most important examples of the transmission of ideas was the spread of Buddhism from kingdoms like Gandhara (located in present-day Afghanistan) across Central Asia to new metropolitan centers in China, Korea, Vietnam, and Japan. This tomb figure was probably included in the burial chamber of a trader who had made his living plying goods across the great barren expanses of inner Asia. Similarly, it was most likely intended to carry the deceased’s goods into the spirit realm of the afterlife.
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