Buddhist Art of Myanmar

by Sylvia Fraser-Lu & Donald M. Stadtner

Publication: Asia Society, New York, Exhibition Catalogue Feb 10 - May 10, 2015, in association with Yale University Press

Language : English

2015 - 273 pages

This splendid book offers a comprehensive study of Buddhism Art across Burma (now Myanmar), focusing on Pagan (Bagan). To summarize the history of this remarkable site, "the city’s formal name was Arimaddanapura, or City of the Crusher of Foes, but was known locally as Pukam, with many variants. In modern times the city came to be alled Pagan, but this was later changed to Bagan, conforming to the government’s system of transliteration. The earliest monuments were built close to the riverbank, but by the second half of the twelfth century construction moved into the plains and further east. In the thirteenth century an explosion of activity resulted in the building of more than two thousand monuments. The size of the city’s ancient population is unknown, since domestic architecture was made of perishable materials. The landscape was probably similar to its appearance today, with clusters of monuments surrounded by fields and villages."

Regarding the ethnography of Ancient Burma, the authors write: "The majority of inhabitants most likely spoke Mon, a language belonging to the Mon-Khmer subfamily of the Austro-Asiatic family. The Mon in Myanmar were probably related linguistically and ethnically to the Dvaravati Mon in Thailand, but features most characteristic of Dvaravati art, such as stone wheels atop pillars, are not found in Myanmar. No names of early Mon kings or dated inscriptions have come to light from the first millennium in Myanmar, and evidence proving any formal connections among the Mon, the Pyu, and the Dvaravati Mon is unavailable."

Contributors: Robert Brown, Tun Aung Chain, Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Jacques Leider, Patrick Pranke, Adriana Proser, Donald Stadtner and Heidi Tan. The catalogue accompanied an exhibition at the Asia Society, New York. The majority of the 71 objects were borrowed from Myanmar. Guest Curators and Co-Editors: Sylvia Fraser-Lu, Donald Stadtner.

Photo: The Earth-Goddess (Vasudhara) wringing her hair, 19th century, Bagan Archeological Museum.

About the Authors

Sylvia Fraser-Lu

A trustee of the Burma Studies Foundation (USA), Sylvia Fraser-Lu is the author of several art history books, including Burmese Lacquerware (1994), Splendor in Wood, The Buddhist Monasteries of Burma (2008), Tapestry Weaves of Southeast Asia and Indonesian Batik.

Donald M. Stadtner

Donald M. Stadtner (b. 1947) was for many years an Associate Professor of Art History at the University of Texas, Austin, after receiving his Ph.D in Indian art at the University of California, Berkeley. He was first in Burma in 1979, followed by visits in the 1980's sponsored by the Smithsonian Institution. His numerous publications deal with both Indian and Burmese art, with his 2005 book Ancient Pagan focusing exclusively on Burma's ancient capital city.

In 2005, his expertise helped to abort the purchase of a stolen statue of a Seated Buddha from India by the Royal Ontario Museum.

Donald Stadtner divides his time between the San Francisco Bay area, India and Southeast Asia.

Listen one of Donald Stadtner's podcasts on Burmese Art.