AAS Annual Meeting

Southeast Asia Session 183

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Session 183: Roundtable: Srivijayan Art in Light of New Scholarship

Organizer: Robert L. Brown, University of California, Los Angeles, USA

Discussants: Paul A. Lavy, University of Hawaii, Manoa, USA; Emma C. Bunker, Denver Art Museum, USA; Pattaratorn Chirapravati, California State University, Sacramento, USA

What is meant by the term “Srivijayan art”? Art has been found in the core area of Srivijaya, identified with Palembang in Sumatra, but most of what is called “Srivijayan art” has been found in far-flung geographic areas beyond the Srivijayan political sphere. We usually do not know exactly where the art was made, who brought it, or why it was brought. One difficulty in identification is because there is no Srivijayan style of art. Rather than a style of its own, the sculpture we call Srivijayan shares stylistic features with art from Sri Lanka, India, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, and Indonesia . The result is stylistic and geographical ambiguity. Srivijayan art is predominantly metal images, which by nature are easily movable and rarely supply any indication of where they were made. Srivijayan art is mostly Buddhist images, with bodhisattvas, particularly Avalokitesvara, the most popular. And while a Sirvijayan polity existed from the 7th to 13th centuries, the art we call Srivijayan is predominantly dated to the early centuries, the 7th to 9th centuries. Yet, while Srivijayan art remains difficult to identify and discuss, the nature of Srivijaya as a polity has been the topic of on-going scholarship with major rethinking and innovative insights (Hermann Kulke, Pierre-Yves Manguin). Likewise, the nature of Buddhism after the Gupta-Period (4th-6th c), and specifically of Mahayana Buddhism, has undergone extensive revision (Gregory Schopen, Jonathan S. Walters) This panel attempts to judge if the scholarship of art associated with Srivijaya can now be revised to fit with new thinking in terms of the political, economic, and religious character of Sirvijaya.