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26 August 2009
The Smile of Buddha - 1600 years of Buddhist art in Korea

The Smile of Buddha - 1600 years of Buddhist art in Korea                    


A Story of European-Asian cooperation 



Within the framework of the festival Made in Korea, in the autumn of 2008, the Centre for Fine Arts presents The Smile of Buddha – 1600 years of Buddhist art in Korea. For the first time this exposition brings 130 extraordinary Korean pieces of art to Brussels and tells the history of development of Buddhism. 

The purpose of this exhibition is to introduce Korean Buddhist art in Belgium, the heart of Europe, and to share the recent research outcomes that illuminate on them. Since its arrival in the Korean Peninsula in the fourth century CE, Buddhism incorporated itself into indigenous culture. The natural environment, historical condition and religious disposition also exerted influence upon forming unique character of Korean Buddhism. The visual culture embodies features that distinguish it from neighboring cultures. 118 items (204 pieces) are selected for this special exhibition. Buddhist art in Korea involves metal crafts, wooden crafts, architecture, ceramic as well as sculpture and painting. From a 4cm Buddha statue to 364cm painting of Sakyamuni’s Preaching, from a roof-end tile to a reliquary, artifacts were chosen to present wishes of Korean in various levels and forms. Having survived 1600 years old, they have left traces on Korean history in any way. Modern Korea is not at all irrelevant to that.

Through its particular geographic location between China and Japan, Korea served as an intermediary of culture, economy and religion between both countries. Thus in the 4th century Buddhism arrived via China in Korea, where it was influenced by native religions like shamanism. Later these Korean Buddhist teachings by their part had an impact on Japan.

Although Korea had a lot of exchange with its neighbouring countries, it developed a culture entirely of its own. Buddhism occupies a central position within the Korean society: numerous works of art and daily appliances give evidence for the Buddhist influence. The sculptures, paintings, ceramics and architecture in Korea, inspired by Buddhism, also have their own specific and unique characteristics.

The exposition is structured chronologically and spans the period from the 5th century until the 20th century. The Smile of Buddha contains some of the most refined and richest art treasures Korea ever produced: Buddha and Bodhisattva depictions out of different materials (bronze, gilt bronze, iron and stone) and in several formats (going from little votive statues to more than life-sized sculptures) temple ornaments in terra cotta (decorative roof tiles, relieved paving tiles) implements (stone urns, dishes, teapots) with Buddhist motives, golden and bronze reliquaries out of pagodas with the original content, bronze temple bells and ritual objects, Buddhist writings ("Sutras"), national treasures from the National Museum of Korea, a selection of the finest paintings Koryo-period, King's gold crown and belt from the 6th century out of royal tombs… The exhibition ends with some extraordinary pencil drawings of the contemporary “Maestro of Korean Art” Park Dae-Sung.










Poster of the exhibition The Smile of Buddha








Next to The Smile of Buddha, the main exhibition of the Korea Festival, the Centre for Fine Arts presents contemporary art from four leading Korean artists: The Hundred and Eight Torments of Mankind from Nam June Paik, Lotus: Zone of Zero 2008 from Kimsooja, Sacred wood - Timeless photography from Bae Bien-U and 111 bowls from Young-Jae Lee.

The VCM presents now the story "Buddha, Buddhism and Buddhist Art in India" of Jan Van Alphen, the curator of The Smile of Buddha.









The Smile of Buddha      

- Introduction
- The Buddha and his time
      * The Life of the Buddha and his personality
- The Development of Buddhism after the Buddha
- Buddhist Art
- Buddhist Architecture











































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