Saturday, August 29, 2009


We'll talk more at length about Bamiyan in a few weeks - but in the meantime, here's the UNESCO World Heritage Tour site that contains several 360ยบ views of the Bamiyan valley.  The now empty enormous openings in the rock once contained huge statues of Buddha.  They were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.  However, they had been riddled with bullets and hacked away at for some time before the Taliban decided to blow them up.

Here's a very dated and somewhat goofy travelogue from a 1970s television show that gives a very good indication of scope and size.  One detail from this video I found fascinating was that rope was used to create the appearance of folds on the drapery of the Buddhas:

Friday, August 28, 2009

Eastern Vs. Western: Dragons in Symbolic Art

I remember discussing in my Junior/Senior Lit. and Mythology Classes about the representations of certain objects or things in different cultures' written works and pieces of art. The one that fascinated me the most was the Dragon.

Western Dragons
In Western Culture, the dragon is a ferocious, fire-breathing beast that is usually depicted as bad tempered with impenetrable scales, bat-like wings, jagged fangs, and sharp claws. The Western dragons were symbolically viewed as being the embodiments of man's greed and ego and were displayed as guarding hoards of golden treasure and maidens.

Famous example of western dragons is the dragon that Saint George the Dragon Slayer slays.

St. George and the Dragon
Gustave Moreau
Oil on Canvas

Image Source

Statue of St. George and the Dragon
Berlin, Germany
Image Source

Eastern Dragons
The Eastern Dragons are typically viewed as embodiments of all that is good, beautiful, courageous, wise, wealthly and prosperous. They are normally depicted with large sharp tooth grins on their faces with a loins mane and deer antlers and have long, flowing snake-like bodies with fish scales.

Bronze Dragon Statue in China
Image Source

"Two Dragons Playing Pearl"
Wall of Nine Dragons
Bei-Hai Park in Beijing, China
(There are 3 walls of Nine Dragons in China)
Image Source

I just thought it was an interesting comparison of two cultures and their takes on a certain object. Any thoughts?

The Freer Sackler Collection

The Freer Sackler Galleries is part of the Smithsonian Institution. I get a great deal of the images we'll look at in class from here. It's a gorgeous website - well organized and full of extremely useful content. And, like all great insitutions of higher learning you can follow them on Flickr, Facebook and Twitter. Another way you can use this site as a research tool is to create your own eGallery. Whenever you browse, you'l find a little button at the bottom of each image titled: Add to my eGallery.

Man Filling a Wine Cup
mid-17th century
Isfahan, Iran
From the Freer-Sackler Collection


This is a link to a spectacular animation that illustrates the modular and complex nature behind the construction of a mosque in Isfahan, Iran. It starts with a very basic design and then progresses into a transparent structure and ultimately - to the building itself. Islamic design and architecture is based on mathematics and geometric forms.

The Isfahan Cultural Heritage Organization.

A Flickr set of Isfahan photos.