A new exhibit, Zen Buddhism and the Arts of Japan, has opened at the Frank H. McClung Museum.
It features more than forty hanging scrolls bearing paintings and calligraphy that were produced by Zen Buddhist monks between the Edo period (1600-1868) and the twentieth century. It also includes tea bowls and other objects of the tea ceremony, a Zen ritual; gilt bronze memorial plaques; a pilgrim’s robe and a priest’s robe; and a wood sculpture of Fudo Myoo, an important guardian figure.
The museum is hosting special events in connection with the exhibition. At 2:00 p.m. on September 23, Megan Bryson, professor of religious studies and associate curator of the exhibit, will present From Zen Art to Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, a look at what is actually related to Zen Buddhism and what is just part of popular culture. On October 28, Emiko Suzuki, sensei of the Blue Ridge Chapter of Ikenobo Ikebana, will present a demonstration of ikebana, Japanese flower arranging, and the tea ceremony, both of which relate to Zen beliefs and practices.
Like other great world religions, Zen Buddhist beliefs and practices were the impetus for works of art that reflect aspects of the religion and were used by devotees. Zen is one of many schools of Buddhism, the religion founded more than 2,000 years ago by Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha.
Zen art is known for its elegant simplicity, which is evident in the many paintings and calligraphies in the exhibition that consist of black ink on white paper or silk. The images are expressions of enlightenment, and the works were not only forms of meditation, but also objects of meditation after completion. The artists were also Zen masters—great teachers—and often abbots of monasteries, whose sayings and writings were collected, studied, and used as aids to meditation by subsequent students of Zen.
The tea ceremony objects are on loan from the Morikami Museum and Gardens in Delray Beach, Florida, and the hanging scrolls and other objects are from the Kagetsu An collection of John Fong, curator of the exhibit. The exhibition also includes a small meditation rock garden constructed by the museum.
For more information, visit the McClung Museum’s website.