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date: 15 January 2021

Abstract and Keywords

Buddhism is characterized by considerable geographical and doctrinal diversity, but one feature shared by its many disparate strands is an emphasis on the ritual importance of images. These images constitute the core of the category of “Buddhist art” as it is commonly understood, but there is a significant difference between how such objects are viewed by Buddhist practitioners and how they are viewed by art historians and scholars of religion. This chapter investigates the role and status of images in Buddhism (beginning with the so-called “aniconic controversy”), the various critical approaches that have been used to interpret them, and the inherent tension between these two perspectives: the tension, that is, between images as “icons” and images as “art.” It also considers some of the ways in which such contemporary artists as Atta Kim and Montien Boonma have engaged Buddhist ideas and themes in their practice.

Keywords: art, Buddhism, Buddhist art, image, icon, aniconic

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