Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice Across Asia

Further Learning

Dive deeper into Buddhist art and culture through a rich array of Freer|Sackler resources—from online exhibitions to recordings of past programs. For educators, our staff has created resources to help explain Buddhist art, culture, and practice within a classroom. For those who want an even deeper look, check out our scholarly programs and publications geared toward academic audiences.

Read, Listen, and Download | Explore Online Exhibitions | Watch or Listen to Past Programs | Access Educators’ Resources | Discover Scholarly Programs and Publications

Read, Listen, and Download

Keep encountering the Buddha with free downloads and informative resources, including apps, a podcast, and a guidebook to Buddhist art in our collections.

Explore Online Exhibitions

Body of Devotion: The Cosmic Buddha in 3D
The Cosmic Buddha is a life-size limestone figure of Vairochana covered with detailed narrative scenes. Learn more about this spectacular sixth-century Chinese sculpture and our efforts to study it through 3D imaging.

A Journey to Xiangtangshan
Discover one of the crowning achievements of China’s Northern Qi dynasty (550–77): the Buddhist cave temples of Xiangtangshan. Through 3D imaging, experience these caves as they were before their tragic despoliation in the early twentieth century.

Masters of Mercy: Buddha’s Amazing Disciples
The Japanese artist Kano Kazunobu (1816–1863) produced one of the Edo period’s most impressive feats of Buddhist iconography: one hundred paintings depicting the miraculous interventions and superhuman activities of the Buddha’s five hundred disciples.

Return of the Buddha: Qingzhou Discoveries
A chance discovery in 1996 in Qingzhou, China, brought to light an incredible buried treasure: hundreds of well-preserved sixth-century Buddhist statues. Learn more about this remarkable discovery and the extraordinary wealth of knowledge

Watch or Listen to Past Programs

Silk Road Stories: How Asanga Came to See the Future Buddha
Drawing upon Tibetan traditions, this narration relates the tale of Asanga. Devoting his life to piety, Asanga spends twelve years meditating in the hopes of seeing the Future Buddha.

Time-Lapse Creation of a Sand Mandala
In March 2010, the Buddhist monk and mandala master Venerable Ngawang Chojor began creating a Tibetan sand mandala in the Sackler Gallery. The process, which requires great patience and focus, serves as an aid to Buddhist meditation.

Master of the Chinese Pipa: Wu Man
The musical composition Xiao Pu An Zhou heard on this concert recording is named for the twelfth-century Buddhist priest Pu An, who is said to have gained enlightenment by chanting sacred mantras. Wu Man adapted this composition to include an effect that imitates the clacking of temple woodblocks.

Modern Awakenings: New Music Inspired by Buddhism
In this compelling concert, the Momenta Quartet performed music for violin, viola, and cello by four composers who draw inspiration from Buddhist philosophy and practice.

Making Musical Waves: The Legacy of Yatsuhashi
The Japanese bamboo flute called shakuhachi is closely associated with the spread of Zen Buddhism in Japan. Wandering monk-musicians played the often-abstract music for this instrument while begging for alms. This concert features shakuhachi master Yodo Kurahashi, along with artists performing the koto, shamisen, and vocal parts.

Painting with Music: Bell Yung, Qin
The repertoire of the ancient zither called qin (pronounced “chin”) embodies China’s major religious-philosophical systems of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. Some of the most distinguished qin musicians were Buddhist monks, who played the instrument in the seclusion of their temples and passed their music to younger disciples.

Music for Qin on Piano: Jenny Lin
The twentieth-century composition The Willows are New by Chou Wen-Chung elaborates on Yung Kuan, a traditional Chinese melody. Yung Kuan is part of the ancient literature for the qin, the Chinese seven-stringed zither, which is closely associated with Chinese Buddhism and often played by Buddhist monks.

Music From Japan: Echoes of the Silk Road
This ensemble plays instruments reconstructed from those found in the Shoso-in, an eighth-century repository at a Buddhist temple complex in Nara, Japan. The Shoso-in also houses music notation from the same period, which inspired the works in this program.

Sukeyasu Shiba’s Gagaku Universe
Twenty-five musical manuscripts were discovered in one of the ancient Buddhist caves at Dunhuang, western China. One manuscript, reconstructed by Japanese composer Sukeyasu Shiba in 1983, is heard on this concert recording. The instruments used are modern versions of those found in the Shoso-in.

Portrait of Hwang Byungki: New and Traditional Music for Korean Instruments
First performed in 1974, Ch’imhyangmu is a musical exploration of Buddhist art from the period of the Silla kingdom. It combines indigenous and Western elements to sublimate sensual beauty on Buddhist principles. For this piece, the strings of the kayagum are tuned to a scale used in Buddhist chant.

Access Educators’ Resources

How can you bring Encountering the Buddha: Art and Practice across Asia into your classroom? Educators of many disciplines and grade levels can use this exhibition as a teaching and learning opportunity. Use these resources to deepen your understanding of the ways in which art and place embody and express the teachings of Buddhism across Asia.

Background Reading and Context

Buddhism and Buddhist Art | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Explore Buddhism’s key tenets and important historical figures and events, and discover how the representation of the Buddha has evolved over the centuries on the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History.

Life of the Buddha | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Read this introductory essay from the Heilbrunn Timeline of Art History to learn more about the life of the Buddha, and dive deeper into the subject with related essays and chronology.

An Introduction to Buddhism | Asian Art Museum, San Francisco
Visit this website for downloadable student activities, teacher resources, videos, and more focused on teaching about Buddhism in K–12 classrooms.

Pinterest | Freer|Sackler
Use our educators collection on Pinterest to build your online bulletin boards. Pin selected images to share resources and information, curate content, organize ideas for classroom projects, and collaborate with others.

Cosmic Buddha in 3D | Freer|Sackler
Explore a 3D model of a life-size, sixth-century Chinese limestone figure of the Cosmic Buddha. What makes this object exceptional are the detailed narrative scenes that cover its surface, representing moments in the life of the Historical Buddha as well as the Realms of Existence, a symbolic map of the Buddhist world.

Lesson Plan: Buddhist and Hindu Art from India—A Comparative Look | Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York City
Identify similarities and differences between Buddhist and Hindu sculpture from India. This lesson encourages elementary-level students to use visual evidence to support inferences.


Migration of Buddhism across Asia | Seattle Art Museum
Explore this map to learn more about Buddhism’s migration from its founding in north India through the seventh century. The map showcases more than two hundred Buddhist artworks divided into categories such as buddhas, teachers, animals, and mandalas.

Pilgrimage and Buddhist Art | Asia Society, New York City
Use this map to explore Asia’s immense system of Buddhist pilgrimage sites and associated artworks. Numerous related educator resources are included.


Plan Your School Visit
Submit this request form for a docent-led tour four weeks in advance, and bring your students to experience Encountering the Buddha and the Freer|Sackler’s related collections in person.

Events and Workshops
Register for professional development workshops and learn about public programs related to the exhibition.

Activities for Families and Kids

Discover Scholarly Programs and Publications

The Performative Agency of Buddhist Art and Architecture in Asia
Ars Orientalis, volume 46
Guest-edited by Michelle C. Wang and Wei-cheng Lin
Smithsonian Institution, 2016

Scientific Research on the Sculptural Arts of Asia: Proceedings of the Third Forbes Symposium at the Freer Gallery of Art
Edited by Janet G. Douglas, Paul Jett, and John Winter
Archetype Publications with the Freer Gallery of Art, 2007

The Buddha as the Yogin: The Making of a Nationalist Art History
Sugata Ray, University of California, Berkeley
From “Yoga and Visual Culture: An Interdisciplinary Symposium” (November 21–23, 2014)

Holiness, Heat, and Hunger: Sculpting States of Mind
Robert DeCaroli, George Mason University, Fairfax, Virginia
From “Yoga and Visual Culture: An Interdisciplinary Symposium” (November 21–23, 2014)

Want to learn more about Buddhist art, architecture, and practice? Check out other digitized Freer|Sackler publications.

Ars Orientalis

Freer Occasional Papers

Freer|Sackler Bookshelf

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