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MFA for Educators

Engage your students with the collections of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, to illustrate themes and concepts in any discipline.

Footprints of the Buddha

This online gallery features the most important and extensive collections of Buddhist art at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston. The MFA has a collection of wide range of Buddhist art forms, including wall paintings, hanging scrolls, ceramics, and bronzes. This online gallery showcases these various media used in Buddhist art, and the diversity of region of which they come from.

For more than twenty-five hundred years since the birth of the Buddha, or Siddhartha Gautama, nearly every part of Asia has been greatly influenced by his teachings. This online gallery narrates how the Buddhist religion spread across Asia starting in India. By looking at the art works, we can understand how each culture of Asia adopted and interpreted the religion differently.

Please see the online gallery "The Life of the Buddha" for more information on the early development of Buddhism.

Readings on background information, classroom activities, glossary, and links to other resourceful interactive websites are available under the Related Resources tab.

Learning Goals

• Explore the diversity of interpretations of Buddhism by different Asian cultures and time periods through looking at Buddhist art
• Utilize museum objects and other web-based art resources as resources for understanding Buddhism
• Explore the relationship between art objects and the culture that produced them

Using this online gallery, students will:

• Learn about Buddhism as a religion, past and present (NHS E4:1B, 1D)
• Identify different Buddhist personages, stories, and motifs as represented in art (NVAS 4)
• Gain an understanding of Buddhism's impact on Asian cultures (NHS E4:1B, 1D)
• Recognize differences and commonalities in Asian Buddhist images (NVAS 2, 4)

Using this Resource

• Social Studies teachers and students will become knowledgeable in the history, geography, and the practices of Buddhism from the ancient times through the present. The study of the different sculptures will encourage an understanding of how differently each culture interprets the same information through the same material.
• Art teachers and students will become aware of the diversity in artistic expressions of Buddhism in the form of sculpture that developed as the religion spread across Asia. The observer will realize the artist's use of composition and scale to describe the story of Buddha. This gallery also offers the opportunity to develop a unit around the process of making sculpture, materials, and styles according to regions and time periods.

• World Language teachers and students will become knowledgeable in the religion most important to Asian language speaking cultures. Understanding the development of religion will deepen the knowledge of cultural, social, and political aspects of Asian cultures.

The objects in this tour are just a beginning. We encourage you to explore the Museum's online collection through this web resource—or even better, to visit the Museum and walk through the physical galleries—to look for other objects that will provide a deeper look into Buddhism.

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