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Thompson, Ashley (2022) 'Icons: Standing out from the Narrative in Theravādin Art.' In: Berkwitz, Stephen C. and Thompson, Ashley, (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Theravada Buddhism. London: Routledge.

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There is a window at the heights of the monumental structure of fourteenth-century Wat Si Chum at Sukhothai, northern Thailand. The window looks in, not out, over the shoulder of the colossal seated Buddha statue, allowing one to peer down discreetly from the statue’s perspective to worshipers facing it below. One scholarly speculation has it that this was a ventriloquizing mechanism: hidden from view and more or less inside the statue’s head, a monk would have projected the Buddha’s sermons. The system would have served to animate the statue in a novel way which is nonetheless in dialogue with myriad other ways of experiencing the Buddha image and its avatars—from the stupa to the written text—in Theravāda milieu. In other words, Buddha images (are made to) look back and speak back to us. This chapter enters into dialogue with such images, practitioners, and scholars who speak to the notion of the Theravāda “icon.” The goal is to probe, if not necessarily reconcile, emic and etic perspectives, bringing the image alive.

Item Type: Book Chapters
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Arts > Department of the History of Art & Archaeology
ISBN: 9781138493933
Copyright Statement: This is the version of the chapter accepted for publication in Berkwitz, Stephen C. and Thompson, Ashley, (eds.), Routledge Handbook of Theravada Buddhism. London: Routledge (2022) Re-use is subject to the publisher’s terms and conditions
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 05 Jul 2021 17:05

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