This edited volume programmatically reconsiders the creative contribution of the littoral and insular regions of Maritime Asia to shaping new paradigms in the Buddhist and Hindu art and architecture of the mediaeval Asian world. Far from being a mere southern conduit for the maritime circulation of Indic religions, in the period from ca. the 7th to the 14th century those regions transformed across mainland and island polities the rituals, icons, and architecture that embodied these religious insights with a dynamism that often eclipsed the established cultural centres in Northern India, Central Asia, and mainland China. This collective body of work brings together new research aiming to recalibrate the importance of these innovations in art and architecture, thereby highlighting the cultural creativity of the monsoon-influenced Southern rim of the Asian landmass.
"Although Maritime Asia in mediaeval times was not as densely populated as the agrarian hinterland, Asia's coasts were highly urbanized. The region from southern India to south China was a heterogeneous blend of cultures, leavened with a strong interest in trade. This cosmopolitan society afforded plentiful opportunities for artists to find patrons and develop individual styles and aesthetic sensibilities. In the bustling ports of Asia's south coast, rulers sought to embellish their prestige and attract foreign merchants by sponsoring the development of monumental complexes and centres of learning and debate. These educational institutions attracted teachers from all over Asia, and in their cloisters they developed new intellectual frameworks which were reflected in works of art and architecture. Scholars moved frequently by sea, influencing and being influenced by other foreigners such as Japanese and central Asians who were also attracted to these places.
This very variety has hindered scholarly research in the past. This volume contributes to the endeavour to show how Maritime Asia was not an incoherent jumble of misunderstood influences from better-known civilizations; there was a pattern to this creativity, which the authors in this collection clarify for us. The maritime world of Asia may have lain on the margins of the land, but it provided a physical and intellectual medium through which artistic ideas from east and west flowed freely. Maritime Asia also made significant original contributions which hold their own with those of the hinterland of the Asian continent. Unconstrained by the burden of static hierarchical courts, the peoples of Maritime Asia built on the inspiration provided by a hybrid society to demonstrate a high degree of artistic originality while testing but not breaking the link with conventional iconography."-- Professor John Miksic, Department of Southeast Asian Studies, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore (NUS)
About the Author
Andrea Acri (PhD, Leiden University) is Maître de conférences/Assistant Professor in Tantric Studies at the École Pratique des Hautes Études (EPHE, PSL University) in Paris.
Peter D. Sharrock is a senior teaching fellow in the history of art and archaeology at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is a former journalist who covered the Vietnamese-American War.