New York City Travel
Buddhist art and objects. Buddhism and oriental culture.    
 
 
THE BROOKLYN MUSEUM

BUDDHIST COLLECTION

The collection of Japanese musical instruments of the Brooklyn Museum, showing flutes, pitch pipes, whistles, clarinets and drums, many types of flutes and the Chinese "biwa," is exhibited in this case and in others on the adjacent walls, together with books of classical music, color prints showing dancers of the Bugaku, a musical dance of the Imperial Court, and head-dresses worn in connection with dancing and music. The flute used to accompany the No dance and the ceremonial headdress, or kammurai, worn in this dance, are interesting because this is the religious ceremonial dance adopted from the old Shinto Kagura by the Buddhist priests; it came into high favor with the aristocracy and was the foundation of the Japanese drama. Brocaded kimonos used in this dance are shown in a wall case on the right.

Down this hall of the Brooklyn Museum are robes, headgear and other apparel worn by nobles, including football costumes and balls. Foot-ball was a game especially for the nobles and consisted in keeping the ball high in the air, no goals being used.

The Ho, or principal outer robe worn by buddhist nobles as a ceremonial dress, dates from 300 A.D., when the dress itself and the silk to make it were imported from China, different colors and patterns signifying different ranks, that of the prince of the blood being yellow. Various examples are exhibited, together with fans, stockings, hats and ceremonial scepters used by nobles. No noble below the fifth rank could use an ivory scepter. Cups and bowls once used in the Imperial Household are also shown here.

Still farther down the hall the cases are devoted to exhibits relating to the Shinto religion, the original and essentially Japanese religion of the country. These include robes, hats and fans of priests, Shinto shrines and offerings, and "makimono," or rolls of color prints representing religious processions. Ancestor worship, one of the main tenets of this religion, probably arose from some form of nature worship, and the key-note of its outward observance is simplicity, no graven images, color or carving being employed in Shinto temples and shrines, whereas in Buddhist temples richness of decoration and appurtenance is the rule.

Buddhist books, paintings, costumes, hangings and other objects are shown in cases at the lower end of this hall of the Brooklyn Museum, and an elaborate miniature Buddhist temple of the type kept in private houses occupies a case to the right of the entrance here. Behind this are shown ceremonial weapons, baton, scepters, incense boxes and other objects used by Buddhist priests, and, next to these, objects used in Japan by fortune tellers, palmists and other diviners of the future.

On the wall, on this side of the buddhist exhibition in this hall of the Brooklyn Museum, an exhibit of toys and games includes the popular battledore and shuttlecock, tops, balls, skates and polo rackets, and a series of twelve color prints represents various children's games, appropriate respectively to the twelve months of the year. Another set of color prints represents the Japanese version of the birth of Buddha, and at the western end of this very interesting exhibit is a case in which colors, brushes and blocks used in Japanese color printing are shown. Among these a set of eight old wooden blocks for a color print, with six-teen impressions showing stages in the printing, together with the finished print, are especially instructive.

Ascending the steps at the western end of the Japanese Hall into Hall 3, the visitor finds exhibits from Siam, Java and Burma. Two wall cases on the right contain objects from Siam, including many Buddhist images, decorated betel-nut boxes and porcelain gambling counters.

On the left, a case of objects from Burma shows games, weapons and objects connected with Buddhism. Beyond, an exhibit from Java contains for the most part weapons and musical instruments.
 
A set of Burmese playing cards is exhibited on a doorway on the left of this hall.
Proceed into Hall 1, which contains collections from the South Pacific Islands.

The two central floor cases here are devoted to objects of Hawaiian culture, consisting of stone implements, wooden platters, ornaments and images. The implements for making "tapa" or bark cloth from the bark of the paper mulberry form an interesting part of this exhibit. Specimens of black bark cloth, used for wrapping the dead, white for new-born children, and a many-layered "tapa" used as a bed sheet are shown. Among the Pacific Islands tapa making reaches highest perfection in Hawaii, and in cases on the west wall and alcove of this room is a series of fine specimens of Hawaiian tapa ornamented with various native designs in black and color.

A case of native spears will be seen at the back of this hall of the Brooklyn Museum, and behind the elevator a Haida Indian totem pole, placed here where the staircase provides for its great height.

On the east wall of this room are shown exhibits from New Zealand, the Hervey Islands, Samoa and the Marquesas Islands, among which may be mentioned a carved ceremonial adze and paddles from the Hervey Islands, and the large wooden images from New Zealand carved to simulate "moko" or tattooing.
The Gilbert Islands and New Britain Archipelago are also represented by cases on the east wall, containing native masks, headdresses, armor and implements.
 
Opposite these on the west wall a case of specimens from the Fiji Islands shows tapa, fish hooks, wooden bowls for drinking the native drink, "kava," and other articles.
In all these cases reproductions of illustrations taken from "The Living Races of Mankind" serve to give an impression of the natives from whom the exhibits are derived.

The greater part of these South Pacific collections of the Brooklyn Museum belonged to the late Appleton Sturgis and are lent by his son.

Returning to the Elevator Hall, the visitor will find the entrance to the Chinese gallery immediately facing the stairway to the Sub-basement. Here, in a series of wall cases, is displayed a fine collection of Chinese court, military and ladies' costumes, headdresses and ornaments, together with a large number of other objects illustrative of Chinese civilization.

Vases, charms, chopsticks, spoons and other utensils, musical instruments, tea and wine cups, toilet articles, games of many kinds, writing utensils, lottery diagrams, pipes of all kinds, opium outfit, rosaries, incense holders and other objects connected with religion, bronze spear heads, weights, weapons and art objects make up an exhibit interesting alike to the student or the casual visitor.

At the eastern end of the Chinese Gallery is a smaller room devoted to an exhibit from Tibet, consisting of Buddhist pictures done on silk and Buddhist images.
The Museum Library, in which may be consulted a large number of works of reference bearing on the various collections, is at the extreme eastern end of this floor.

 

Go To Next Page
 

Back To Previous Page

 
Copyright © 2004 NewYorkCity.co