The Axis and the Throne in the Arts of Buddhist Southeast Asia

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The throne of a king or the Buddha in royal guise mirrors in miniature the organization of the cosmos. Along a central axis are tiered the underworlds, the world of humankind, Mt. Meru, and the multiple levels of the heavens. Seven great mountain ranges ring the axis. The king or Buddha is symbolically positioned amid these on the axis to emphasize his grandeur and universal dominion.

Forrest McGill, Wattis Senior Curator of South and Southeast Asian Art and director of the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco's Research Institute for Asian Art, explores these ideas focusing on an eleven-foot-tall nineteenth-century Burmese Buddhist throne shrine at the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco and related works in the Art Institute's collection.

Ceremonies and festivities of the Burmese royal court (detail), 1875-1900; Myanmar (Burma), Mandalay; opaque watercolors, gold, and silver on paper;

Ceremonies and Festivities of the Burmese Royal Court (detail), 1875–1900. Myanmar (Burma), Mandalay. Asian Art Museum of San Francisco.

Persons with disabilities who would like to request an accessibility accommodation for an Art Institute program are encouraged to send an email to access@artic.edu two weeks in advance of the program.

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