Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century

Buddha (detail). Provenance unknown, central Thailand, first half of the 7th century. Sandstone; H. 67 3/8 in. National Museum, Bangkok

"When the Metropolitan Museum of Art gives its all to an exhibition…and the art involved is as rich as a massed chorale and as haunting as a single-voice chant, no institution on earth can produce more impressive results."—New York Times

"It may well be the exhibition of the year."—Apollo

The exhibition is made possible by the Placido Arango Fund, the Fred Eychaner Fund, the William Randolph Hearst Foundation, the Henry Luce Foundation, the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Additional support is provided by Jim Thompson America, Inc. and Bangkok Broadcasting & T.V. Co., Ltd.

The catalogue is made possible by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and
the Henry Luce Foundation.

Additional support is provided by the Doris Duke Fund for Publications.

Exhibition Objects

Featured Media

Lost Kingdoms Symposium, Part 1

Program information

New Perspectives on Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture in Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century

Welcome and Introduction:
John Guy, Florence and Herbert Irving Curator of the Arts of South and Southeast Asia, Department of Asian Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art

This program is presented in conjunction with the exhibition Lost Kingdoms: Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century, on view through July 27, 2014.

Recorded May 17, 2014

Lost Kingdoms

Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century

April 14–July 27, 2014

Accompanied by a catalogue and an Audio Guide

Exhibition Programs (PDF)

This is the first international loan exhibition to explore the sculptural art produced in the earliest kingdoms of Southeast Asia. From the first millennium onward, powerful kingdoms emerged in the region, embracing much of Indic culture to give political and religious expression to their identities. Early Hinduism (Brahmanism) and Buddhism arrived early, first witnessed by Sanskrit inscriptions, and shortly thereafter by a proliferation of large-scale religious imagery.

Some 160 sculptures are featured in the exhibition, principally associated with the identifiable cultures of Pyu, Funan, Zhenla, Champa, Dvāravatī, Kedah, and Śrīvijaya. These are the "lost kingdoms," whose identities and sometimes very existence only emerged from the historical shadows in the twentieth century, as a result of pioneering epigraphic and archaeological research, much of it recent. The artistic achievements and cultural parameters of these early kingdoms bring new understanding to the beginning of state formation in Southeast Asia and broadly define the modern political map of the region today. The surviving corpus of early religious art from these kingdoms is our principal window onto these cultures.

Many of the exhibits are monumental, and a significant number are designated as national treasures. The National Museums of Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, and Myanmar, as well as the Musée Guimet, Paris, and major museums in the United States are all lenders. Many of the works have never traveled outside their source countries before. Myanmar is making its first ever international loans to this exhibition.

The majority of the works are in stone, with others in bronze, gold, silver, terracotta, and stucco. Among the masterpieces in the exhibition, highlights include a sixth-century Cambodian Buddha Offering Protection; a spectacular Krishna Holding Mt. Govardhana from the hill shrine of Phnom Da, in southern Cambodia; a late seventh-century Avalokitesivara discovered in the Mekong delta of Vietnam in the 1920s, arguably the most beautiful image of the Buddhist embodiment of compassion in Southeast Asia; an Uma of startling naturalism that likely embodies a portrait of a deceased Khmer queen of the first half of the seventh century; an ascetic Ganesha from the eighth-century religious sanctuary of My Son in central Vietnam; and a Dvaravati kingdom terracotta sculpture Head of Meditating Buddha, a sublime representation of Buddhist meditation from the seventh century.

Exhibition Catalogue

Catalogue cover

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