Tag Archives: sculpture

India – UNESCO – Hampi

The austere, grandiose site of Hampi was the last capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces which won the admiration of travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned.

The city of Hampi bears exceptional testimony to the vanished civilization of the kingdom of Vijayanagar, which reached its apogee under the reign of Krishna Deva Raya (1509-30). It offers an outstanding example of a type of structure that illustrates a significant historical situation: that of the kingdoms of South India which, menaced by the Muslims, were occasionally allied with the Portuguese of Goa.

The austere, grandiose site of Hampi was the last capital of the last great Hindu Kingdom of Vijayanagar. Its fabulously rich princes built Dravidian temples and palaces which won the admiration of travellers between the 14th and 16th centuries. Conquered by the Deccan Muslim confederacy in 1565, the city was pillaged over a period of six months before being abandoned.

As the final capital of the last of the great kingdom of South India, that of the Vijayanagar, Hampi, enriched by the cotton and the spice trade was one of the most beautiful cities of the medieval world. Its palaces and Dravidian temples were much admired by travellers, be they Arab (Abdul Razaak), Portuguese (Domingo Paes) or Italian (Nicolò dei Conti).

Conquered by the Muslims after the battle of Talikota in 1565, it was plundered over six months and then abandoned. Imposing monumental vestiges, partially disengaged and reclaimed, make of Hampi today one of the most striking ruins of the world.

The temples of Ramachandra (1513) and Hazara Rama (1520), with their sophisticated structure, where each supporting element is scanned by bundles of pilasters or colonnettes which project from the richly sculpted walls, may be counted among the most extraordinary constructions of India. In one of the interior courtyards of the temple of Vitthala, a small monument of a chariot which two elephants, sculpted in the round, struggle to drag along is one of the unusual creations, the favourite of tourists today as well as travellers of the past.

Besides the temples, the impressive complex of civil, princely or public buildings (elephant stables, Queen’s Bath, Lotus Mahal, bazaars, markets) are enclosed in the massive fortifications which, however, were unable to repulse the assault of the five sultans of Deccan in 1565.


Bulgaria – Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari


The Thracian Tomb of Sveshtari is a 3rd century BC tomb that reflects the fundamental structural principles of Thracian cult buildings. It was discovered in 1982.

The tomb’s architectural decor is considered to be unique, with polychrome half-human, half-plant caryatids and painted murals.

It differs from the Thracian Tomb of Kazanlak as it is a hypogeum, not a construction with a cupola. With its origins in the culture of the Getae, it fits a Hellenistic model that was common in Macedonia, Asia Minor and Egypt.

China – Longmen Grottoes – Middle Binyang cave

The Longmen Caves (or Longmen Grottoes) stretch for 1km along the west bank of the Yi River near Luoyang in Henan Province. The site includes some 1,350 caves and 40 pagodas, which are filled with thousands of Buddhist statues carved out of the hard limestone cliffs.

The carving work began in 492 AD and continued for 500 years. The Longmen Caves were designated a World Heritage Site in 2000 for their spectacular works of Chinese art, especially of the Tang Dynasty.

The carvings of the Longmen Caves were commissioned by emperors, members of the imperial family and other wealthy families, generals, and religious groups, all who hoped to earn good fortune through their donations.

The site was “founded” by the Northern Wei dynasty in 492 AD, when they moved their capital to Luoyang from Datong (where they had carved the Yungang Caves). Three sets of caves – Guyang, Bingyang and Lianhua – date from this early period. Their art was similar to that at Datong but was adapted to the harder limestone surface of the Longmen Caves.

Work continued under various patrons for 500 years and reached a second peak under the Tang, particularly under the devoted Buddhist Empress Wu Zetian.

The caves have suffered from significant vandalism and looting over the years, beginning with the anti-Buddhist movement of the 9th century. Destruction continued at the hands of souvenir-hunting Westerners in the 19th and 20th centuries, and culminated in attacks by Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution.


Indonesia – Borobudur Temple

Borobudur, a Buddhist stupa in the Mahayana tradition, is the largest Buddhist monument in the world. Located on the Indonesian island of Java, 40 km (25mi) northwest of Yogyakarta, Borobudur was built around 750 AD. The magnificent temple is a three-dimensional mandala (diagram of the universe) and a visual representation of Buddhist teachings.

The monument comprises six square platforms topped by three circular platforms, and is decorated with 2,672 relief panels and 504 Buddha statues. A main dome, located at the center of the top platform, is surrounded by 72 Buddha statues seated inside perforated stupa.

The monument is both a shrine to the Lord Buddha and a place for Buddhist pilgrimage. The journey for pilgrims begins at the base of the monument and follows a path through the monument while ascending to the top through the three levels of Buddhist cosmology, namely Kāmadhātu (the world of desire), Rupadhatu (the world of forms) and Arupadhatu (the world of formlessness). During the journey the monument guides the pilgrims through a system of stairways and corridors with 1,460 narrative relief panels on the wall and the balustrades.


China – Henan – Longmen Grottoes

The world-famous Longmen Grottoes are located 12km south of Luoyang. Here two mountains, namely, East Hill (Mt. Xiangshan) and West Hill (Mt. Longmen), confront each other with the Yi River traversing northward between them, just like a pair of Chinese gate towers. So during the Zhou and Qin dynasties, it was called “Yi Que” (Gate of Yi River). Later, when the Sui established its capital city in Luoyang, the palace gate was just facing Yi Que, hence the name “Longmen” which means “Dragon Gate”.

Spanning a length of over 1,000 meters on the hillsides along the Yi River, the Longmen Grottoes, together with the Mogao Caves in Dunhuang (Gansu Province) and the Yungang Grottoes (Shanxi Province), are reputed as the three greatest stone sculpture treasure houses in China. In the year 2000, Longmen Grottoes was listed by UNESCO as a World Cultural Heritage Site.

The Longmen Grottoes were first sculptured and chiseled around 493AD when the capital of the Northern Wei Dynasty (386-534) was moved from Datong to Luoyang. The entire construction of Longmen Grottoes lasted more than four hundred years through the Northern Dynasties, Sui Dynasty, Tang Dynasty and up to Song Dynasty. Today, there are still 2345 caves and niches, 100,000 Buddhist images ranging in size from 2 cm to 17.14 meters, more than 2800 inscribed tablets, and 43 Buddhist pagodas remaining in both East Hill and West Hill. Altogether 30 % date from Northern Wei Dynasty, 60 % from Tang Dynasty and the rest 10 % from other periods.

China – Dazu Stone Carvings

Dazu County, 162 km northwest of Chongqing, is very popular for its stone carving Buddha Statues – more than100 locations and 100,000 statues. These sculptures are a mixture of Buddhism. Taoism and Confucianism. Two of the locations are the most noted: Beishan (Northern Hill) and Baodingshan (Treasured Peak Mountain), listed by UNESCO (UN Education, Science and Culture Organization) in 1999 as ” the World Cultural Heritage ” . The Northern Hill is a km away in the Northwest of the city of Dazu. The first statue was created in late Tang Dynasty (9 century), with more than 10,000 statues. Baodingshan (Treasure Peak Mountain) is 15 km to the Northeast of the city, first sculpted in South Song Dynasty (1179-1249). Centered at Dafowan (Grand Buddha Bay), nearly 10,000 Buddha statues are displayed along a 400 long U shape hill ridge, like a great picture roll unfolding before your eyes! The sculptures belongs to the later period of the grotto arts and indicates the rise of grotto carving in Sichuan after its decline in north China. Among these sculptures, you can see the 31 meter-high Nirvana of Sakyamuni, the 88 square meters ” Thousand-Handed Avalokitesvara ” and the 7 meter-high ” Huayan Three Buddhist Images ” as well as the ordinary secular sculptures like ” the girl flute-player ” , ” the girl chicken-raiser ” and so on. All these stone sculptures are well structured and vividly made.

Bulgaria – Madara Rider

The Madara Rider or Madara Horseman is an early medieval large rock relief carved on the Madara Plateau east of Shumen in northeastern Bulgaria, near the village of Madara.

The monument is dated back to circa 710 AD and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1979. The dating means the monument was created during the rule of Bulgar Khan Tervel, and supports the thesis that it is a portrayal of the khan himself and a work of the Bulgars, a nomadic tribe of warriors which settled in northeastern Bulgaria at the end of the 7th century AD and after merging with the local Slavs gave origin to the modern Bulgarians. Other theories connect the relief with the ancient Thracians, claiming it portrays a Thracian god.