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Ancient Buddhism and Buddhist Art


Buddha, Probably Amitabha Amituofo | Early 7th century | China | Metropolitan Museum of Art

The history of Buddhism spans from the 6th century BCE to the present. Buddhism arose in the eastern part of Ancient India, in and around the ancient Kingdom of Magadha (now in Bihar, India), and is based on the teachings of Siddhārtha Gautama.
The religion evolved as it spread from the northeastern region of the Indian subcontinent through Central, East, and Southeast Asia. At one time or another, it influenced most of the Asian continent.
The history of Buddhism is also characterized by the development of numerous movements, schisms, and schools, among them the Theravāda, Mahāyāna and Vajrayāna traditions, with contrasting periods of expansion and retreat.


Enthroned Buddha Attended by the Bodhisattvas Avalokiteshvara and Vajrapani | Second half of the 10th century |Indonesia (Java) | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Buddhism is a faith that was founded by Siddhartha Gautama (“the Buddha”) more than 2,500 years ago in India. With about 470 million followers, scholars consider Buddhism one of the major world religions.
Its practice has historically been most prominent in East and Southeast Asia, but its influence is growing in the West. Many Buddhist ideas and philosophies overlap with those of other faiths.

Types of Buddhism

Today, many forms of Buddhism exist around the world. The three main types that represent specific geographical areas include:
Theravada Buddhism: Prevalent in Thailand, Sri Lanka, Cambodia, Laos and Burma.
Mahayana Buddhism: Prevalent in China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and Vietnam.
Tibetan Buddhism: Prevalent in Tibet, Nepal, Mongolia, Bhutan, and parts of Russia and northern India.






Portrait of Jnanatapa Attended by Lamas and Mahasiddhas-1350-Eastern Tibet-Kham-Riwoche monastery | Metropolitan Museum of Art




Buddhism figure from Yungang Shanxi, China | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Death of the Historical Buddha (Nehan-zu) 14th century, Japan | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Death of the Historical Buddha (Nehan-zu) 14th century, Japan (detail) | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Death of the Historical Buddha (Nehan-zu) 14th century, Japan (detail) | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Death of the Historical Buddha (Nehan-zu) 14th century, Japan (detail) | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Death of the Historical Buddha (Nehan-zu) 14th century, Japan (detail) | Metropolitan Museum of Art

Death of the Historical Buddha (Nehan-zu) 14th century, Japan (detail) | Metropolitan Museum of Art













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