An Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art
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An Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art
Middle School 6-8
Sacred Heart Elementary School
This curriculum unit, appropriate for both middle and high school students, gives a broad overview of the history of Buddhism and its profound influence on Japanese art and architecture. The unit begins with a discussion of the meaning and relevance of art history. It then goes on to cover the history of Buddhism in Japan and how the life of the Buddha is represented in Japanese paintings, specific symbolism that is often found in Buddhist art, and the symbolism of the layout and architecture of Buddhist temples. The unit concludes with an activity that allows students to step into the shoes of a museum curator and create an art exhibit.
This curriculum unit provides detailed lesson plans, handouts, and assignments. It also provides several transparencies, which may be outdated, but could easily be adapted for use with a SMART Board or document camera. Photographs of all of the artwork discussed in the lessons may be found on the accompanying CD-ROM. The activities are authentic and meaningful, encouraging students to actively analyze and interpret various works of art; however, I think the unit could have been improved by including more cooperative learning activities.
This curriculum unit could be effectively used in an art history class, a social studies or history class, or in a comparative religions class. It can be adapted to fit the needs of several different subject areas and would make an excellent introduction to both Japanese Buddhism and analyzing works of art.
Curriculum Unit Review: An Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art
An Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art is a guideline and resource guide developed by Se-Woong Koo and Karen Tiegel for Stanford’s Institute for International Studies. This curriculum guide is one in an impressive series focusing on Japanese history and culture. The goals of the resource expertly reflects the pedagogical goals of modern academia: it highlights a multi-causal approach to history, focusing on a number of factors and influences on society including, but not limited to, politics, religion, environment, and the economy. As such, the source provides an interdisciplinary approach to teaching students about other cultures and societies. The work is successful in providing the guidance and means for teachers to encourage their students to consider history, not as a stale list of names, facts, and numbers on a page in a textbook, but, rather, to perceive history as a living and breathing entity, which can, and should, actively inform our understanding of the situation of the world and its various cultures today.
The guide seems to be an invaluable tool, especially for a teacher who is new to or not completely confident with teaching about Japan. The guide, quite literally, does the work for the instructor. The resource begins with an explanation of the Stanford Institute for International Studies, followed by the usual kinds of acknowledgements before getting into the meat of the text. This “meat” begins with a clear and well-organized table of contents. Each unit begins with a lesson written to inform and teach the the instructor content. From this, the educator can easily form a lesson. This aforementioned portion is then followed by how the unit should be broken up according to national history standards (these expectations generally range from 5th - 12th grade, but, this source could easily also be used as a resource for a college professor teaching an introductory course on Japanese Art, although other, supplementary sources would likely be needed, also). Following that, the guide provides pre-made materials for the teacher, which can simply be photocopied for in-class activities or homework (of course, an instructor’s guide with answers is provided, also). This resource then goes so far as to provide you with your lesson plan, giving you a breakdown of how long each of the discussions on each of the steps on every one of the activities/worksheets should be expected to take.
Often times, even American teachers who are instructing students about Asian art feel insecure in their knowledge of the subject. If I was teaching a course on Japanese Art, I would absolutely use this guide. Ending on a personal note, I have taken classes on Asian Art in both college and graduate school, and I have learned more from this book than I did in the whole of my classes. It is clear, concise, well-organized, and provides excellent materials and resources for educators for students from grade school to the college introductory level.
Review of "An Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art"
I teach Advanced Placement Art History and found some aspects of this curriculum unit to be very suitable for this course. This curriculum unit very thoroughly explains the significance of Buddhist Japanese art from multiple points of view. The introductory lesson sets the context for a discussion of Japanese Buddhist art by introducing an activity in “object literacy” which helps students develop observational and interpretive skills. In Lesson One, the curriculum unit then provides a nice introduction to art history and visual analysis using two Japanese Buddhist paintings, the Sonsho Mandala and the Shukuzu Fragment. Lesson Two provides an overview of Buddhism and the life of the Buddha Shakyamuni. Lesson Three introduces the idea of symbolism (Buddhist iconography) in Buddhist art. I found this unit to be particularly useful for my Art History class. The lesson clearly introduces the symbols in Buddhist art including the mudras (hand gestures) and their meaning. Lesson Four deals with Buddhist Temples including information on temple layout, structure and symbolism. This is another lesson that I found extremely useful for my Art History course. The clearly explained “walk-through” of a Buddhist temple’s spaces and its symbols and symbolic objects clearly links the tenets of Buddhism to the function and iconography of the temple. Finally, I was inspired to adapt the closing activity from the curriculum unit on students taking on the role of a museum curator. Giving students ownership of the fascinating process of choosing works of art to create an exhibit and then having to provide the rationale for choosing those particular works is something I will definitely use in my classroom. There are several handouts (such as the symbols of Buddhist art and the Mudras in Buddhist art) that I intend to use. Overall, Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art is in fact, a suitable introduction for students with little or no background in Asian Art studies.
Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art
In reviewing this curriculum I found it to be geared toward the middle and secondary grades.. I would have had a hard time teaching it to younger children.
I found the teaching of Buddhism to be very interesting but then again this was one of my favorite parts of this class. The curriculum introduces students to expressions of Buddhism in the arts as part of the Japanese culture. It teaches the students the importance of art history and the influence it has in our lives.
The curriculum teaches about the many periods in Buddhist history. It introduces the students to Japanese Buddhist Art such as reasons to study art, different forms of art, things that we can learn from the past from the arts, and recognizing examples of visual art.
The second part of the curriculum teaches about Buddhism and when it began, the meaning of Buddhism, and describes the four schools of Buddhism in Japan. One thing that I found fascinating was the timeline of the Buddha’s life. Something that I think that I could teach the primary grade students to do would be to make a timeline or possibly a collage of important symbols or traditions in their lives.
There was a part of the curriculum that taught hand gestures ( Mudras) in Buddhist Art. Just as these were used then our children could use sign language to help teach others about things of importance in their lives.
It talked about the Temples and who guards them. We could compare that to the Vatican and the guards that guard it.
It emphasizes the importance of art in history. Our children can use different forms of art in their own history to learn about important events or places in their lifetime.
The curriculum was interesting and it helped me to better understand some of the things that I did not understand from some of the readings in our assignments.
Engaging, comprehensive resource
An Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art
Reviewed by Kachina Martin, Studio Art & Art History instructor at Muhlenberg High School; grades 10-12
I concur with the assessment of Ms. Fox, the previous reviewer; An Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art is extremely thorough, with clear explanations for the instructor, a sensible sequence of lessons that build into a comprehensive unit, student handouts, and high quality images on the ancillary CD. The class with which I utilized these materials was Global Studies, an Honors level team-taught course addressing art, literature, history and music for 11th grade students. Because of the familiarity of the students with the field of art history, I did not utilize lesson one, which introduces students to the discipline and shows the relevance of art history to understanding and appreciating a culture. If students are unfamiliar with the elements and principles of art, this lesson is an excellent starting point.
For Global Studies, the most relevant lessons for my students were two and three. In lesson two, students are provided with an overview of the history and founding of Buddhism. For my students, after completing the unit on India, the handout served as a useful review, especially as I utilized the questions intended to be used after reading as a prompt to start the lesson. Students were unable to answer questions 8, 9 and 10, which dealt specifically with Japanese Buddhism; some students struggled to recall details regarding previously addressed concepts with Buddhism in general. As such, this proved to be a much needed review, underscoring the importance for students to carefully read the provided handout. The reading also clearly detailed the beliefs of Japanese Buddhism and the images correlated with the lesson further enhanced student understanding of the differences and similarities between the different forms of Buddhism.
Lesson three focuses on Buddhist iconography, utilizing a second set of images to familiarize students with the symbols and gestures associated with representations of the Buddha. The optional activity, requiring students to identify the many symbols in their own lives, is an excellent way to make the information relevant to students. As an assessment, I utilized a series of images other than those provided and discussed in class, requiring students to apply their knowledge to unknown works. I did not have time to utilize lesson four, which introduces students to Buddhist temples and the symbolism of their layout, however, this lesson is also rich in content with the opportunity for students to work in small groups. The closing activity is brilliant, introducing students to the role and responsibilities of museum curators. Due to the constraints of the Global Studies curriculum, there is very little time allocated to Japan, however, this closing activity could be used with the study of any culture, and could easily be adapted into a more cumulative year-end activity, enabling students to make comparisons between the art of Japan and other cultures.
I have shared this resource with the World Cultures teachers in my high school; they too felt it was well-written, comprehensive, and very adaptable to both College and Career level classes.
An Introduction to Japanese Buddhist Art
Falk Laboratory School
This curriculum lends itself to the older grades 7-8 or 9-12. It could be used as a source to pull ideas and information from for an intermediate unit, but is definitely more developmentally appropriate for older students. These lessons could be used in Social Studies, Art, World history, or World Religions classrooms and meet national History standards as defined by the National Center for History in schools.
This curriculum is thorough. In all there are six substantial lesson plans, including an introductory lesson and a fun closing project. These lessons are "hearty" and could be stretched out to fit a longer period of time. They could also be abbreviated and adapted to your class needs. The curriculum includes all unit goals, standards, a cd rom with the pictures needed to accompany the lessons, handouts, worksheets, homework assignments, transparencies, suggested sequence of activities, suggested time allotment, glossary or terms, image descriptions, Buddhist symbols, Buddhist iconography, information about Buddhist temples and their design, an appendix with background information for the teacher, and a pronunciation guide for the more difficult Japanese/Buddhist terms. I thought the final project was an interesting one that could also be adapted to different subject matter. It asks the students to create their own two dimensional or three dimensional exhibit, while exploring the roles and responsibilities of a curator. The lessons in this unit make connections with the modern world, current art and advertising. Different Buddhist schools of thought are addressed and how they affect the artwork produced. The life of the Buddha, Buddhism as well as Shinto are discussed.
Critiques of this curriculum would be that the pictures on the cd rom are just "ok". It would not be too difficult to pull some videos or other visuals from the internet. Also, I would like to see more group work among students in the lesson plans. I think getting them talking and discussing with each other about what they know adds to their interest and to their understanding. Rather than just giving students handouts (which this curriculum does a lot of) and having them answer bland questions for homework, students should be moving around and discussing with their peers or the whole class. The homework in my opinion is not very meaningful, it simply asks the students to regurgitate what they learned in class that day rather than asking them to apply it or do something with what they learned.
Overall, I would recommend this curriculum to someone teaching older students. I feel it could be adapted and used for younger students, but not as is. I also feel it has a lot of great information that could be reformatted to be more interesting to students. This is such a great and interesting topic but the way it is formatted could turn students off the subject matter.