Eastern and Western Regilion through Art

Cultures across the world have evolved to have distinct and unique representations of deities and religion. The works of the Japanese Yakushi and of Bayerische Staatsbibliothek’s The Annuciation to the Shepherds shows the dichotomy between the religious traditions of the eastern and western world.

The Japanese bronze sculpture of Yakushi depicts the Buddha sitting in meditation. The relaxed and flowing nature of the sculpture reflects the religious belief of Buddhists, representing the need for balance in our lives. Conversely Bayerische Staatsbibliothek’s The Annuciation to the Shepherds depicts Christ going across the land spreading the word of God. This is particularly apparent in Christ’s interaction with the shepherd in which there is an undeniable connection between them, both metaphorical and with the visual element of line. These juxtaposing elements of action and relaxation are reflective of a key difference between Christianity and Buddhism: Christianity focuses on a call to action in spreading the word of God and actively converting the world; conversely Buddhism does not actively convert and has many followers that combine Buddhist tenets with their own religions (Shinto, Confucianism).

Indubitably the principal difference between the Japanese Yakushi and of Bayerische Staatsbibliothek’s The Annuciation to the Shepherds is how the work is interrupted in each respective religious context. Although at the heart of each work is a central figure, the religious beliefs quickly cause a divergence. Christian belief puts Christ and God as one in the same and worship him monotheistically. On the contrary, Buddhist belief is deist, where “god” permeates everything. Thus the sculpture is not an object of prayer but rather a reminder of how Buddha originally achieved the goal enlightenment. It can be seen that The Annuciation to The Shepherds is a representation of a deity, whilst the Yakushi is simply a depiction of an important figure in the Buddhist tradition. Nonetheless, a curious similarity exists between the two; both pieces of art have the heads of key characters encircled. In the European Christian, work the circle represents a halo, the touch of God. A similar effect may be at work in the Yakushi sculpture with the circular crown representing the supernatural and balance of nature.

There is a dichotomy between eastern and western religion and belief that saturates multiple aspects of each culture and especially art. The Yakushi of Japan reflects the unique aspects of Buddhism and Japanese culture, for example deism and the in and yo (Japanese Ying and Yang). Bayerische Staatsbibliothek’s The Annuciation to the Shepherds also reflects key aspects of Christian tradition and European culture, for instance Monotheism, The call to Christians to spread the word of God, and the holy trinity.