For my class on Museum Interpretation, we were assigned some readings in Neil MacGregor’s “History of the World in 100 objects”. We had to read the story of “Object 59”, which covered the acquisition of a Buddha Stone Head from the Borobudur Temple in Indonesia by the British Museum. The Borobudur Temple is a UNESCO Heritage Site visited by many tourists.
Object 59: Borobudur Buddha Head- Stone head of the Buddha, from Java, Indonesia AD 780-840)
We are tracing the great arcs of trade that linked Asia, Europe and AFrica aroudn a thousand years ago,. Throuagh this stone head of the Buddha we can plot an extensive network of connections across the China Sea and the Indian Ocean by which goods and ideas, languages and religions, were exchanged among the peoples of souht-east Asia. It comes from Borobudur, on the Indonesian island of Java,just a fe degrees south g of the equator. Borodbudur is one of the greatest Buddhist monuments in teh worlld and one of the great cultural achievements of humanity- a huge, square, terraced pyramid, representing the Buddhist view of the cosmos in stone, decorated with well over a thousand relief carvings and peopled with hundreds of statues of the Buddha. As pilgrims climb it, they are treading a physical path that mirrors a spiritual journey, symbolicaaly transporting the walker from this world to a higher plane of being. Here, on the rich and strategically important island of Java, at the monument of Borobudur, is the supreme example of how the network of maritime trade allowed Buddhism to spread beyond the boundaries of its birth and become a world religion.
As you climb through the different levels, you take a material road into a spiritual enlightenment.
Pictures from UNESCO