VIDEO | Sailing the Seas: Curator Shaw tells rare and profound story of Maritime Silk Road

Video: Curator Jeffrey Shaw talks to The Value about the inspirations and key messages behind Indra and Harry Banga Gallery's latest exhibition, Atlas of Maritime Buddhism 

The Land Silk Route is a popular topic in museum and gallery exhibitions. We often see depiction of Dunhuang Cave Paintings, one of the pinnacles of cross-culture artistic interactions and spread of Buddhism across the Land Silk Route. 

But the Maritime Silk Route is under-documented. Indra and Harry Banga Gallery at Hong Kong’s City University wants to change this trend and highlight the Maritime Silk Route with their current exhibition, Atlas of Maritime Buddhism.

The Value talked to Jeffrey Shaw, one of the two key co-curators, apart from Sarah Kenderdine. Shaw highlighted the exhibition's melange of presenting traditional and mediatised relics, as well as key inspirations and messages.

What was the inspiration behind this exhibition?

Shaw: The exhibition tells the story of the spread of Buddhism from India, across Asia, to China, into Korea and Japan, along the Maritime Route. Traditionally, we are very familiar with the overland Silk Road, through, for instance, Dunhuang. But the Maritime Route is under-researched. This exhibition is really meant to highlight the importance of this path, in which Buddhism spread so rapidly and successfully.

The exhibition wants to tell the story using many new media techniques. So, lots of special kinds of photography, projection. It is a new media art exhibition, with a strong focus on embodied experience for the viewer and interactivity.

The harmonious marriage between real-life and mediatised versions of Buddhist sculptures is evident throughout the exhibition

What is the key message you want to portray to the audience?

Shaw: The spread of Buddhism from India across Asia has enormous existential, religious and cultural repercussions. You see this in different levels, including social life and belief systems. But you also see this in all the cultural forms – writing, sculpture, architecture and religious practice.

This is one of the most significant stories in terms of the history of civilisation. This exhibition really wants to explore this story.

It is also important because it talks about a very special synergy between business, the merchant class and trade and how to be a good person. It talks about a synergy between doing business and a humanist commitment to a good life. This is a very important message for today, because often, our ambitions are often at odds with our existential needs. This story really shows the synergy of these two forces. It is linked to China’s current ambitions to re-establish connectivity across Asia through the One Belt, One Road formulation – an echo of the Buddhist Great Circle which encompasses the overland and Maritime Routes of dissemination.

One of the key Buddhist images was Avalokitesvara Bodhisattva (commonly known as Guanyin). He represents infinite wisdom and mercy, delaying his own path to Buddhahood to help other sentient beings achieve enlightenment

Exhibition curator, Jeffrey Shaw

Exhibition Details:

"Atlas of Maritime Buddhism" 

Venue: Indra and Harry Banga Gallery. 18/F, Lau Ming Wai Academic Building, City University of Hong Kong.

Dates: Now until 3 October 2021

Time: Daily 10am - 7pm (Except Mondays) 

Pre-registration is required.