Buddhapāda - Following the Buddha's footprints

“Buddhapāda”, a word derived from Sanskrit and Pali, denotes the foot (or feet) of Buddha, and over time, their imprints on stone or other materials. The purpose of the Buddhapāda is to signify the presence of the Lord, His memory, and His sacred message conveyed by the symbolic signs with which the imprints are covered. Along the way, artists have reproduced magnificent works of art, finely engraved or painted, some ornamented with gold or semi-precious stones, sometimes massive in size - in stark contrast to the first minuscule, rudimentary Indian examples, simply adorned with the wheel, representing Buddhist law. 

Born in the Ganga valley of India around 200 BCE, long after the death of Gautama Buddha, the Buddhapāda have, little by little, acquired new symbols (108 classically) as they proliferated along both the great Northern and Southern Asian routes from India to Japan, journeys which Jacques de Guerny recently retraced, and which culminated in the authorship of an innovative book on a fascinating subject too little studied until now.  

Buddha’s footprints continue to be the focus of major pilgrimages and remain, to this day, highly revered and adorned, in spite of the ‘competition’ from the Gandhara’s human-like statuary of Buddha, born posteriorly in the Indus Valley.  

After more than two millennia, and an odyssey spanning an entire continent, the Buddhapāda are indisputably among the greatest and most compelling of the Mankind’s allegories.

Bronze drums of South-East Asia

The Bronze Age produced revolutionary innovations. Among them, bronze drums, stronger and more sonorous than their wooden and skin predecessors, bestowing on their owners a prestige even in their tombs, and creating new rites. 

On their drumhead (tympan) and soon their cylindrical base, the drums were decorated with geometric or figurative elements, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic. 

In so doing, people of South-East Asia gave a new mission to drums, not only to emit sounds but also to evoke values considered crucial for everyday life or afterlife worlds, from the steppes to the tropics.

The odyssey of bronze drums spans about two thousand five hundred years to the present day, and their rituals have affected vast number of peoples and territories, from (now) south China and Vietnam to Indonesia, including all Indochina thanks to a perennial metal. From simple pots to marvelous masterpieces, bronze drums testify to animist cultures from Prehistory, at the crossroad of spiritual and commercial values. Originating (around 500 BCE) from the Red River valley (Yuan Jiang or Song Hong), now between Kunming (China) and Hanoi (Vietnam), bronze drums’ have known two other major steps one millenary after, in Burma and Indonesia respectively. A full odyssey to be detailed and commented with appropriate photos (powerpoint) during the conference. 


The bronze drums of South-East Asia - Talk by Jacques de Guerny