This is one of a series of films made by John Wyver for Sky TV Arts programmes in which he discovers religions through various art works produced through the ages.
In this one John is looking at Buddhism, and first goes to the beautifully designed Amaravati Buddhist Monastery in Hemel Hempstead, England, and talks to Ajahn Sumedho about the ideals behind the design of the monastery.
It is an interesting place for John to start, but he is soon off to India to see one of the earliest surviving monuments, the Sañchi Stupa in Madhya Pradesh, where he will talk to a Japanese artist who lives nearby the stupa, and who has made a special study of the stupa, Dr. Yoichi Yamagata. The photography throughout the programme is excellent, but it really excels here, capturing all the fine detail on the stupa, and showing what a picture book it is, for those who know how to read it.
Also while in India John goes to the Ellora Caves (but for some reason not the Ajanta Caves), where he is guided through by a local Hindu architect, who seemingly knows little about Buddhism.
The next stop on this tour finds him in China at the Longmen Grottoes, near Louyang to see the Tang Dynasty sculptures, which are probably the most classical of the Chinese Buddhist works; and then on to Chengde to see the Qing mixed Chinese-Tibetan Punin Temple.
The next stopover is in Cambodia and the Angkor complex, particularly the Bayon Temple, before finally landing in Japan and visiting several locations there, including the Todai Temple at Nara, the Kennin Temple in Kyoto and the modern and unusual Water Temple at Hompuki.
Along the way John not only discovers the temples, the art works, and crafts, but also tries to explain more about Buddhism itself, which despite some small mistakes he does reasonably well, and is largely sympathetic in his presentation.
The programme bears comparison of course with Bettany Hughes’ attempt at roughly the same places in her Seven Wonders of the Buddhist World, but to my mind this is far better made than Bettany’s programme, and one of the better programmes on the subject in many ways.
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