Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Presenting Portraiture Series | Chasing the Wild Goose

Co-organised by 
NUS Museum and Archaeology Unit (Nalanda Sriwijaya Centre), Institute of Southeast Asian Studies 

Date: Thurs, 21 Mar 2013
Time: 7 - 9.30pm
Venue: NUS Museum
Free admission
To register, please email babahouse@nus.edu.sg

7pm - 8pm - Talk by Patricia Bjaaland Welch
8pm - 8.30pm - Panel discussion with Patricia Bjaaland Welch, John Miksic and Lim Chen Sian
8.30pm - 8.45pm - Q & A

In Chinese ancestral portraits, it was a common practice for subjects holding titles in the Qing court to be depicted in their official robes. There were nine ranks for civilian officials, each represented by a different bird embroidered on a rank badge sewn at the front of the robe. Wee Boon Teck, the second generation patriarch of the family at 157 Neil Road, was conferred a fourth rank represented by a wild goose on the badge. What does this symbol mean in Asian art and culture?

The wild goose or hamsa has been a popular motif in Asia for over 2000 years, featuring in both Hindu and Buddhist art (gazing down at a reclining Vishnu, at Amaravati, on the cross-bars of Buddhist thrones), cave murals and paintings (such as those at Ajanta and Ellora), ancient Indian textiles, as well as figuring in some of the region's best known classical stories, such as the Mahabharata and the Hamsajataka. They appear on Tibetan sutra covers, Kashmiri tiles, as well as Thai royal barges. One of China's most famous pagodas is called 'The Wild Goose Pagoda'. But why?

This was the question our speaker pondered last year, a question that took her on, in her own words, her "wild goose chase". Join us as we travel together with her on this journey discovering the meaning and symbolism of the wild goose, its many forms, and the role it has played in South, Southeast and East Asian religious art.

Patricia Bjaaland Welch, M.A., is a former Lecturer in Asian Religion and Philosophy (College of Liberal Arts, Boston University) and an independent researcher and author of several books including Oxford University Press' Chinese New Year and Tuttle's Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Imagery. She is currently a resident in Singapore, where she is an active docent and lecturer, and a part-time resident in Bangkok.

Prof. John Miksic grew up in western New York State, where he found stone arrowheads made by the Iroquois on his grandfather's farm. In 1976 he participated in his first archaeological expedition, to northern Canada to study Inuit. The next year he joined the Peace Corps and was sent to Malaysia, whereupon he was entranced by the archaeological potential of this region. He obtained his Ph.D. from Cornell in 1979 after studying an ancient port in northeast Sumatra. He lived in Bencoolen for two years, Yogyakarta for six years, and moved to Singapore in 1987. He teaches at the National University of Singapore, and heads the Archaeology Unit in ISEAS.

Lim Chen Sian is presently a Visiting Research Fellow with the Archaeology Unit, ISEAS. His research interest includes material culture from the age of early European contact in Southeast Asia.

Presenting Portraiture is a talk series conceived in conjunction with a two-part exhibition featuring portraits of the Straits Chinese. The first part entitled Dressing the Baba: Recent Donations of Portraits runs till 31 July 2013 at NUS Baba House, whilst the latter commences in late 2013 at NUS Museum. Straits Chinese portraits represent an emerging area of collecting interest and this talk series explores a range of themes, concepts and ideas surrounding the making, collecting and functions of such artworks, including artistic practice and studio processes; pictorial conventions; collecting patterns; technical conservation; iconography and artefacts; and reflections on the social milieu.

Event photos

Event video

Presenting Portraiture Series | Chasing the Wild Goose from nusmuseum on Vimeo.

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