Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • What emotion is communicated by the face and posture of the figure in this sculpture? Explain your response.
  • Though the Buddha and bodhisattvas are sometimes presented in art adorned with lavish and decorative material, they actually lived a stoic life removed from material wealth. Their main concentration on earth was aiding others in the attainment of enlightenment or absolute knowledge. Who else can you think of that lives a life helping others?
  • Why might the artist choose to include gold and jewels as materials for this object?
  • What is material wealth? What things provide us material wealth? Consider other types of wealth. What is spiritual wealth? What things besides money or objects make us wealthy (e.g. family, friends, education, love, happiness, health)? Consider phrases like “a wealth of knowledge” or “rich in friends.”

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Sketch the forms and lines that you see in this sculpture. What words would you use to describe them?
  • Research another bodhisattva and write an essay comparing and contrasting the ways it is popularly depicted with this sculpture of Manjusri.
  • This sculpture would have appeared in a Buddhist temple alongside many other Buddhist statues. In groups, research a particular religious or sacred structure from the following list. Create a presentation with images that show the types of materials, sculptures, and other artistic elements used throughout the space. Potential structures: The Hanging Church (Cairo), Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris), Hagia Sophia (Istanbul), Temple of Heaven (Beijing), Angkor Wat (Angkor), Dome of the Rock (Jerusalem). Compare and contrast your discoveries to Manjushri.
  • This sculpture is meant to create an atmosphere of peace and tranquility. Examine the DMA’s Monju (Manjusri) (1970.8), which illustrates Manjusri as an aggressive warrior. Compare and contrast the two images of Manjusri, paying attention to expression, body language, and attributes included.
  • Gilded statues are popular in Buddhist art created in the Himalayas, but in many other contexts, from Mesoamerica to Greece to contemporary hip-hop culture, gold is also placed in a privileged position. In this podcast, a chemist gives his explanation for gold’s ubiquity and importance. Listen to the podcast and write a personal history of gold. Is gold precious? Where does your attitude about gold come from? Is gold’s value purely in its monetary worth or does it hold some deeper value?
  • Divide into pairs and have your partner take the Manjusri’s pose in this sculpture while you complete a sketch of him/her. Then, switch roles and reflect on how each of you felt while sitting in the pose.