With the evolution and movement of Buddhism came Buddhist art which varied from time to time and culture to culture. Today, the collections of art forms and continued creations are astoundingly individual. This type of art, used to depict the Buddha and religious practices, began in the 6th to 5th centuries B.C. on the Indian subcontinent. As Buddhism spread across Asia and the world, so did the art. In India specifically, however, Buddhist art directly influenced the popular Hindu art, which has since taken prominence in the country.
Art forms varied throughout times with the earliest pieces being carvings and tablets depicting teachings and important religious practices. Some pieces contained symbols, others the words of the Buddha. As time continued, pieces became more elaborate and distinguished. One piece of art that has remained the same, however, is the statue of the Buddha himself. While different interpretations are certainly made, having a carved stone, wood, or gold statue of the Buddha is a common sight.
Buddhist art forms are also divided between the northern and southern regions. Just as cultural habits, recipes, and family customs differ from region to region and country to country, so does the art. The northern region was decidedly influenced by the great Silk Road which was travelled by many prominent figures. Having such notable Buddhists travelling throughout the region pushed the art forms to a new level of richness.
The northern art which spreads through countries such as China, Korea, Afghanistan, Japan, Tibet, and Vietnam includes everything from statues to paintings, fabric work and calligraphy. Each country's culture combined with the major ideas of Buddhism to create country-unique art.
The southern regions from countries such as Myanmar, Cambodia, Thailand, and Indonesia, do not differ in the art form types as they are also known for their many statues and carvings. However, the material used and design presented is quite a bit less elaborate and shiny. These Buddhist statues are more commonly carved from plain stone. However, some of these countries, particularly Thailand, have gilded temples which shine with carvings, embellishments, and artistic beauty.
Buddhist art is intriguing, colourful, and beautiful-a window into the soul of one of the world's most popular religion. What is depicted in the art forms of Buddhism leads many to further discovery of the religion or perhaps to a greater study of the art itself. Wherever one is lead from viewing such monumental art, we can all conclude that Buddhist art is one-of-a-kind.