Leaves from the Bodhi Tree: The Art of Pala India (8th-12th Centuries) and Its International Legacy

October 9–December 2, 1990

Since the time of Buddha’s enlightenment in the sixth century, B.C. countless pious visitors to Bodh Gaya have departed from the site carrying with them dark, shining leaves from the sacred bodhi tree. Safeguarded in pockets, books, scraps of cloth, and other makeshift presses, these precious treasures are venerated as living links with the physical body of the Buddha for it was under the predecessor of this very tree that the great sage meditated and attained enlightenment.

From the eighth to the twelfth centuries, the Pala rulers patronized several shrines in the area in which images of the Buddha flowered into their own genres of art. The exhibition contains over one hundred objects illustrating both the golden age of Pala culture and its influence in Myanmar, Thailand, Indonesia, Nepal, Tibet, and China. These works were brought together from distinguished public and private collections from around the world, including The Asia Society of New York, the Asian Art Museum of San Francisco, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, the Royal Ontario Museum, the Pritzker Collection, the Dr. David Nalin Collection, the J. Polak Collection, and the Alsdorf Collection.

Curators: Susan L. Huntington and John C. Huntington, professors of art history at Ohio State University. The exhibition was first displayed at the Dayton Art Institute in Dayton, Ohio

The exhibition was funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the India Foundation of Dayton, the Federal Council on the Arts and Humanities, Dr. David R. Nalin, the Merck Company Foundation, and an anonymous donation from a private fund. The Smart Museum received funding for the exhibition and its accompanying symposium and performances from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council.