2022 Kaohsiung, Taiwan
Collaborator: Jeffrey Shaw, Venerable Ru Chang, Prof. Lewis Lancaster
The Atlas of Maritime Buddhism stands as an exceptional collection comprising an extensive array of sites and artifacts spanning India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and China. It holds the distinction of being the world's largest archive of fully immersive, high-resolution panoramic, and panoptic 3D images. This monumental compilation is a testament to the enduring legacy of Buddhism, which has flourished across centuries and continues to thrive today. From the earliest rock-cut caves in India to revered stupas and temples, many of these sanctified spaces have attained recognition as national heritage monuments and UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
This vast archive not only encompasses a wealth of content but also establishes a digital framework that grants museum visitors an entirely new mode of exploration. Through this digital platform, participants are empowered to delve into profound sensory experiences that traverse both space and time. The exhibition has its roots in extensive documentary fieldwork conducted across seven countries, supplemented by meticulous research into the design and immersive experiences of mapped spaces. The result is an exhibition that offers an unprecedented level of engagement.
Central to the Atlas is its revelation of the intrinsic connection between sculpture and architecture. The ornamentation of building walls with monumental reliefs, often depicting Buddha and Bodhisattvas, key figures on the path to enlightenment, was widespread along the maritime route. Within the exhibition's installations, viewers are guided on an interactive spatial voyage through countless Buddhist temple complexes, presented in panoramic form. The immersive visual display includes auditory recordings of temple sounds and surrounding landscapes. Moreover, the collection features 3D-modeled sculptural objects, showcasing some of the finest artifacts from Asia, many of which remain rarely seen outside their country of origin.
The Atlas of Maritime Buddhism introduces a pioneering concept of "deep mapping", informed by cutting-edge research funded by the Australian Research Council Linkage scheme. Spearheaded by Sarah Kenderdine, in collaboration with partners in the United States, Hong Kong, and China, this initiative seeks to redefine narrative coherence in digital cultural atlases. This "deep mapping" framework permits users to dynamically manipulate the atlas, allowing for semantically rich, performative, and discursive exploration. Unlike conventional maps, which historically aimed for fixed representations, this approach acknowledges that maps are fluid and constantly regenerated through travel, navigation, and engagement with place.
The Atlas is born from a collaborative effort involving a multitude of institutions and experts from around the world. This partnership facilitated extensive fieldwork, utilizing advanced technologies like gigapixel spherical photography, stereoscopic panoramas, photogrammetry for 3D modeling, and immersive surround sound recordings. Through these tools, the team captured the essence of hundreds of sites and sculptures with unparalleled accuracy.
Noteworthy is the pivotal role played by scholars such as Lewis Lancaster, whose Electronic Cultural Atlas Initiative laid the groundwork for the Atlas of Maritime Buddhism. This initiative involves diverse historical materials, geospatial data, narratives of religious and geopolitical empires, and various other components. These collective efforts redefine mapping as a dynamic and co-constitutive process, fostering diverse interactions and perspectives.
Ultimately, the Atlas of Maritime Buddhism is an extraordinary testament to the convergence of cutting-edge technology, cultural heritage preservation, and the exploration of Buddhism's rich history and impact on the world.