Introduction to Ceramics in Southeast Asia & An Introduction to Buddhist and Hindu Bronze Sculpture in Southeast Asia with a Case Study on Javanese Bronzes (6th-15th century)


About An Introduction to Buddhist and Hindu Bronze Sculpture in Southeast Asia with a Case Study on Javanese Bronzes (6th-15th century)

Bronze – an alloy of copper and tin – has been used since the prehistoric period in Southeast Asia for everyday objects as well as for sacred and ritual art objects. In this lecture, we will introduce the simultaneous development of Buddhist and Hindu bronze sculpture in mainland and maritime Southeast Asia from the 6th century onwards. These bronze statues were both artistic representations of deities and consecrated objects, investing them with the living presence of the divine. We will see that while some small statuettes circulated with pilgrims travelling via the region’s maritime trade routes, the larger statues functioned within temples, commissioned by powerful political elites. We will explore how their religious nature and the context of their use impacted the fabrication techniques employed by craftsmen, and how stylistic exchange developed between Southeast Asian regions, as well as with India and China. Finally, utilising groups of bronzes forming maṇḍalas, we will investigate how bronze sculptures in Central and East Java evolved over a period of time.

About Introduction to Ceramics in Southeast Asia

Why are ceramics so ubiquitous in the study of Southeast Asian art history and material culture? The art historian William Willetts identified ceramics (and textiles) as the most “elemental inventions” in this region (Brown 1988). This lecture will introduce innovative moments in the development of the region’s ceramic traditions. Drawing extensively on examples from regional museum collections, we will explore some of the major discoveries from land and marine archaeological sites. We will ask how ceramics functioned as commodities and carriers of cultural significance, and what they tell us about potters and end-users from as early as 4,000 years ago. We will also look at technological and stylistic developments in relation to imported ceramics from China and other regions from the late first millennium CE onwards, and how local kilns subsequently mass-produced and distributed large quantities of ceramics via the region’s maritime trade routes. And finally, the enduring legacy of these rich ceramic traditions will be discussed, as they exist today in ritual practices and the local knowledge of potters, collectors and consumers of ceramics.

For more information on the webinar series, click here.

About the Speakers

Mr Eko Bastiawan is an independent researcher and an Alphawood scholarship alumnus who completed a Postgraduate Diploma in Asian Art (2016) and a Master in History of Art and Archaeology (2017) at SOAS. His MA research focused on groups of miniature bronzes from Central and East Java. He is interested in Old Javanese inscription and has been part of the project DHARMA since 2019. He is active in local communities in East Java aiming to preserve and conserve archaeological remains.

Dr Mathilde Mechling received her PhD in 2020 from University Sorbonne Nouvelle and Leiden University. Her thesis focused on Hindu and Buddhist bronze statuary from the Indonesian Archipelago, developing an interdisciplinary methodology combining stylistic and iconographic analyses, archaeometallurgy, archaeology, and religious aspects. Most recently, she published “The Indonesian Bronze-Casting Tradition: Technical Investigations on Thirty-Nine Indonesian Bronze Statues (7th–11th c.) from the Musée National des Arts Asiatiques – Guimet, Paris” (BEFEO 104, 2018) with David Bourgarit (C2RMF), Brice Vincent (EFEO), and Pierre Baptiste (Musée Guimet). She is a member of the scientific committee of the CAST:ING project.

Dr Heidi Tan is a founding curator of the Asian Civilisations Museum (ACM) in Singapore where she worked from 1996 to 2014. She was responsible for developing the Southeast Asian collections, including Chinese and Southeast Asian ceramics. She curated permanent galleries and special exhibitions that highlighted major acquisitions including the Hickley Collection of Dehua porcelain, the Belitung Cargo, and Vietnamese ceramics donated by Dr Earl Lu and Joe Grimberg amongst others. She was an Alphawood Foundation scholar at SOAS University of London (2014-18) where she completed her thesis: Meritorious Curating and the Renewal of Pagoda Museums in Myanmar. A Postdoctoral Research Associate, she is currently publishing her doctoral research and occasionally lectures in the Department of the History of Art at SOAS.


This webinar will be delivered online entirely. You can join the webinar at the specified date and time using devices (computer, phone, or tablet) with internet connection.

Please register here to receive your unique link for joining the webinar.

Limited spaces only, register early to avoid disappointment.

To join the webinar,
1. Install the Zoom client onto your computer or download the app on your mobile device.
2. Click on the unique link in your email.

If you have questions for the panellists, please key in your questions via the Q&A, stating your name and affiliation. The moderator will field them to the panellist during the Q&A session.


Nov 01 2021


3:00 pm - 4:30 pm