Final project: Reflection


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The object we have chosen, the Vajrayana and prajnaparimita needed a tactful approach as we are dealing with the often disparate topics of religion and sex. In order to communicate our ideas on esotericism, we had to first go into deep research and understand our topic clearly in order to execute the right content to our audience and in clarity.

Also, I’ve learnt that it was good experiment before executing on our actual project. We did so by showing our course mates images of the chosen object and we came to realize that the yab-yum is indeed widely misinterpreted with their reactions. When asked for their interpretation of the object, words such as ‘sex’, ‘overly-attached girlfriend’ and ‘ blasphemy’ were collated from a verbal survey.

With our world of over-stimulated sexual imagery and media, to witness union in peace and stillness can be an instant paradox to such a conditioned mind.

We felt that the responses were a concern and decided to focus on bringing attention to esoteric art for our visual response and challenge ourselves to educate fellow arts students regarding this paradox.

As I brainstormed further, it dawned upon me that on one hand, the nature of the yab-yum’s suggestive form captures attention, while at the same time, our concern was to bring Esoteric Buddhist art to attention. A eureka moment struck when I thought of incorporating the two ideas together.

Our final execution consisted of a moving graphics poster shown on the wall by a projector. The animated yab-yum has visually striking colours that aims to draw people’s attention towards it, on top of the attention grabbing yab-yum icon. Audience will find flaps on the projected image that contains an explanation of esoteric art.

Thought process was put into the final image’s design for it to not look too sexualized just for the sake of drawing attention and at the same time having strong aesthetics to catch the eye. Applying what has been taught for colour theory and design principles, complimentary colours were used to create a slight dissonance yet attraction towards the yab-yum.

I’ve learnt to take things not too literally and ask myself questions before I go into conclusions about an artwork or anything. I’ll end here with a quote to always ask yourself: Are you a thinker or a believer?


Artist statement (Yab-yum) – second draft

Artist statement


This artwork aims to make known a form of Esoteric Buddhism also known as Tantric/Vajrayana Buddhism. The yab-yum bronze icons of Tantric Buddhism often strike the layman as hedonistic celebrations of eroticism but are in fact meditational devices a Tantric worshipper uses. In this project titled The Sex Mudra Paradox, we tackle a paradoxical theme of religion & sex.

Due to the influence of sexual stereotypes and sexually suggestive content portrayed in mass media today, viewers of these objects may misinterpret the work and overlook the religious aspect of such artwork. This was also a reason that the Vajradhara and Prajnaparamita at the Asian Civilizations Museum particularly caught our attention with its non-conventional posture of a Buddha and a deity.

We feel the need to educate non-practitioners of the religion of its actual meaning as the imagery is often misunderstood and sexualized. The key meaning behind the union of a male and female in this yab-yum position aims to convey non-duality. However, when taken too literally, it conveys the exact opposite. The distortion of meaning has made it important to search for ways to represent this idea more accurately and less misleadingly.

We have designed a motion graphics poster  be projected along the common walkway of our school. Flaps are placed over the censored parts of the image, which contains a description slip to explain what they see. The visually striking image of the yab-yum seeks to attract students to take a closer look and interact with these flaps. They are also invited to take pictures and post on social media with the hashtag #itstotallynotsex

Through this sort of larger scale projection and interactivity, it ultimately aims to capture as many viewers’ attention, interact with the flaps and fix the misinterpretation of non-tantra practitioners.

295 words

Work Allocation

First draft: Val

First draft edit: Tiffany

Second draft: Val

#itstotallynotsex – The Sex Mudra Paradox

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Vajradhara and Prajnaparamita Nepal/ Tibet, 14th or 15th century Gilded copper alloy

Key things to note about the object

  • Vajradhara is a form of the historical Buddha found in Esoteric Buddhism
  • Prajnaparamita: the Perfection of (Transcendent) Wisdom; Union represents attainment of knowledge
  • Yabyum posture: tantric sexual embrace (tantra)

What we see is an object from Asian Civilisation’s Museum. Let’s bring our attention to the posture itself. Despite being known as the sexual union, the yab-yum position is not about sex. what is this Yab-yum all about?

Yab-Yum is the symbol of divine union. It is the posture in which man and women are united between Heaven and Earth: a classic meditation posture

But when taken too literally, its meaning is misunderstood and translated entirely opposite.

Ha, gotcha sick minds.

But pardon yourselves, when we saw the object at ACM, our reactions were epic:

Ruotong: I thought both are homosexual or something, no offense

Val: *rolling on floor laughing* while wondering if this is a legit museum item or someone just did something blasphemous

Tiff: Holy **** <- well, literally.

Why we chose it

This definitely stood out among the rest with the reaction and attention of other museum goers that walked past it. Also, everyone else was choosing Yakshi and we weren’t really inspired by the pieces of ceramics. We knew we needed something that could capture the attention of audience for the purpose of educating them. (not making use of a glib sexual visual *cough* *yakshi*)


Short-term goal: Let our audiences know more about Tantric Buddhism and learn to view things in different point of view.

Long-term goal: Make the society more open to different form of arts/culture/point of views.

Essentially, to educate the audience on esotericism in art and perhaps religion, since both are interdependent.

And finally, The Claim

From the above, we gathered that A yab-yum icon is misleading in many ways due to its anthropomorphic form, hence the idea of it is sexualized. 

Revised claim

After more thought process, I’ll argue that the Yab-yum is actually about gender and not sex.

Why so?

  • Yab-yum literally translates to “father-mother” in Tibetan.
  • In Indian Tantra it is about the masculine as a passive meditator with the feminine as a dancing shakti in his lap… pure awareness meeting pure energy.
  • And more points to be added in the artist statement

So what’re the mediums?


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We are most likely going with the motion poster, where it will be projected on the walls somewhere around level 2 of ADM.

There will be physical flaps of black paper which invites people to open them; description of the poses will written to enlighten the audience

Social Media Movement

Also, we aim for beautiful visuals for the projection so students will take photos in front of the projection and create their artsy Instagram shot, coupled with the hashtag #itstotallynotsex to start the ball rolling on educating the public about esoteric buddhism.


Anderson, Sam. Watching People Watching People Watching. New York: Times Magazine, 25 November 2011.

Niyogi, Puspa. Buddhist Divinities. New Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal Publishers, 2001.

Shaw, Miranda Eberle. Buddhist Goddesses of India. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006

Shaw, Miranda. Passionate enlightenment: Women in tantric Buddhism. Princeton University Press, 1995.

Davidson, Ronald M. Tibetan renaissance: Tantric Buddhism in the rebirth of Tibetan culture. Columbia University Press, 2005.

Special Thanks

For all the great fun this sem G7! You guys were a hilarious and fun group that made me excited for art history tutorials on Thursdays! And thanks Sujatha for the tea parties and samosas! Appreciate the thought! See everyone during the critique next week!


Final Project: Visit to NUS Museum

For our team, we initially thought of focusing on Terracotta warriors. Unfortunately, there are none in Singapore. After emailing Sujatha, we headed down to NUS Museum to look at a similar medium – shards & ceramics.

Nice exterior of the architecture. Really empty that day, therefore I get a clean shot!


We found a museum and an orang utan. Oh right, this is lee kong chian museum, wrong one. Don’t be mixed up if you guys are coming, unless you wanna meet furry friend too!


We moved to the next building, and found the ceramics exhibition!

There were two exhibitions going on, one on ceramics and one on vietnam war.

Ceramics & painting

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Interesting but mmm let’s see more since we’re already here!

Vietnam War Posters





‘For whom, for what you’re dying’ <- This particular line struck us.

Initially, we thought of using the Terracotta warriors with an Ah Boys to Men reference. This is somewhat linked to the idea of war and army and we are thinking of incorporating this whole idea with NS in Singapore.

Brainstorming in progress!

And that’s all for now, ciao! 🙂


Art History Team Presentation: Chinese Buddhist Art

This might come in belated, but better late than never! Approaching the end of semester, it’s also good to reflect on the past topics we’ve learnt.

As you guys have found out, my team went to three locations (Asian Civilisation Museum, Kwan Im Tho Hood Cho & Thekchen Choling) on the search of the answers to our project: What is this Chinese Buddhism art thing all about?

These are my partners in crime and our journey started on 23 January 2016IMG_0777Mandatory ACM shot featuring someone from Team 1 from another tutorial group at the back

Asian Civilization Museum

Being well ahead of the schedule (our presentation was three weeks away then), we did not have any idea about Chinese Buddhism or what to even start with. We started taking lots of pictures related to Buddhist Art aimlessly and even joined the museum tour. However, we couldn’t gather enough information to form a central idea for our presentation.

So we started taking even more pictures.IMG_0688


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We gave up and zoomed off to the temple in hopes to be enlightened.

Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho

Unfortunately, we were at Kwan Im Thong Hood Cho during a really peak period – a week before Chinese New Year. It was too crowded which made the environment unsuitable for an interview with devotees even.

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 9.38.40 PMMoshing through the Chinatown crowd to get to the temple

Screen Shot 2016-03-21 at 9.39.59 PMOh no, way too crowded. Leave.

We decided to meet on another time as we were really exhausted from this adventure.

21 Feb 2016 – My birthday

Thekchen Choling

It was interesting to spend my birthday at a temple right after church. We arrived at Thekchen Choling temple in Lavender and in that moment, we knew this was a place with answers.

You know things are going right when you get free wifi, while humbly standing in courts of a Tibetan Temple. Enlightenment music played in my head the moment we were connected to the wifi and started surfing their website.

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We got to know more about the processions and pujas that take place in the temple. Leon and Huizhong even partook in the blessing while I observed at a corner.

For our presentation, we focused mainly on the experience of a Chinese Buddhist devotee when they visit the temple and we did it in the form of a ‘walkthrough’.


Apart from learning why are there so many forms of Buddha and experiencing temple visits myself, I’ve discovered that religions are actually linked to one another. Lord Indrah from Hinduism was found in this Buddhist temple. And it is through art and form that we are able to see religions overlapping each other, resulting in some forms of religious appropriation.

Least but not least, I made great friends! It was tons of fun going all out for this project and going crazy with these teammates! Work hard, play hard.
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+1 Enlightenment points for us.

Research Assignment Proposal

The essay topic I have selected is on Chinese Tomb Art. I would like to address the various types of Chinese Tomb Art and compare an armored and an unarmored terracotta figure from the Qin dynasty, applying both visual and contextual analysis to my findings.

The article I will start with is a thought invoking article by Martin Joseph’s book:

Bibliography reference

  • Powers, Martin J., and Katherine R. Tsiang. 2016. A Companion To Chinese Art. Blackwell Publishing.

The book discusses on the rich belief of the afterlife among traditional Chinese that dates back to the Shang dynasty and how it employs different forms of funerary art used to reaffirm important cultural values such as filial piety.

The author also addresses a question for thought, whether funerary art can be considered “fine art” as there were no evidences of people regarding the tomb as a form of art in early China although tomb décor or individual artifacts might be admired for their artistry. He provides further evidence that mundane objects such as ceramics were not created as fine art but is now considered a work of collectible art during modern times.

These objects are mentioned by the author to serve their main purpose of honoring people of high-rank or to serve in ceremonial settings. Moving to the next level, author also questions whether “tomb art” actually does exists.

A possible outline for my essay is the following (sections and section headings subject to change):


  • Address how the Chinese have a strong belief in the afterlife and a spirit path to it that needed facilitating, hence the importance of tomb art.
  • What is tomb art and the various types of it (Chamber paintings, tomb pottery, ritual bronzes and guardian sculptures)
  • State that the focus of my essay on tomb art is on Terracotta figures and narrowed down to comparing and the similarities and differences between an armored infantryman and an unarmored infantryman.
  • State my claim of how the figures are carefully crafted individually and high level of intricate detail that allows it to be called a piece of fine art


  • Compares the similarity of Terracotta figures in terms of material, facial features and expression
  • Followed by comparing the differences in terms of pit placement, posture and the usage of weapons



  • Examines the unarmored Terracotta figure in terms of material, facial features, expression, pit placement, posture and the usage of weapons and provide contextual knowledge
  • Followed by examining the armored Terracotta figure in the same aspects as the previous one, also providing contextual referencing




  • How these details are crafted on the terracotta figures went through several levels of thought process and planning which translate it into a piece of fine art
  • The fact that it is an ‘eigth-wonder of the world’ tells a lot about the workmanship and the number of craftsmen that crafted this work of art


Favourite temple in Singapore

Every time as I’m on the topic of temples in Singapore with friends, this particular temple will never fail to pop up in the conversation – you guessed it, it’s this one you see here

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Buddha Tooth Relic Temple and Museum

It’s impressive architecture has made it a hit with tourists as well as educational heritage trails amongst schools

Screen Shot 2016-02-05 at 1.44.36 PMTang-dynasty style architecture and intricate details never cease to amuse me

I’ve been there a couple of times for field trips and I never knew that this temple costs S$75 million to set up.

It’s based on the elements of the Tang Dynasty and the Buddhist Mandala, which is a representation of the Buddhist universe.

What makes this temple my favourite is also the fact that it’s not just a pretty look on its own but it also holds relics (bone and tongue of Buddha), as its name suggest, which further brings value to this temple. Furthermore, it’s both a temple and a museum! So much history and value in one place itself!

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The main Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is on the ground floor while the Buddhist museum is on the third floor.

Thousands of artwork (paintings, statues, tapestry, etc) related to Buddha and Buddhism are featured in this temple. Perhaps its really a place to visit for asian art history to come alive.


What’s really amazing about this temple is the giant stupa it houses that is made from 320kg of gold, of which 234kg were donated by devotees.

We’ve learnt about temple devotees in lecture that they make these donations in order to earn themselves good karma and merit to live a prosperous life and many lives ahead.


Each temple is dedicated to a certain deity/ god and as for The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple, its dedicated to the Maitreya Buddha (Compassionate One, also known as The Future Buddha).

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Not just a temple and museum

I also recalled that this is is not only a temple and a museum, there is also a rooftop garden, a library, a vegetarian restaurant in the basement and a bookstore.

Perhaps its accessible location in Chinatown has generated an influx our visitors and especially tourists, commercializing the scene quite a bit here.

Being a shutterbug now, I’d like to back here soon to try out some long exposure shots!

Anyone wants to come along? 🙂