The Spirit of Asia: Journeys to the Sacred Places of the East

Michael Freeman, Author, Michael Freeman, Photographer, Alistair Shearer, Text by (Art/Photo Books) Thames & Hudson $40 (208p) ISBN 978-0-500-51023-0
Shearer, author of The Hindu Vision and The Buddha: The Intelligent Heart, brings a rare level of scholarly integrity to this book, which transcends the showy-but-glib coffee-table format. Shearer wisely expands his focus beyond the ""usual suspects"" of sacred sites in Asia--famous Shinto temples, Buddhist stupas, and Hindu shrines--to include personal altars and natural phenomena. Such a whirlwind approach flirts with superficiality, but Shearer offers deep textual insights that match the quality of Freeman's stunning full-color photographs. The book's opening chapter, which profiles sacred trees, springs, mountains and other elements of nature, sets the tone by being surprisingly rich in both text and image. We see an ancient Buddha image carved into the base of an enormous Thai tree and learn how trees symbolize life-giving forces in Buddhism, Hinduism and Jainism. Throughout, Michael Freeman's photographs show not only the holy sites, but the worshiping people who make them holy: one arresting image depicts a woman in the lotus position meditating before an enormous gilded Buddha who is also in the lotus position, his eyes gazing down on her with great affection. The book is thoughtfully organized as a pilgrim tour, with each chapter presenting a spiritual ""journey"" to sacred sites arranged by theme. Refreshingly, Shearer assumes that readers have a basic knowledge of Eastern religions and can follow his skillful ruminations on diverse religious traditions, architecture and history. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 10/02/2000
Release date: 10/01/2000
Genre: Nonfiction
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