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A Buddha in the Backyard

The exhibition 'A Buddha in the Backyard: Asia as a Source of Inspiration' shows how we surround ourselves with elements from Asian cultures and gives a glimpse into the rich Asia collections of Leiden University. The exhibition runs from January 26 to May 9 and is on display in the exhibition hall of the University Library. It is the first of a series of three exhibitions organized by Leiden University Libraries in the Leiden Asia Year.

From sushi to Pokémon

Kung fu and taekwondo, sushi and curry, Bollywood and Pokémon; they are familiar concepts. A Buddha statue in the garden is the most natural thing in the world. The latest novel by Haruki Murakami is a bestseller. A serving of chicken satay is on the menu of most restaurants. Acupuncture is a known type of traditional medicine. Young people read manga, and films from India get attention of film lovers. 'Asia' is omnipresent. The exhibition presents books, films and articles that originated in Asia and which demonstrate the interaction with Asia, such as the visit of the Beatles to India. 'Asia' is also subject to reinterpretation. Buddha’s and Hindu gods are not designed as a garden decoration. Asian cuisine is more popular than ever, but in Europe generally softened in flavor. The exhibition will show some of these complex relationships.

Rich Asia collection

Indonesia, China and Japan are well represented thanks to the rich Asia collection Leiden University Libraries manages. Also, Korea, Vietnam, India and Thailand are well represented with books, films or other objects. And finally the Netherlands, where Asia is reflected in literature, sports, cuisine and more. The writings of Bruce Lee, an anime movie in Japan or the Chinese epic Journey to the West can be found next to Haasse's Oeroeg, an Asian cookbook for the Dutch market, and a European introduction to Ayurvedic medicine. Highlights of the exhibition include a Japanese acupuncture chart from the middle of the seventeenth century, a Hindu altar journey from India, a Chinese handwriting with massage techniques for children and an annotated edition of The Tale of Genji, the Japanese classic of the 11th century.

About the influence of Asia in Netherlands

For the exhibition 'A Buddha in the Backyard: Asia as a source of inspiration’ several people from the academic world with Asian roots were interviewed. The Thai Pimmanus Wibulsilp experiences that it is easy to start a conversation and learn about other people and their culture with food. Hyojing take notices, with a cheap Buddha figurine in her hands, that she occasionally uses the Western way of referring to the word ‘Zen’, which is totally different from what Zen Buddhism really stands for. Hyojing is surprised about how the image of the Boeddha head is being used in the Netherlands.

Watch the English videos of the interviewees below:

Lead Asia Year

Leiden University is the place in the Netherlands where unique knowledge on Asia is brought together in teaching and research. On 14 September 2017 the University will open its new Asian Library, internationally recognized as one of the world’s leading centres of expertise on Asia. The new library consolidates all the Asia collections for students, researchers and other interested parties under one roof. The Leiden Asia Year celebrates this achievement. Museums, institutions and other partners in Leiden will be contributing to the Leiden Asia Year with special performances and exhibitions or other events focusing on Asia.


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