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Southeast Asia in the British Pathé Film Archive

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British Pathé was once a dominant feature of the British cinema experience. Before the advent of television, millions around the globe came to movie theatres for their weekly dose of filmed news. The birth of this phenomenon took place when renowned French filmmaker Charles Pathé came to London in 1910 to introduce an innovative medium to British audiences – the cinema newsreel.

Over the course of a century, British Pathé reported on everything from armed conflicts and seismic political crises to the curious hobbies and eccentric lives of ordinary British people. In so doing, the organisation set the benchmark for cinematic journalism, blending information and entertainment with unparalleled success and influencing whole generations of Britons.

British Pathé is considered to be the most comprehensive newsreel archive in the world and is a treasure trove of 85,000 films unrivalled in their historical and cultural significance. Spanning the years from 1896 to 1976, the collection includes footage from around the globe of major events, famous people, fashion trends, travel, science and culture. Over the last 40 years, this material has been used extensively by broadcasters, production companies, corporations, publishers, teachers and museums, among many others. Now most of the material is available publicly via the British Pathé website for viewing and educational purposes.

Almost 300 film clips can be found for Indochina, for example. Although most of the footage is related to the war in Indochina, there are also clips documenting the lives of ordinary people, the cultural traditions of various ethnic groups and outstanding Southeast Asian landscapes.

A keyword search for “Burma” reveals over 200 film clips. One particularly interesting short film documents the Water Festival as is was celebrated in Yangon in 1946. Another very rare film shows footage of East African soldiers who fought in Burma in the 1940s.

Just over one hundred clips are related to Thailand/Siam, mainly covering state visits, political events and some cultural topics. A very short film gives insight into the life of young Prince Ananda at his school in Lausanne. Fun to watch is a documentation of Prince Birabongse winning the Ulster T.T. race in Northern Ireland.

Hundreds more films deal with events in Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Brunei, including the coronation of the Sultan of Johor in 1960.

 

The Emergence of Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia: Southeast Asian Perspectives

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Symposium to be held on July 3, 2015

Oganised by THE SOUTHEAST ASIA ART AND ARCHAEOLOGY ACADEMIC PROGRAMME AT SOAS

Mainland Southeast Asia underwent major civilizational transitions when the Hindu-Mahayana Buddhist Angkorian Empire met its end over the 13th-15th centuries and Theravada Buddhism emerged in its wake. While Angkor remained a reference for the new states that developed across the mainland, Theravada Buddhism structured the cultural, social and political forms which continue to define the region. Given the importance of these changes, astonishingly little is understood about how it actually happened, notably in the Angkorian heartland itself. By supporting interdisciplinary exchange on the Theravadin material heritage across the Southeast Asian region (including Sri Lanka) during this transitional period this symposium aims to begin to redress this gap in our regional understandings.

Knowledge on the emergence of Theravada Buddhism in Cambodia is partially due to the nature of the transformation itself: marking an abrupt halt in the prolific stone temple construction, statuary production and epigraphic composition which had characterized the Angkorian Kingdom for more than four centuries, the early Cambodian Theravadin complex left relatively little easily accessible material evidence for its future study.

This relative lack has been compounded by scholarly privileging of the spectacular accomplishments of Angkor since the beginning of modern scholarship in the colonial period. Times did change however, and it is time that the body of research on the early post-Angkorian period in the post-colonial era be collectively evaluated and pursued.

Temples and stupas were built and rebuilt, statues were sculpted and retouched, texts were composed and recomposed, practices evolved and legends were born.

Out of this work, the Cambodian state was given new life in and beyond Angkor and, in such, confirmed the hold Theravada had across the region.

The dominant structuring of modern scholarship on the basis of national borders has further limited our understandings of the phenomenon at hand. Certain Theravadin forms and practices came to Cambodia from somewhere else at this time. From where? Why?

And how? What can be discerned about and from the specificities of the Cambodian complex in relation to its Theravadin relatives? By bringing together scholars from across the region, and across disciplines, we aim to break new ground on early Cambodian Theravada and, in turn, shed light on mainland developments as a whole.

Requests for more detailed information and expressions of interest should be sent to:

sg74@soas.ac.uk and at50@soas.ac.uk

SEALG Annual Meeting 2015

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Dear members and friends of the Southeast Asia Library Group,

We are glad to inform you that the next SEALG Annual Meeting is being organized as a joint conference with the SAALG (South Asia Archive and Library Group) and will take place in Paris on Friday 3rd and Saturday 4th July 2015. This will be just before the EurASEAA15 Conference in Paris (6-10 July).
The tentative format of the Annual Meeting is as follows:

Friday, 3rd July:
– SEALG and SAALG meet at EFEO for a mixture of SEA and SA topic talks during the day
Theme: “The French Connection – with South and Southeast Asia”
Venue and time : more details will be circulated nearer the time
– joint SAALG and SEALG dinner

Saturday, 4th July
– visit to the Musee Guimet in the morning
– SEALG panel of additional talks on topics other than the “French Connection” – a Call for Papers will be circulated to SEALG members soon

Please keep following this blog for updates!

On behalf of the SEALG committee and chair,

Doris Jedamski (d.a.jedamski@library.leidenuniv.nl)

Southeast Asian exhibits at Musee Guimet

Southeast Asian exhibits at Musee Guimet

New issue of SEALG Newsletter online

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The latest issue of the SEALG Newsletter (No. 46, 2014) has been published recently and is available online at http://www.sealg.org/Newsletter2014.pdf or via the SEALG homepage (under ‘Newsletter’).

Included in the newsletter is the report of our group’s annual meeting that took place in June 2014 in Frankfurt, Germany, as well as articles and project reports, some written by SEALG members and others authored by members of the research community. We are very glad to be able to establish and to further enhance the links between librarians and researchers with this new issue of our newsletter.

The contents of the newsletter in detail:

Report of the SEALG Annual Meeting 2014 in Frankfurt

A study of nineteenth century Malay school books in the Malay Peninsula (by Lim Peng Han, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur)

The Museum and Ethnic Struggles (by Gumring Hkangda, Royal Pavilion & Museums, Brighton & Hove)

Burmese royal barges and boats (by San San May, British Library, London)

The beautiful art of Tai palm leaf manuscripts (by Jana Igunma, British Library, London)

Indonesian manuscripts in the Vatican Library (by Anthony Reid, Australian National University, Canberra)

A preservation project for Cham manuscripts in Vietnam (by Hao Phan, Northern Illinois University Libraries, DeKalb)

Announcement: 2015 Annual Meeting of SEALG and SAALG in Paris

To receive regular information about the publication of new issues of the the SEALG Newsletter, and of news from our group in general, you may either become a member of SEALG via the SEALG homepage or you may subscribe to this blog. Please feel free to forward this information to anyone who may be interested in our work.

Jana Igunma (SEALG committee member)

newsletter front page

92nd Conference of the South Asia Archive and Library Group

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We are pleased to announce that the next South Asia Archive and Library Group conference will take place on Friday 30th January, 2015 at the Salvation Army International Heritage Centre in South London.

The conference will include the following talks plus a chance to view items from the Salvation Army’s archive collection and museum displays, as well as the SAALG Business Meeting.

‘Cataloguing the Michael Stokes Indian postcard collection’ Rosie Llewellyn-Jones (Archivist, Royal Society for Asian Affairs)

‘Searching for Mahabharatas: An inquiry into the modern adaptations of an Indian ‘national epic’ in Hindi and English cultural spheres’ Chimnay Sharma (PhD Candidate, SOAS University of London)

‘Three books about South India in the days of the Raj. Discovering the life and work of the photographer A. T. W. Penn’ – Christopher Penn (Independent Researcher, Author)

‘Digitising with volunteers: the experience of the Centre of South Asian Studies’ – Dr. Kevin Greenbank (Archivist, Centre of South Asian Studies, University of Cambridge).

The conference fee is £20 including lunch and refreshments and is payable on the day. If you would like to attend please fill in the online booking form . For more information, you may contact Helen Porter (contact details included on the online booking form).

(forwarded from the SAALG Committee)

Burmese manuscripts on ‘The Life of the Buddha’ online

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Although the details of the life of the Buddha are not known for certain, there is scholarly consent that Gautama Buddha was an actual historical figure who lived around the 5th century BCE. Certain events of the Buddha’s life were recorded in the Buddhist traditions of South and Southeast Asia. The life of the Buddha is a favorite subject of Buddhist art, including manuscript painting.

In the Burmese manuscript tradition, ‘The Life of the Buddha’ plays an important role although it is not known when exactly the first manuscripts on this topic were produced due to the fact that few pre-18th century manuscripts have survived. However, narrative representations of the Buddha’s life can be traced back at least to the 11th century when episodes from the Buddha’s life were depicted on sculptured friezes, plaques and mural paintings in the ancient capital Pagan.

By the 19th century, series of manuscripts illustrating the life of the Buddha were produced and re-produced due to their great popularity. In this context, the Burmese manuscript tradition stands out among the Buddhist countries in Southeast Asia. The format of these manusripts is usually the parabaik, a paper folding book.

The British Library holds various illustrated parabaik manuscripts dedicated to ‘The Life of the Buddha’. Two of them  were described in detail by Patricia Herbert in her book ‘The life of the Buddha’ (British Library, 1993). Three more ‘Life of the Buddha’ manuscripts have been fully digitised recently in a digitisation project funded by the Henry Ginsburg Legacy. All three manuscripts are now available to view online on the British Library’s Digitised Manuscripts page (Or.14197, Or.4762Or.5757). More details about these manuscripts can be found in an article by San San May, Curator for Burmese at the British Library, with the title ‘Burmese scenes from the Life of the Buddha’.

Scene from 'The Life of the Buddha', British Library Or.5757

Scene from ‘The Life of the Buddha’, British Library Or.5757

Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā online

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In 2009, the French School of Asian Studies (École française d’Extrême-Orient, EFEO) launched the project Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā (CIC), aiming to renew the tradition of scholarship on these inscriptions that had thrived at the institution in the early 20th century.

The primary aim of the project is to update and to continue the EFEO inventory of the inscriptions of Campā, compiled in the early decades of the 20th century by the renowned scholar George Cœdès. In this inventory, each inscription received a unique ‘C.’ number (C = Campā), under which were recorded various types of useful information, such as: the place where the inscription had been found; the place where it was currently located (if it had been moved after discovery); the language(s) used in it; its date; availability of reproductions of it in public libraries; bibliography of publications about the inscription. A first version of this inventory was published in 1908, comprising 118 entries; a revised and updated version came out in 1923, and at that time the list comprised 170 entries; supplements published in 1937 and 1942 raised the total first to 196, and finally to 200 entries. After this, the inventory fell into disuse, and for many decades there was no central registration of newly discovered inscriptions, or of changes in the situation of previously registered items.

And it was not only the maintenance of an inventory that came to be neglected. After a small handful of publications of inscriptions of Campā by EFEO scholars that appeared in the 1920s and 1930s, the study of these inscriptions, inside and outside the EFEO, came to a complete stop due to World War II and the subsequent period of Vietnamese struggle for independence and reunification. At that time, only about half of all known inscriptions had been published, and in general the study of inscriptions in Sanskrit language had received much more attention — at least it had advanced more significantly — than that of inscriptions in Cam. Most Cam-language inscriptions whose texts had been published, had been published without translations. Even the existing translations were almost never precise renderings of the originals, but rather loose patch-works of understood, guessed and ignored elements of the originals. In this situation, the second important aim of the CIC project is to publish texts and translations of the inscriptions whose existence was known but had not yet been published; bring out texts and translations of newly discovered inscriptions; publish translations of texts that had been published without any translations; and, last but not least, review the texts published by previous scholars, which often allows the correction of wrong readings, and hence improvement in the interpretation of texts published a long time ago.

The project has opted for a two-pronged publication strategy. Results are being published in traditional print publications, both through international journals (mainly in French), and through publications in Vietnam (using Vietnamese). But simultaneously an online database is being developed, bringing together the corpus in its entirety, and presenting the most up-to-date versions of descriptions and translations of the individual inscriptions. About fifty detailed descriptions, some with translations, are accessible on this database already, with more information being added continuously. A very useful bibliography complements these online descriptions. To access the list of inscriptions, please view the homepage of the Corpus of the Inscriptions of Campā (CIC).

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