Virtual Lecture Series

The Who's Who of Japanese Deities


Date & Time:
Thursday, July 16, 30 & August 13 & 27, 2020 

7:00-7:30PM (PT)

Admission FREE
Registration required
Click here to register

Did you know that the famous Laughing Buddha is actually not a buddha at all or that the meditative buddha is only one type among a multitude? Did you know that the Buddhist heavens are under constant threat by hordes of demons and must therefore be defended by celestial protectors ?

This virtual lecture series will serve as an introduction not only to the categories of Buddhist deity, but to the iconography which will allow laypeople to identify specific figures. We will consider the sacred hand gestures, the weapons and implements, even the clothing, so that audience members can recognize some of the deities portrayed in or around a Japanese temple.

Each lecture will run for 30 minutes with a five minute Q&A session at the end. There will also be a short poll-based quiz to test your knowledge and site recommendations for notable depictions of the highlighted deities.

About the Lecture

Lecture 1: Celestial Beings (July 16)

The celestial beings serve as protectors for the Buddhist cosmos. Often depicted with fearsome faces and war-like postures, many of these deities were once Hindu gods who were ultimately converted to serve the buddhas and bodhisattvas. Some are great commanders of supernatural armies, while others are invoked for more specialized purposes.  

Lecture 2: Wisdom Kings (July 30)

Lecture 3: Bodhisattvas (August 13)

Lecture 4: Buddhas (August 27)


About Lecturer:

Michael VanHartingsveldt

He currently studies Japanese art history at the University of Kansas. He has particular interest in Buddhist sculpture from the Heian and Kamakura periods. As a former Research Scholar of Japanese Art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA), Michael co-curated the exhibition Japanese Paintings: A Walk in Nature with Curator of Japanese Art Hollis Goodall. He has also delivered lectures and curated exhibitions for the Japan Foundation, Los Angeles, and most recently the Catalina Island Museum.