"We were very honored that the minister for culture and the government of Myanmar consented to our request to borrow some enormously important objects, first millennium objects, belonging to the Pyu, early Pyu culture of central Myanmar and we presented those here for the first time," said John Guy, the Curator for South and Southeast Asian Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York during a media preview on Monday.
Until 2012, Myanmar had been closed off to the West. The small country is in the process of political and economic transition after 49 years of military rule.
Among the ancient sculptures on display are a 4th century sandstone throne stele from central Myanmar. The throne stele is an example of the various religions respected in ancient Myanmar.
"This sculpture you are looking at beyond my shoulder is arguably the oldest sculpture in the exhibition. It probably dates to around the 4th century AD and it bears witness to the practice of both Hinduism and Buddhism, one treated on each side of the relief, in the ancient city of Sri Ksetra. We know that kings, the ruling household there, had assumed Sanskrit names and that those names suggest that they were followers of Vishnu. But it's also clear that they patronized Buddhism as well. So both things were coexisting in what appears to be a harmonious way. They were not mutually exclusive," explained Guy.
Also on display is a Khin Ba Relic Chamber Cover from 6th century central Myanmar. The sandstone slab is an example of the ancient Pyu's Buddhist beliefs.
Three fired clay Buddha sculptures, ranging from the 7th to 9th centuries, reveal how Buddhists could accrue religious favor.
In addition to the sculptures from Myanmar, the exhibition also features Buddha sculptures from Thailand and Vishnu sculptures from Vietnam. Art from Cambodia and Malaysia is also on display.
The "Lost Kingdoms" exhibition will be on display at The Metropolitan Museum of Art from April 14 until July 27, 2014.
Rare and ancient artifacts from Myanmar will appear outside of the once-repressed country for the first time ever. The priceless religious sculptures were loaned to The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. The artifacts will appear in a new exhibition called "Lost Kingdoms" Hindu-Buddhist Sculpture of Early Southeast Asia, 5th to 8th Century".