Level 2 has five galleries: Ancient Religion housed in two separate areas, Christian Art Gallery, Scholar Gallery, Islamic Art Gallery and Ancestors & Rituals Gallery. Both the Islamic Art and Ancestors & Rituals Galleries are under renovation, opening in December and early 2019 respectively. In addition, there are two galleries on Level 2 for event space and as a special exhibition gallery.
The Ancient Religion Galleries hold a large collection of Hindu and Buddhist sculptures from Asia. The displays found are from the second century up until the early twentieth century. It also features art objects from Jainism, the third great religion of India.
Hinduism and Buddhism from India spread widely outside India including to Southeast Asia. The development of Hinduism and Buddhism then evolved combining localized features and animistic beliefs. The concepts of the original religions took many forms. – some human, some divine with supernatural powers and some abstract. By the 7th century, the form of the images moved away from those found in India as sculptors started reflecting local characteristics. Hinduism and Buddhism were widely practiced at the royal courts. Kingships even took the form of Vishnu, adding merits to their power. The Srivijayan era in the 7th century saw beautiful objects created depicting kings and their gods. At the height of the Majapahit Empire, Java (13-15th century) developed its own traditions in art, merging two religions into one.
Buddhism became popular between the 8th to 15th century in Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia. This influence lasts until today.
In China, Buddhism grew out of Indian beliefs and was practised alongside Confucius and Taoism. Here, the famous male Avalokitesvara was personified in the form of Goddess of Mercy or Guan Yin, and became a female. The virtue of a compassionate Guan Yin was more suited to a female than a male.
The Christian Art Gallery features collections of art from China, Japan, Middle East, Southeast Asia and other countries. Christianity was introduced by Catholic missionaries from Portugal and Spain, and later Dutch Protestants. The art objects took a different form merging western ideologies with Asian techniques and materials.
The Scholars Gallery showcases Chinese beliefs and philosophy, strongly depicting Confucius teachings and Taoism practiced by scholastic officials. Here are collections of paintings, furniture and objects used by Chinese scholars depicting their lifestyles and their education.