These days, more and more people are meditating. Yoga is hugely popular. We even have what might justifiably be called a ‘mindfulness industry’ in the West. There are some 500 Buddhist centres in the Netherlands alone. THE BUDDHA, a new major exhibition focusing on one of the most inspiring figures in world history, will open at Museum Volkenkunde on 12 February. What makes the life story of this spiritual leader so intriguing? How do people perceive and experience Buddhism in the early 21st century? The exhibition explores these and other questions. Join us on a journey round the world of Buddhism, discover all kinds of interesting facts, and experience the unifying power of this global religion.

For many Dutch people, a Buddha statue evokes memories of travelling in Asia, where these statues and Buddhist temple complexes are a cultural highlight. To others, the Buddha might be a symbol of calm, a counterbalance to today’s complex, high-speed world. Huge numbers of us meditate. Every large Dutch town has a Buddhist centre. The exhibition reveals what different people hope to find in Buddhism.


The reports, impressive photographs and interviews in THE BUDDHA take visitors on a journey through the most important Buddhist regions on earth, where this religion was important long ago, and is often still vibrant today. We look at places of pilgrimage and the important festivals celebrated in different countries. The journey takes us to Thailand, India, Indonesia, China, Myanmar, Japan, Tibet; from the ancient Chinese monasteries and the Buddha’s birthplace in Nepal, to Borobudur in Indonesia. And we will travel round our own country, too. Four brand-new documentaries profile Buddhists and Buddhism in the Netherlands today.

Unique objects

This is the first time that so many Buddha statues from the museum’s collection have been exhibited together. Discover the differences between the statues and the reasons behind them. The exhibition also includes a rare 35-metre Vessantara banner depicting scenes from one of the Buddha’s previous lives.
Combined with loans from institutions like the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, Musée Guimet in Paris, the Berlin Museum of Asian Art and the Asian Civilisations Museum in Singapore, these objects tell the Buddha’s life story. Marvel at the ancient stone Gandara reliefs from Pakistan and the impressive contact relic of the Buddha’s footprint from Thailand.

Extra information

Volkenkundig Museum
Steenstraat 1
2312 BS Leiden
Date 12 February - 14 August 2016