Cheng Gong '19

The Ten Precepts of Buddhism

a thesis by Cheng Gong '19


As an Asian who lives in the western country, I found that I have not changed my habits or Chinese concepts much, even though I have been in the United States for more than 5 years. However, some of my concepts or behaviors have been influenced by the Western cultures. And I found that is not just my personal issue but a social issue in the Western society. Through my project, I am exploring the conflicts between eastern and western culture in large scale photographs that represent the ten precepts of Buddhism, which reflect my particular experiences and interpretations of them.

Chinese food and objects are featured in this series of work, but the context for and backgrounds in the work are Western in style. There are a number of reasons why I mainly use Chinese food as objects in the photos. First of all, some Western people may have a bias about Chinese food, they think it is cheap and disgusting. Actually, some of the organs, such as kidneys, livers, hearts are affordable in China because they used to be the food of the poor, who could not afford meat in the past. However, even though those organs and meat are still inexpensive now, they are popular for most Chinese people. I am featuring food in my own way and making it not only look beautiful but also showing its importance to Chinese people. Secondly, since the meat is forbidden in Buddhism, and my photos are presenting opposite sides of the ten precepts, food offers another level of contradiction and conflict in my work. That is the reason why most of the Buddha heads are facing the other way in my photographs. I imitate the old Dutch oil painting style for this series of photographs. However, the main objects are Chinese in style, thus creating an awkward atmosphere for this work. I want my work to look beautiful at first appearance but weird when looking at more carefully. And then the viewers may think much more than what they see from these photographs.

Overall, my work is not only about Buddhism, but more about the differences between the Eastern culture and the Western culture, and the differences between religions.