The first ever arts and cultural festival drawing on Buddhist cultural traditions has been unveiled in Britain.

The festival, known as The Many Faces of Buddhism, is held in London at the Victoria & Albert (V&A) Museum and the Barbican Center in collaboration with the Hong Kong-based philanthropic organization -- Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation.

Highlights of the festival include an International Forum on Buddhism and the Arts Today held last Saturday, the opening of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation Gallery at the V&A, performances of Buddhist sacred dance, and the first International Buddhist Film Festival in London.

The new Buddhist sculpture gallery which is to open to the public on Wednesday is the first such gallery in Britain. It features treasures from the V&A's world class collections ranging from monumental Chinese temple sculptures to tiny portable gilded Buddhas.

The 50 or so sculptures created between AD 200 and 1850 are arranged in geographic groupings demonstrating the diversity of artistic expression throughout Asia, and reflect the differing Buddhist practices of India, Sri Lanka, the Himalayas, Myanmar, Java, Thailand, China and Japan.

The new gallery includes an 18th-century monumental gilt bronze seated Buddha from China's Tibet, a powerful 7th-century marble torso of the Buddha from Tang Dynasty of China and the head of Buddha, once carved directly into the rock face of a 6th-century cave temple complex at Xiangtangshan, northern China.

The International Buddhist Film Festival will showcase over 40 films from 18 countries, including 27 UK premieres from May 7 to 17.

At a press preview of the new gallery held at V&A on Monday, Robert Yau Chung Ho, director of the Robert H. N. Ho Family Foundation, said: "The objective of the Foundation is to support broadly Chinese arts and culture. We sincerely hope that our audience for the Many Faces of Buddhism Festival will begin to appreciate Buddhism's rich enduring history and message and through it will find new ways of experiencing and approaching the world."

The festival will run through May 17.

Xinhua News Agency

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