Eastern Civilization [Plaster]

Dublin Core


Eastern Civilization [Plaster]


Buddha and Buddhism
Hindu art--History


Eastern Civilization, from
Fountain of Eternal Life: Peace Arising from the Flames of War, 1964
Plaster, 1987

Gift of Mr. and Mrs. Marshall M. Fredericks

This full-scale model of one auxiliary sculpture for the Fountain of Eternal Life in Cleveland, Ohio characterizes the Eastern Civilization. Other models of the entire fountain and plaza are near the central windows in the Main Exhibit Gallery. In Eastern Civilization, Fredericks portrays Eastern culture with a god who Fredericks has identified as Buddha. Leaning over his shoulder is the monkey god- Hanuman who symbolizes loyalty, courage, devotion, strength, and speed. He is greatly idealized in Hindu literature. In the center of the sculpture is the elephant-headed god Ganesha or Ganesha. One of the most popular Hindu deities, he is identified as a god of good fortune and wisdom who intercedes with other gods. To his left are two figures kneeling in prayer to the god. The left end of the sculpture is formed by the head and neck of a bull which is a sacred animal in India and it is a symbol of fertility and plenty. Fredericks gained much knowledge and appreciation of Indian culture when he was stationed in India for military service during World War II.


Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998




Use of this image requires permission from the Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum




University Center (Mich.)

Sculpture Item Type Metadata

Physical Dimensions

48" x 56" x 168"


Plaster full-scale

Catalog Number


Object Location

Main Exhibit Gallery


1988 January, 27 Gift to Museum and SVSU Board of Control


From Jennifer Lentz (Collection Documentation Intern 1991-1992)
Memo dated August 22, 1991

"RE: Easter Civilization

Although some of the facts on Hindu mythology are not definite, I think I can conclude who the figures are in Eastern Civilization. In Hindu mythology there is a triad of gods: Brahma the creator, Vishnu the preserver, and Shiva or Siva the destroyer. Some say that Shiva is the supreme god but there is controversy. I believe the large figure on the right is Shiva. Identifying characteristics are three eyes and four arms. He is also known as having both male and female attributes which explains his feminine qualities. Two other figures in the compostion are both closely related to Shiva. These are Nandi, the bull, and Ganesh or Ganesa, the elephant-headed god. Nandi was Shiva's personal mode of transportation. Ganesh was possibly the son of Shiva but the stories vary. All stories relate that they were closely related. Ganesh was one of the most popular Hindu deities. Explanations of the origin of the elephant head vary. (Some are described in "Indian Mythology" by Veronica Ions, p. 101) The female figure directly to Shiva's left does not have any distinguishing characteristics. However the fact that Shiva seems to be pointing to her and the fact that she appears to be dancing may indicate that she is Shiva's wife, the beautiful Parvati. Shiva is known as the lord of the dance. On one occasion the tow had a dancing contest. Additionally, Shiva delegates to his wife the task of dancing the cosmic dance, but at this point her name was Kali. (Hindu Mythology, p.224)

In her paper, Leah Mueller identifies the large figure on the right as Rama, the seventy of ten incarnations of Vishnu. She bases this on the fact that an ape or monkey leans over his shoulder. Hanuman, the general of the monkey army, was known for his faithful service to Rama. One of the docents, Jo Ann Robertson, said that on one occasion she heard Mr. Fredericks say the reason he put the monkey thee was because monkeys are all over India. Additionally, Fredericks fondness for primates is evident by several of his other works.

In Molly's tour tape she says the figure on the far left is the sacred cow. However cows do not have horns as bulls do. She also says that the reason one of the Ganesh's tusks is broken is because he did it when working. She goes on to say that he is a symbol of good luck because of it. However in my research I found no reference to this. I did find that he is known as the remover of obstacles, god of wisdom and god of prudence. He lost his tusk in a fight while restraining parasurama, the sixth incarnation of Vishnu, from waking his father, Shiva. As Parasurama was about to hurl an axe at him, Ganesh recognized that his father had given the axe to Parasurama. Out of reverence for his father he took the axe's blow on one of his tusks. Molly also says that he holds a bag of candy in one hand. I could find no reference to this but he is known to hold a water lily which it appears to be. (Indian Mythology, Veronica Ions, p.102)

I would like to ask Mr. Fredericks about the figure of Shiva to verify that it is he.

Sources for this information are photocopied in the Eastern Civilization object file."

From Jennifer Lentz (Collection Documentation Intern 1991-1992)
Memo dated September 18, 1991:

"RE: Eastern Civilization

I am still not sure who the large figure on the right is. As my memos to the file indicate, on August 22 I was fairly confident it was Shiva. I concluded this after dong a fair amount of research. On September 11 I asked Mr. Fredericks who the figure was. He said it was the Buddha. I did some research on Buddha and learned that some of the physical characteristics match - the third eye and the jewelry. However I cold find no representations of him with four arms. Also puzzling is the fact that Mr. Fredericks identified Ganesh, the elephant-headed god. Ganesh is from the Hindu religion and Buddha is from Buddhism. The are both common in India but they are both very different. It is possible that he used figures from different religions as a representation of Eastern Civilization. However I am still not sure who this figure is since the physical characteristics don't match exactly. It is possible that Mr. Fredericks intended it to be Buddha. It is also possible that he did not originally intend it to be a specific figure but later called it Buddha. In any case it may be best not to give this figure a name."

From Jennifer Lentz (Collection Documentation Intern 1991-1992)
Memo dated September 11, 1991:

"RE: Eastern Civilization
I asked Mr. Fredericks about the figures in this sculpture. He identified Ganesh, the elephant-headed god. He said the large figure on the right was a buddha figure. I mentioned Shiva and Rama but he said no. He said he included the monkey because they are so common in India."

Buddha in a reclining position: Marshall referred to him as Buddha but several attributes of Asian Deities such as Shiva, Krsna, Vishnu and Budhha are depicted including the 4 arms of Shiva and Lakshmi.

(Excerpt from 1000 Symbols, p. 130)
"Buddha was born in the 6th century BCE as Prince Siddhartha, a member of the Gautama clan of the Sakya tribe on the border between Nepal and the modern Indian state of Bihar. The title of Buddha, meaning 'Wise' or 'Enlightened One', was bestowed on him after his enlightenment. This he achieved at the age of 39, after seven weeks of meditation under a Bodhi Tree in the village of Bodhgaya. He abandoned his wife and child for the ascetic life. For the next 41 years until his death at the age of 80, he preached his philosophy, repudiating some aspects of Hinduism-such as ritual worship and sacrifice-and denouncing the caste system. In its place, he offered a moral code of conduct that mentions neither heaven nor hell, nor any religious sanction, but relies on the self-discipline and autonomous spirit of the individual to guide him or her towards salvation. He taught that to live is to suffer, and the wheel of birth and rebirth will continue to turn unless humans can contain their desires, and so release them from this process. To achieve this, people should follow the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, which leads to wisdom, calmness, knowledge, enlightenment and release."

(Excerpt, from 1000 Symbols, p. 126)
Shiva: 'the Destroyer', represents darkness and is the angry god. He is one of the three gods of the Hindu Trinity or Trimurti, and is seen as a pre-Vedic god allied to the lord of beings on Indus Valley seals. He is depicted above holding two of his attributes: a thunderbolt and stylized conch shell and has 4 arms.
Ganesh: son of Shiva; god of fortune and wisdom who intercedes with other gods; he's normally depicted as a pot-bellied figure with an elephants head, 4 arms and one tusk. He sits on a rat signifying shrewdness. He received his elephant's head when he lost his own and was brought back to life using the nearest available head, that of an elephant. He's god of new ventures and good luck.
Story about Ganesh's broken tusk as told by Vaibhavi Sindha, an SVSU student.
"Why Lord Ganesh has a broken tusk? Lord Ganesh loved to eat food. One day as he sat down to eat, the moon (Lord Chandra) was watching him. Ganesh kept on eating and his stomach enlarged. At a certain point, his stomach burst open and all the food spilled out. Looking at this, the moon laughed at Ganesh and made fun of him, so Ganesh got mad and broke one of his tusks and threw it at the moon. That's the reason why the moon is half on that specific day called Ganesh-chatwithi Day."
Water Buffalo: Nandi, the white bull; Chinese Buddhism: the ox signifies wise thought.
Dancing woman: Devi, Shiva's wife or Sita, wife of Rama.
Rama: squatting ape. The ape Hunuman helped to rescue Rama's wife from a powerful king in Celon. Ramas right elbow rests in the curve of his waist while his hands are palms out and engaged fingers extended point to a small dancing female figure possibly Sita, his wife.

Molly Barth copy:
The next plaster model is titled "The Eastern Civilization," It's from "The Fountain of Eternal Life," "The Cleveland War Memorial." This is just one of four carvings that were done for the "Fountain of Eternal Life," each one weighing 10 tons, they were done in Norwegian, emerald, pearl granite, it's the same granite that's used outside in the Sculpture Garden, for the fountain pieces, it's beautiful when the sun hits it, the granite just comes alive. Here in the "Eastern Civilization ," you have the reclining Buddha and Ganesh, the elephant that's half human. He has a broken tusk, and, of course, he did that when he was working, so he's a symbol of good luck, and he holds a bag of candy and beads in each hand, and on the end, you have the sacred cow, and his body starts to form the back of the carving, of the plaster model.




Fredericks, Marshall M., 1908-1998, “Eastern Civilization [Plaster],” Marshall M. Fredericks Sculpture Museum, accessed July 14, 2024, https://omeka.svsu.edu/items/show/5058.