The cultures of the modern world are shaped by thousands of years of creativity. Art and architecture, dance and spirituality, craft and even combat – all are preserved and adapted across the centuries as traditions are passed down the generations. Whether you are tracing the history of Rajasthan’s ancient artisans or mingling with master samurai, each Aman property is woven into the culture of its surroundings, making every stay an opportunity to discover unique practices, beliefs and creative paths.
Meet the Masters
From the largest city to the smallest village, the world nurtures craftsmanship. It might be a local making tradition passed down for generations or a global arts hub celebrating the design of tomorrow: Aman opens doors to creative culture at every scale.
The mask makers of Sri Lanka
A short way along the coast from Amangalla is the town of Ambalangoda, the centre of Sri Lanka’s unique mask-making tradition. Here, families have passed down the unique artisanal trade from generation to generation, creating the wooden masks at the heart of one of the world’s most atmospheric folk rituals. Carved from wood, often from rukkattana and diyakanduru trees, and coloured with natural dyes and resins, the masks represent wicked spirits and the ailments they inflict, and are worn by the performers of the Yakkun Natima – Sri Lanka’s remarkable ‘devil dance’ of horror, humour and healing.
Building tomorrow in Venice
Venice is an architectural marvel at any time, but every two years the city’s historic palazzi and ornate basilicas turn from centrepiece to sideshow as the Biennale Architettura shifts the focus to cutting-edge structural concepts and the buildings of the future. The 2018 festival runs from 26 May to 25 November, and brings architects from 65 countries to explore the theme of ‘Freespace’ – the relationship between architecture, its environment and the human interactions with each. The Vernissage (preview) on 24–25 May is the most exciting time to visit, bringing a host of exclusive palazzo events to the floating city.
Artisans of Rajasthan
The Aravalli Hills of Rajasthan are scattered with Meena villages, known for the crafts, jewellery and colourful clothing of their inhabitants. Journey 15 minutes from the Mughal retreat of Amanbagh and discover a working gwara (small village), where the traditional crafts of rural Rajasthan still thrive. On any given day, guests might meet marble carvers, dusted with the fine white powder of local marble as they sculpt the stone into extravagant decorative pieces; mothers and daughters decorating sari fabric with sequins for Jaipur’s markets; or metalsmiths fashioning anklets from the most delicate slivers of silver.
Many cultures have been shaped by the work of spiritually inspired makers hundreds or thousands of years ago. The stories they told in their art are intertwined with ritual and infused into sacred sites, prized artefacts and religious celebrations today.
Giving back in Luang Prabang
Amantaka guests are invited to personally participate in Luang Prabang’s Buddhist cultural revival and social projects, whether by purchasing works from the resort’s Kenro Izu photography exhibition to raise funds for the Lao Friends Children's Hospital, or by joining Amantaka’s guides for a unique Buddhist spiritual experience. The trip incorporates a visit to the historic Vat Khili monastery to see novices carving Buddha statues and explore the adjacent cultural archives, and a boat journey up the Mekong to a school project and the new monastery of Vat Pha Pa O, with a chance to donate to the school’s development.
Ancient stories set in stone
Borobudur, the Eighth Wonder of the Orient, is one of humanity’s most imposing creations – a ninth-century Buddhist masterpiece with ancient secrets written into its reliefs and spiritual symbolism in every statue. It would take years to unpack every meaning, but Amanjiwo’s guides – all born within the temple’s shadow – can shed light on some of the sacred stories within its artworks. One of the tales carved into the temple corridors is the 11th-century epic poem Ramayana – brought to life at Amanjiwo with mesmerising dance performances on special celebrations. This legendary romance has survived the centuries with more than 300 variants, differing from faith to faith and country to country.
Lessons from the Makers
Take part in one-to-one workshops from experts in ancient crafts; gain personal insights into culturally distinct art forms; and bring home new, unexpected skills – Aman is an invitation to discover the time-honed talents of the world’s master hand-makers
Inside the scholar’s studio
The idea of the refined artist – living in nature, practising painting, calligraphy and music – has helped shape Chinese culture for hundreds of years. In the 17th century, the literary elite of the Ming dynasty, inspired by the romance of the exiled court artist from the Song and Tang dynasties, created ‘scholar’s studios’ within cities, furnished with antiques, instruments, the tools for creative pursuits and tea ceremonies. Named after the royal reading pavilion in the Forbidden City, Amanyangyun’s Nan Shufang cultural complex preserves this tradition, recreating Ming interiors and providing space for contemplation, craft and Chinese art.
Stucco and swords in Japan
Sakan, or Japanese plaster, is an ancient craft art that modern building methods are rapidly leaving behind. Few master plasterers remain in Japan, but Syuhei Hasado has found a way of combining this age-old practice with contemporary techniques to reinvent the tradition for the modern day. Graceful, precise and inspired by nature, his hand-made stucco art can be found throughout the corridors of Aman Tokyo. Like ornate sakan, the curved blade of the katana is also prized as a craft object in Japan – especially by the samurai practitioners of laido. At a nearby dojo, Aman guests can hone their katana swordsmanship with a workshop in one of Japan’s oldest martial arts.
Summer Palace artistry
The lifelong master calligrapher Zhang Rugang has been at the heart of Aman Summer Palace for almost a decade. From his workshop, he has unlocked the secrets of Chinese script for hundreds of guests. Over the years, he has been joined by fellow craftspeople in a spectrum of historical disciplines, including Zhang Rui, the third-generation kitemaker whose work has made her one of the most admired in China, and Li Chunpung, an artist whose passion for folk art has made her a master of both traditional dough figurines and the impossibly delicate craft of paper cutting. These three are just some of the expert artists in residence at the Cultural Pavilion, generously sharing their time-honoured skills with Aman guests.