Met curator Denise Leidy on ugliness and divinity in Arhat (Luohan) dating from China’s Liao dynasty, c. 1000.
This nearly life-size sculpture and its companion piece are part of a group of about sixteen works that have been known in the West since 1913. They are thought to have come from a cave in Yixian, in Hebei province, and they represent arhats (or luohans, as they are known in China). Arhats were thought to have achieved an advanced (although not perfected) state of spiritual development, and they eventually became recognized as protectors of Buddhism. Both works are justifiably acclaimed as masterpieces of ceramic sculpture, both for their size and for the quality of their glaze, a three-toned or colored glaze known as sancai. The discovery of an ancient kiln in a village near Beijing in 1983 and its subsequent excavation in 1985 yielded much information that could be used to date these extraordinary sculptures. It seems reasonable, therefore, to date the more technically challenging, life-size works slightly later, probably to the late tenth or eleventh century.
View this work on metmuseum.org.. Created by The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
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- At1:27, the narrator says that the elongated earlobes suggest an "advanced spiritual state". In other videos on Khan Academy about the Buddha/Siddhartha, it was stated that the elongated earlobes represent the Buddha's royal original, NOT due to being in an advanced spiritual state, when as Siddhartha, the Buddha wore heavy earrings as a royal personage. Could the elongated earlobes of the present statue (who is not Buddha) represent Buddha-like nature (advanced spiritual state) in mirroring the Buddha's elongated earlobes which were, however, NOT due to being in an advanced spiritual state when he was Siddhartha? Or could the present statue represent a royal person (not Siddhartha) who became a monk yet had his own earlobes elongated for the same reason that the Buddha/Siddhartha did?(6 votes)
- Short answer? It is probably a tool used by the artist to help connect the subject with the Buddha - so yes, it was most likely used to represent the spiritual state of the monk, the artist needed some way to show it physically. And to let you know Buddhism is extremely confusing and complex as there are so many variations, what is true for one sect of Buddhism isn't necessarily true for another. Take Budai, some Buddhists take him for Maitreya and some reject him completely. Buddhism isn't really a religion you can put in so nice a box. Especially in East Asia.(5 votes)
- At1:39, the narrator says that the holes in the base suggest a platform on a mountain. Alternatively, could the holes be for receiving poles or hands of a group of men to carry the statue, either to move it or to have it in a religious procession? The companion piece also has the same holes in the base, as seen at0:42. The idea of receiving poles for carrying is also suggested since the holes may go through the entire base, since at0:42, the hole closest to the wall on the near side of the companion piece and the hole on the side facing the wall are hollow, since one can see the gray-white wall through the two holes near the left corner of the base. Is there any evidence or information whether the holes were used for carrying the statues with poles or hands?(5 votes)
- The holes could be for a practical purpose, as your observations suggest, AND symbolic one(s). There are a lot of grey areas in the arts and their interpretations.(3 votes)
- What is the companion piece?(3 votes)
- You can click on the underlined "companion piece" in the explanation under the video and it will take you to the piece at the Mteropolitan Museum of Art's website. It is another Arhat (Luohan) statue, seated and similarly dressed.(2 votes)
- Is this the type of sculpture that monks used to be momified in?
Isn't that why they have holes on their ears?(1 vote)
- You must be referring to this story where a mummified body was found inside a statue of Buddha: http://www.history.com/news/ct-scan-reveals-mummified-monk-inside-ancient-buddha-statue. That statue is the only one known to have a mummy inside.
Some other monks have mummified themselves (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_mummies), and they were buried with just a small hole for air (like the ear hole) but those mummies were taken out again after they had died. They were not put into statues.
So, this statue is not related to those mummies. I'm not sure why it has such deep ear holes though.(2 votes)
- Pictures show that the back of the monk's head is painted green. Is this another spiritual symbol? If not, what is it?(1 vote)
- Why is location also isolated ?(1 vote)
- Monks at the time often lived alone and sometimes with other monks in the mountain, isolated from society so they can pray in peace.(1 vote)
- How did this sculpture get the name "Divinity"?(0 votes)
- I think that "Divinity" refers to the title of this short talk, but that the artwork is titled "Arhat (Luohan)". A luohan is a Buddhist disciple. Arhat is the Sanskrit word for it. Many similar artworks in the collection have this identical title.
- This is an example of a real person advancing in spiritual advancement. What other examples of this are there?(1 vote)
- There are 7 other statues from Yixian google "Luohan statues from Yixian". That is a very good place to start.(1 vote)