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Arhat (Chinese: luohan)

Enlarge this image. Arhat (Chinese: luohan), dated 1180. China; Southern Song dynasty (1127-1279). Marble. Courtesy of the Asian Art Museum, The Avery Brundage Collection, B60S208.
Dressed in the clothes of a monk and holding a rosary, this emaciated and intense figure has the appearance of an eccentric monk. In fact, he is an example of a special group of Buddhist deities known as arhats. The historical Buddha, Shakyamuni, had a group of disciples who recorded his sayings and continued his teachings after he attained nirvana. These figures were deified as arhats, beings who have reached a stage of perfection through study and meditation. Unlike bodhisattvas, who are noted for their compassion, arhats are noted for their intense powers of spiritual concentration. It is common for Chinese artists to exaggerate certain features of these figures to emphasize their spiritual nature. They are often given qualities associated with Taoist immortals, and they appear in sets of varying numbers, eighteen and five hundred being the most common.
Inscription: [In 1180] people everywhere [of a certain surname?] respectfully had made/donated one luohan image.

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