The Luohans, or The Eighteen Luohan
Style of Li Gonglin
Scroll painting by Qiu Ying in the style of Li Gonglin. The subject "Eighteen Lohans" (Sanskrit: arhat), Buddha's disciples who attained enlightenment through their own efforts, was a favorite theme in Chinese legend and painting. This painting's silver and gold lines on a dark blue ground, a trait of Chinese and Japanese Buddhist painting from the 8th century CE onward, create a sumptuous yet sublime effect. In China scarcely any paintings of this style remain; this is one of the few known existing pieces. Generally two schools, literati and court artisan, dominated the painting of pre-modern China. The literati painters preferred untrammeled, expressive brush strokes, while the professional court artisans usually paid meticulous attention to detail. Though a professional painter, Qiu was well acquainted with the literati and was active in their circles in Suzhou where he lived. The blending of these two traditions is apparent in this beautiful work. Each Luohan is paired with a poem whose content is a montage of vague terms coupled with fleeting images. These poems suggest influence from the tradition of Chan (Zen) Buddhism.
Purchased from A. G. Worch, 1925
Current & Past Exhibitions:
Buddhism: History and Diversity of a Great Tradition (12 Dec 1985 - 21 Oct 2012)
[Catalogue] Lyons, Elizabeth, et al. 1985. Buddhism: History and Diversity of a Great Tradition.
[Catalogue] Getz, John. 1916. The Univesity Museum Exhibition of Oriental Art. : Page/Fig./Plate: p. 190, #44
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