Four Carved Burlwood Figures of Lohan China 19th Century
This four beautiful burlwood carved figures of the Buddhist Saint Lohan also known as Arhats. Lohans are followers of the Buddha who reached enlightenment but have not yet attained the higher state of nirvana. Lohan is the Chinese name, Arhat is the Sanskrit and Rakan the Japanese all for the same persons. These were likely carved in the early to mid 19th century and the use of root wood or burlwood was very poupular in China during this time.
The Eighteen Arhats or Lohan are depicted in Mahayana Buddhism as the original followers of Gautama Buddha (arhat) who have followed the Noble Eightfold Path and attained the four stages of enlightenment. They have reached the state of Nirvana and are free of worldly cravings. They are charged to protect the Buddhist faith and to wait on earth for the coming of Maitreya, an enlightened Buddha prophesied to arrive on earth many millennia after Gautama Buddha’s death In China, the eighteen arhats are also a popular subject in Buddhist art,
Originally, the arhats were composed of only 10 disciples of Gautama Buddha, although the earliest Indian sutras indicate that only 4 of them, Pindola, Kundadhana, Panthaka and Nakula, were instructed to await the coming of Maitreya.
Later this number increased to sixteen to include patriarchs and other spiritual adepts. Teachings about the Arhats eventually made their way to China where they were called Lohan (羅漢, shortened from a-luo-han a Chinese transcription for Arhat),
A cult built around the Lohan’s as guardians of Buddhist faith gained momentum amongst Chinese Buddhists at the end of the ninth century for they had just been through a period great persecution under the reign of Emperor Tang Wuzong
The Qianlong Emperor was a great admirer of the Lohan’s and many images such as these were made for burlwood.
Provenance: Old Collection UK. The Todd Barlin Collection of Asian Buddhist Art
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