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The 18 Lohan / Arhats


Buddhism is one of the world's most popular religions, and this Hindu-based belief system is moving from its traditional base in Asia and being adopted by many people in North America and Europe.  Buddhist mythology centers around the teachings of "the Buddha," who attained spiritual peace and enlightenment.  While Buddhists do not worship the Buddha or any other deities or icons, icons and art have become an important part of Buddhist beliefs and practice.  While the figure of Buddha sitting with hands clasped is perhaps the most famous of these icons, the 18 Lohans or Arhats are also an important part of any Buddhist temple. 

Lohans are followers of Buddhism's "Eightfold Path" who have achieved full spiritual fulfillment.  They have reached "Nirvana," the state of absolute freedom from worldly cravings, and because of this they are no longer subject to reincarnation.  Their eternal status makes them akin to guardian angels, adept at warding off evil.  Figures or paintings of the 18 Lohan adorn the entranceway of Buddhist temples, protecting those within from evil and allowing them to open themselves to meditation and spiritual exploration.  There were originally only 16 Lohan; two were added in the Chinese Tang dynasty, which was when the first paintings of the 18 Lohan were created.  The 18 Lohan are the most prominent Lohan up to 500 "lesser" Lohan aid the 18 in warding off evil. 

The 18 Lohan were first painted in 891 A.D. by Chinese Buddhist monk Guan Xiu, who is said to have been visited by the Lohan in his dreams.  The 18 Lohan are generally presented in they are said to have appeared to Guan Xiu: Deer Sitting, Happy, Raised Bowl, Raised Pagoda, Meditating, Oversea, Elephant Riding, Laughing Lion, Open Heart, Raised Hand, Thinking, Scratched Ear, Calico Bag, Plantain, Long Eyebrow, Doorman, Taming Dragon and Taming Tiger.  The names of these figures provide insight into their attributes, special skills, or spiritual message.  These attributes have been passed down through legends, and although Guan Xiu's paintings are considered to be the definitive images of the Lohans, other artists have sought to create their own interpretation of these figures.  Thus images of the 18 Lohans vary between Buddhist nations and can depend on the time period in which they were created. 

Paintings and images of the 18 Lohans are mostly used in Buddhist temples, but many new Buddhists or art collectors have sought to have these figures as a part of their home.  Small statues, paintings, tracings, and engravings of the 18 Lohans are available from many different sources, and can make your home's entranceway more interesting and colorful.  They can also form an invaluable part of your collection of Asian art.


 

The Great Wall of China The Forbidden City
The Terracotta Army Along the Silk Road

Dragon & Phoenix ~ Silk Embroidery
Silk Embroidery
Gold Leaf Painted ~ 10 Inch Turnip Vase
Gold Leaf Lacquer
Pair of 10 Inch Closionne Vases
Cloisonne
Pair of Brass Foo Dogs
Brass & Bronze
Inside Painted Boxes

 

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