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
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.
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.
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
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