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The Arhats and Their Legacy in the Visual Arts of East Asia
Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Budapest
Keywords: arhats, Bodhidharma, iconography
Abstract: In East Asian art we often encounter the representation of arhats (Skt. those who are worthy), a type of Buddhist saintly figure, in groups of sixteen, eighteen or 500. When we look at visual representations of arhats in China, Korea and Japan, we can see some special features that make us consider how the concept, grouping, form and style of their representation has formed and changed in China, Korea and Japan.
Some popular themes in East Asia show a very strong connection with arhat representations, such as representations of Bodhidharma, the first Chan patriarch, and the representation of the ‘lonely saint’ (Toksŏng) in Korea’s Buddhist monasteries, which often refers to the arhat Piṇḍola Bharadvāja, one of the disciples of Śākyamuni Buddha.
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