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Hualin International Journal of Buddhist Studies 1.2 (2018): 131–142;
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Buddhist Arts)

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The Arhats and Their Legacy in the Visual Arts of East Asia

Beatrix MECSI
Eötvös Loránd University (ELTE) Budapest

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.

Keywords: arhats, Bodhidharma, iconography


About the Author: Dr. Beatrix Mecsi is an art historian and specialist in Korean and Japanese Studies. She is an associate professor with a habilitation at the Institute of East Asian Studies at Eötvös Loránd University Budapest (ELTE). She studied Art History, Japanese Studies (MA) and Korean Studies at ELTE, and was awarded with the Pro Scientia Golden Medal for outstanding extracurricular research activities and excellent academic record in 1999. She obtained her Ph.D. from the University of London, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in the Department of Art and Archaeology in 2004. She taught at the Art and Archaeology Department of University of London SOAS, the Sotheby’s Institute’s East Asian Art M.A. program, and at Yonsei University Seoul in South Korea, among others, and she currently holds courses and lectures on East Asian Art at ELTE and other European universities. She publishes regularly in academic journals and magazines on topics in East Asian, mediaeval and contemporary art.


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