VIRTUAL COLLECTION OF ASIAN MASTERPIECES

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Luohan
A.29-1931
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Why this is a
Masterpiece

This wooden sculpture represents a Luohan, the name for a monk who acts as a guardian of Buddhism and is believed to reach the state of enlightenment through merit and virtue. Sculpture of the Luohan was a part of Buddhist ritual worship in China, and the earliest representations can be traced to the 4th century AD. This sculpture portrays a vigorous, middle-aged Chinese monk in the act of turning to his neighbour. The style of this example suggests that the piece was made in North China where many workshops excelled in carved and painted wooden sculpture.

History of the Object
These figures were usually placed in groups near images of Buddha in temples and sanctuaries. Over time, depictions of Luohans evolved from individualized to more formalized portraits. The use of these images was further encouraged by Buddhist Ch'an (Zen) sects, which stressed the importance of having a religious teacher and an interaction between master and pupil.

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Type
Sculpture 
Materials
Carved and painted wood 
Measurements
Depth: 43cm 
Creator name
Unknown 
Creator date
Unknown 
Where it was made
China 
Geography
China 
Time period
AD 13th century ~ AD 14th century 
Creation date
13th Century - 14th Century; 1271-1368 
Function
 
Acquisition
Purchased. The appreciation for Chinese sculpture in Europe developed alongside an enthusiasm for earlier Chinese ceramics. During the 1920s and 1930s the Museum acquired some outstanding examples, including this Luohan. 
Copyright
 
Acknowledgements
 
Owner
Victoria and Albert Museum 
Museum
Victoria and Albert Museum 
Credit line
© V&A Images, Victoria and Albert Museum, London 

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