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The Arhats in China and Tibet Stephen Little Artibus Asiae, Vol. 52, No. 3/4. (1992), pp.

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he recent acquisition by the Cleveland Museum of Art of three Sino-Tibetan thangkas provides an opportunity to examine several facets of cross-cultural ties between China and Tibet in the realm of Buddhist art in the fourteenth century (figs. I-3).' Primary among these are the transmission of concepts regarding the arhats, and styles of painting in which these concepts were given visual articulation. The focus of this paper will be on the Cleveland paintings themselves. As fragments of a larger, coherent group of images, these extraordinary paintings pose significant questions regarding the development of early Buddhist painting in Tibet. In both Theraviida and Mahayiina Buddhism, the arhats were believed to have been the Buddha ~iikyamuni's original disciples, and to have attained Enlightenment through their own efforts. They were endowed with exceptional prajza, or transcendent w i s d ~ mTheir . ~ function was to protect the Dharma, or Buddhist law, until the coming of Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future. When worship of the arhats first appeared in China during the Six Dynasties Period (4th-6th centuries), they formed a group of sixteen figures. They are mentioned as such in the Rzl dacheng lzln (Mahdydna uat&aka Szstra) translated by the monk Daotai in the Northern Liang dynasty (357-439). The sixteen arhats are first individually named and discussed in detail in a text translated by the monk Xuanzang in A.D. 654, the D a a lzlohan Nandimidzlolzlo szlo shzlo fazhzl ji, or the Record on the y the Great Arhat Nandimitra (best known by its shorter Chinese Duration of the Dharma as Explained b title, the Fazhzl ji).j It appears that the sixteen arhats were first widely depicted in Chinese Buddhist art during the Tang dynasty (618-906). One of the earliest records of such a composition is associated with the eighth-century painter Lu Lengjia, a pupil of the great W u D a o ~ iThe . ~ sixteen arhats were also The depicted by the late Tang Chan (Zen) monk-painter Guanxiu ( 8 3 2 - ~ I Z ) . ~ cult of the sixteen arhats became widespread in China from the tenth century onward, and proliferated during the Song dynasty (960-1278). A series of eighteen arhats also appeared in China by the mid-Northern Song dynasty (960-1126); this is evidenced by the poet Su Dongpo's two poems, "In Praise of the Eighteen Great Arhats Painted by Master Zhang of Jinshui in Shu (Sichuan)," and "In Praise of the Eighteen " ~ set of eighteen arhats differed, however, Lohans Painted by Guanxiu of the Tang ~ y n a s t y . This from the set of eighteen arhats that developed later in Tibet.

This paper was originally del~vered on June 28, 1991 at the International Symposium on "East and West in Asian Art History,"
held at the East-West Center, Honolulu, Hawaii, sponsored by the Taniguchi Foundation and the Society for the International
Exchange of Art Historical Studies. The paper is published here with the Society's permission.
One of the thatzgkas has been published in Bulletin qjthe Clevelatzd Museunz o f A r t , no. 222 (February 1989).
For an excellent discussion of the arhats in Buddhist thought and iconography, see M. W. de Visser, The Arhats in China andJapan
(Berlin: Oesterheld & Co., 1923).
Ihid., 58. The entire text is translated in Sylvain Levi and Edouard Chavannes, "Les seize arhat protecteurs de la L o i , " J o u m a l
Asiatique (1916),j-50,189-04.
See Osvald Siren, Chztzese Paintitzg: Leading Masters and Principles. 7 vols. (London: Lund Hurnphries, 1956-68),vol. 3, pl. 89.
See Ibid., vol. 3, pls. 114-115
de Visser, 115,120-122.

The concept of the arhats was probably introduced into Tibet from both India and China by the ninth century.7 In Tibet the arhats were worshipped not only as protectors of the Dharma, but also on certain specific occasions such as the laying of the foundation of a new temple, or the consecration of certain ritual objects. The standard grouping of arhats in Tibet by the fifteenth century was based on a Chinese model, itself based on Xuanzang's translation of the Fazhu ji. While variations exist in the groupings of the arhats in China and Tibet, the set most widely worshipped in Tibet by the fifteenth century is illustrated in the well-known sketchbook dated 1435 by the Newari artist Jivarama, who was active in Tibet (fig. 4). This invaluable sketchbook, now in the collection of Shri Suresh R. Neotia, Calcutta, has been published in full by John ~ o w r yThe . ~ names of the arhats are rendered in both Sanskrit and Tibetan here, and by and large correspond to the standard grouping of sixteen arhats worshipped in China by the thirteenth century. In addition, two figures were added to the initial sixteen in Tibet; these were known as Dharmatrata and Hva Shang. These two figures are included in one of the three thangkas in Cleveland (fig. 2).

The thangkas that are the focus of this paper were acquired by the Cleveland Museum of Art in 1988 and 1989. It is likely that the three paintings originally formed part of a larger set depicting eighteen arhats (two of which are the two apasakas [laymen] Dharmatrata and Hva Shang), the four Each lokapala or directional guardian kings, and possibly the Buddha ~ a k ~ a m u n i . thangka is painted in mineral pigments and gold on a cotton support, and was originally sewn to silk brocade mountings. Each painting measures approximately 72 by 34 cm. The outer border of each thangka consists of a band of mottled red, brown, and ochre pigments. According to a visual examination of the paintings by John Winter of the Freer Gallery of Art, an ochre ground extends everywhere over the cotton support, and under the other pigments. The back of each painting bears the same set of Sanskrit inscriptions, written in Newari script (see . to Professor Gautam Vajracharya, these inscriptions can be paleographically dated fig. ~ a )According to the 14th century.? Behind the principle figures in the upper and lower halves of each thangka is the mantra, "Om ha ham," while a longer mantra at the bottom consists of the famous Buddhist invocation, "Ye dharma hetaprabhara hetastesam tathagata, tesanca yo nirodha evam vadi mahatrdmana," which has been translated,
Of all objects which proceed from a Cause
The Tathagata [Buddha] has explained the cause,
And he has explained their cessation also;
This is the doctrine of the great Sriimana [monk] .I0


Guiseppe Tucci, Tidetmz Painted Scrolls. 3 vols. (Rome: La Libreria Dello Stato, 1949),vol. 2 , 556. See also Raymond Clark Kargl, "The Arhats in Tibetan Painting'' (Ph.D. dissertation, University of Southern California, 1979), chapters I , 2. John Lowry, "A Fifteenth Century Sketchbook," in Essais stlr /'Art dtl Tibet (Paris: Libraire d'Amerique et d3Orient,1977),figs. As,
Personal communication, March 28,1989,
L. Austine Waddell, The Buddhism oJTidet (Cambridge: W . Heffer & Sons, Ltd., 19j4), 10%

The first painting depicts two arhats, one above the other, and each situated in its own "space cell" (fig. I). The arhats are accompanied by attendants and mythical animals. The division between the two discrete zones is demarcated by a band of stylized clouds. While the painting of the figures and the details of their settings are heavily influenced by Chinese painting, the thangkas can be shown to have been painted in Tibet by virtue of the traditional Tibetan materials employed (i.e., colors on cotton as opposed to silk or paper), their format (rectangular banners originally sewn to a brocade mounting) and the small notations (T. tshon yig) in Tibetan script found here and there on the surface to indicate coloring.'' These paintings of arhats are unusual among surviving early Tibetan Buddhist paintings in that the space around the figures has palpable visual depth. This sense of threedimensional space is conveyed through such techniques as the reduction in size of distant objects, and the suggestion of atmosphere through the presence of clouds and wind-blown waves and grasses. These features are completely unlike the majority of surviving early Tibetan thangkas, in which the space tends to be largely two-dimensional. The arhat in the lower section of the first thangka sits on a flat rock covered by an orange mat. His chest is bare and his skin is painted gold. He wears a priest's robe with broad stripes. His lower robe or skirt is painted in a pale green. In his right hand he holds a staff (khakkara) ending in a metal finial with six rings; in his left hand is a vase. His head is surrounded by a transparent halo. He is bearded, and his face has an expression of intense concentration. This figure most likely depicts the arhat Nagasena, shown in Jivarama's sketchbook of 1435 also holding a vase. Nagasena's shoes are placed on a flat rock to one side, while behind the figure float lavender clouds outlined with gold. The setting is completed by the naturalistic trees, rocks, and hills around and behind the arhat. These landscape elements, while somewhat stylized, are painted in a manner derived from Chinese painting of the late Song and Yuan dynasties (13th-14th centuries). In front of the arhat is a shorter standing attendant dressed in boots, trousers, and a jacket with flowing scarves. Like the arhat, his skin is painted gold. This attendant, whose garb appears Central Asian, holds up a large tray which holds a jewel (cintdvzani). Above this a dragon appears flying through the air over the crashing waves of a river or lake. The dragon, whose body appears in a swirl of vapors or flames, spits a jewel out of its mouth onto the attendant's tray. The form of this dragon is entirely Chinese. Its body is sinuous, with a long, snake-like neck. The head is characterized by a curving snout, tapering whiskers, wild, bulging eyes, a long tongue, pronged antlers, and a flowing mane. The scales on its skin are painted in gold over a raised pattern of gesso dots, while the spine is accentuated with large, ovoid dots of raised gesso covered with painted gold. A ridge with flame-like projections runs along the dragon's back. The narrow legs have flame-like appendages, and terminate in open claws. The arhat in the upper section of the thangka is seated in an elaborate chair with a tiered, lobed base and a curved backrest with scrolled arms (fig. 1b).12He rests his left hand on a book in his lap, and raises his hand in a gesture with three fingers open and the forefinger touching the thumb. His skin is gold, and his head is shaved; a halo appears behind his head. He looks down with a benevolent
David &Janice Jackson, Tibetan Than$a Painting: Methods andMaterials (Ithaca: Snow Lion Publications, 1984), 93. For examples of chairs and thrones with similar horseshoe-shaped backs and scrolled armrests in northern and northeastern China from the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, see Jessica Rawson, Chinese Omavzent: The Lotus and the Dragon (London: British Museum, 1984), pls. 132, I 4 0 a For a similar Chinese-inspired chair back in early-fourteenth century Persian painting, see Rawson, fig. 133,


expression toward his attendant. This arhat can be identified as Gopaka, shown in Jivarama's 1435 sketchbook holding a scroll. The attendant, dressed in a short jacket, trousers and scarves with his hair tied in a cloth, bends toward an animal on the ground at the left. The animal, which resembles a dog, crouches down near a ball or a jewel. The landscape elements behind the arhat include broad-leafed plants, pine trees, clouds, and steep, distant peaks which enclose a Buddhist temple. This wooden edifice is clearly Chinese in style, with tiled, hip-and-gable roofs, "owl's-tail" (chiwei) ridge ornaments, a two-storied main pavilion, and stylized dozlgong bracket-arms above the columns. The proportions are closely related to those of wooden buildings of the Jin (1115-1234) and Yuan (1260-1368) dynasties in China. The jagged mountain peaks are textured in minimal fashion with hooked brushstrokes and thin, straight lines derived ultimately from Tang dynasty painting. The emphasis on a believable atmosphere, the successful suggestion of depth in space, and such details as the realistically depicted figures, the wooden architecture, the curling tongues of water on the waves below, and the style of the dragon and armchair all tie this thangka to Chinese Buddhist painting of the late twelfth to early fourteenth centuries.'? The portrayal of the arhat with attendants and mythical beasts can be traced back to the Tang dynasty.14The form of the arhat Nagasena closely resembles several of the so-called Yizhou (I-chou) ceramic lzlohans (arhats), which can be dated to the tenth century (Liao dynasty).15In short, the Chinese prototypes for these figures are abundant. The Southern Song (13th century) court painter Liu Songnian was famous for his depictions of arhats in outdoor settings. Several of his paintings still survive, and present a clear precedent for the type of depiction of arhats and attendants seen in the Cleveland t h a n g k a . ~ ~

The second thangka depicts the two upasakas (laymen) that were added to the sixteen arhats to form the standard grouping of eighteen figures in Tibet (fig. 2). At the bottom is Hva Shang, seated on a tiger-skin mat on the ground. H e is shown as a corpulent monk with a shaved head and gold skin. H e wears an earring in one ear. In his right hand is what appears to be a lemon (a fertility symbol)17and in his left hand a rosary. Surrounding this figure are ten little boys who play and dance; one tugs at Hva Shang's beard. Among these figures are many broad-leafed plants. As in the first thangka, this lower space-cell is separated from the upper scene by a bank of clouds. The upper half of this thangka depicts the qkzsaka Dharmatriita. He is shown walking along a path with a backpack of sz~ttras strapped to his back. H e holds a kundika vase in his left hand, out of which a cloud emerges, terminating in an image of a meditating Buddha seated on a lotus flower. His right hand holds a fly-whisk. Dharmatriita is dressed in the guise of a Central Asian, with boots, trousers,


See, for example, the Southern Song dynasty paintings from a set of "Five Hundred Arhats" by Zhou Jlchang and Li Tlnggul in the Freer Gallery of Art, published in W e n Fong, The Lohans and a Bridge to Heaz'en (Washington: Smithsonian Institution, 195R),pls.




See note 4. Richard Smithies, "The Search for the Lohans of I-chou (Yixian)," Oriental Art, vol. 30, no. 3 (Autumn, 1984), 260-274. See Kikyu Siga seika (Masterpiecei of Song Painting in the Palace Aluseunz). 3 vols. (Tokyo, 19j'j), vol. 2 , pl. 56. Pratapaditya Pal, Art of Tibet: A Catalogue ofthe Los Angeles Count) Museunz of Art Collection (Los Angeles County Museum of Art, 1983),36.

and low hat. A jeweled canopy floats above him in the air. H e is accompanied by a small attendant who carries a kundika on his back, and by two tigers. These two figures are significant because they exhibit the unambiguous impact of foreign figural motifs in Tibetan arhat paintings, and because they are among the earliest known depictions of the upasuka~Hva Shang and Dharmatrata in Tibetan Buddhist art. The origins of these figures in Chinese and Central Asian art will be discussed below.

The third thangka depicts two of the four Buddhist directional guardian kings, or lokapiilas (figs. 3a-c). At the top, holding apipa, is Dhrtariistra (T. Yul-hkhor-srung), King of the East. H e is shown dressed as a Chinese military official, with armor and flowing scarves, and wears a helmet on his head. H e stands on a composite demonic figure with a man's body and a horse's head. The guardian king's head is surrounded by flames, and his body by clouds. The figure in the lower half of the thangka is .. Virudhaka (T. Hphags-skyes-po), King of the South. H e holds a sword, his standard attribute, in his right hand, with the scabbard in his left hand. H e too is dressed as a Chinese military official, and has a helmet in the shape of a dragon's head. H e stands on a supine demon. His body is surrounded by a mandorla of flames. It can be assumed that this thangka would have been accompanied by another depicting the guardians of the west and north, Viriipaksa (T. Spyan-mi-bzan) and VaiSriivana (T. Rnam-thos-sras). The figures of Dhrtariistra and Virudhaka in this thangka are clearly derived from Chinese prototypes of the early Yuan dynasty. Among the closest antecedents are the lokapiila carved in the famous marble arch known as the Juyong Guan north of Beijing (fig. 5).18 This monument can be dated to ca. 1345, and represents the combined influence of both Chinese and Tibetan styles of decoration. The strong Tibetan influence can be tied to the Mongol emperors' adaptation of Tibetan Buddhism in the late thirteenth century; this is reflected in the mandala^ of the five Dhyani-Buddhas in the ceiling of the Juyong Guan. The figures of guardian kings come from a Chinese tradition stretching back through the Song (960-1279) and Jin (1115-1234) dynasties to the Tang dynasty (618906).

The remainder of this paper focuses on two problems: dating the group of three thangkas in Cleveland, and examining the significance of the presence of the upasakas Dharmatriita and Hva Shang in this group. The presence in all three thangkas of visual elements and motifs derived from Chinese art of the Yuan dynasty has already been noted. Perhaps the single most notable Chinese element in the paintings is the depiction of three-dimensional space, receding in the case of the arhat Gopaka to considerable depth. This illusion of space is conveyed through the suggestion of atmosphere and the reduction in size of distant objects, both aspects of Chinese painting that had been fully mastered by the tenth century.

Murata Jiro, ed., Chii-yung-kuan: The Buddhist Arch qithe Fourteenth Century A.D. 2 vols. (Kyoto: Kyoto University, 19j7), "01. PIS. 19, 31.


The figures of the arhats and lokapiilas also rely on Chinese pictorial modes. Each appears as a fully-conceived, three-dimensional figure, and each is depicted with great attention to realism and individual characterization. These are both features of Chinese figure painting as it developed in the Song and Yuan dynasties. The figures of the arhats Nagasena and Gopaka can be closely linked to Chinese arhat paintings of the twelfth through fourteenth centuries (fig. 6). The smaller attendants of these arhats are also derived from late Song and Yuan arhat paintings. The formal connection between the figures of the lokapiilas and similar figures at the Yuan Juyong Guan arch (ca. 1345) and in Yuan paintings has been pointed out above. Other details of these works are particularly close to their counterparts in Chinese art of the early fourteenth century. The architecture of the wooden temple in the mountains behind the arhat Gopaka resembles depictions of temples in Chinese paintings of the twelfth through fourteenth centuries, as seen in paintings on both silk and paper, and murals (fig. 7).19 The proportions of the hip-and-gable roofs, the lattice windows and the shapes of the chiwei ("owl's tail") roof finials are strikingly similar to those of surviving Yuan dynasty buildings in northern China.'' The dragon that appears next to the arhat Nagasena is also derived from Chinese prototypes of the late Song and Yuan periods. The sinuous body with its long neck is most similar in style to dragons that appear on Qingbai wares and blue-and-white porcelains in the early and middle decades of the fourteenth century (fig. 8)." The landscape elements of rocks and mountains in the first thangka are painted in a style that harks back to Chinese painting of the Tang dynasty (618-906), with minimal texturing of the surfaces. The trees, clouds and waves, however, have clear antecedents in Song and Yuan painting. The crashing waves, for example, are similar to the waves included in Ma Yuans "Water Studies" album of the early thirteenth century." Thus, while the Cleveland thangkas can be shown to be Tibetan in origin by virtue of their format, materials, techniques, and inscriptions, it is clear that the artist who created them was well aware of Chinese painting styles of the Song and Yuan dynasties. This may have resulted from either exposure to Chinese painting in China, or exposure to Chinese paintings or painters exported to Tibet. That this situation actually occurred in the fourteenth century is known from both literary ~ cross-cultural influences evidence and surviving monuments of early Tibetan ~ a i n t i n g . ' The between east and west that resulted in the artistic milieu in which the Cleveland thangkas were created began in the late thirteenth century, when the brilliant Newar artist A'nige (1244-1306) from the Kathmandu valley in Nepal was sent by the monk 'Phags-pa (1235-1280) from the Sakya-pa monastery in Central Tibet to serve at Khubilai Khan's court in Dadu (Beijing).14 A'nige worked in China between 1263 and 1306, and became the principal designer of imperially-sponsored Buddhist

20 21




See, for example, Yanihan st Jindai bihua (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1983), pls. 17, 23, 34, and Yongle gong (Beijing: Renmin meishu chubanshe, 1964), pl. 156. O n the Jin dynasty Yanshan si murals, see Patrlcia Eichenbaum Karetzky, "The Recently Discovered Chin Dynasty Murals Illustrating the Life of the Buddha at Yen-Shang-Ssu, Shansi," Artibus Astae, vol. 42, no. 4 (1980), 245-60. Nancy Shatzman Steinhardt, Chinese Tradttional Architecture (New York: China Institute, 1984))pls. 9.10, 9.11. See In Pursuit ofthe Dragon: Traditioni and Traniitions in Afing Cerauzics (Seattle: Seattle Art Museum, 1988), 63 and Rawson, Chtnese Ornament, fig. 79. Afa Yuan's "Water" Studies (Beijing: The Palace Museum, n.d.). This album is also illustrated and discussed in Robert J. Maeda, "The 'Water' Theme in Chinese Painting," Artibus Astae, vol. 33, no. 4 (1971),254-56, figs. 7(a-1). Pal, Art qfTibet, 29-30. Roberto Vitali, Early Teuzples qf Central Tzbet (London: Serindia Publications, 1990), 103 ff.

art at the Yuan court during the reigns of Khubilai (d. 1294) and Themur (1265-1307). A'nige ". . . described himself as a master of painting, metal casting, and the techniques of textiles and portraiture."25 Through his work and the work of his followers in China (including Tibetans), a school characterized as the Yuan-Newar school evolved that reflected a rich mixture of Himalayan and Chinese styles. The close political ties between China and Tibet during the Yuan dynasty ensured an awareness of Chinese styles in Tibet, and of Tibetan and Newari styles in China. This is evident at the Buddhist stone carvings at the Feilai Feng cliff in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province, which were carved between 1282 and 1292 under the influence of the notorious Tibetan (or Tangut) Yanglian Zhenjia, who was appointed "Supervisor of Buddhist Teaching South of the [Yangzi] River" in 1277; these reflect both Chinese and Himalayan sources.16 Chinese art of the Yuan period had a profound impact on the architecture, wall paintings, and sculpture of a ritual building known as the Serkhang of the Shalu Monastery in Central Tibet. This building, much of which survives today, underwent a major renovation between 1306 and 1320 under the direction of a Tibetan ruler named Grags-pa rgyal-mtshan, who himself travelled to the Yuan court in Dadu in 1306.'~The renovation was carried out with the encouragement of the Yuan emperor Themur, who gave Grags-pa rgyal-mtshan funds for this express purpose. The Shalu Serkhang was expanded in a Chinese manner, with pavilioned wings and glazed roof tiles.18 According to Tibetan literary sources, Grags-pa rgyal-mtshan summoned artists from rGya-Hor ("the Yuan realm") and shar-Rgyar ("Eastern China") to Central Tibet to carry out the renovations at the Shalu Serkhang.19 The visual evidence for this influx of Chinese styles at Shalu appears in several areas of the surviving Serkhang. The magnificent wall paintings in the mgon-khang (Chapel of Wrathful Deities) include depictions of dragons (fig. 9) that are very similar to the dragon flanking Nagasena in the Cleveland thangka (fig. I). The same chapel includes a mural depicting the four lokapalas (fig. 10). These are painted in a style that is completely Chinese in origin, and are similar in style to the two lokapalas in the Cleveland thangkas (fig. 3). Both the guardian kings and the dragons are discussed as follows by Vitali:
This mural is dedicated to the Four Guardian Kings [rGyal-chen-bzhi] on a background filled completely with a sea of clouds. The style is deeply Yuan Chinese, with no traces of Newar art present, the Kings being painted with distinctive Chinese features and physiognamy, as is the princess who bears offerings to them. Moreover, their warrior attire and the flowing garments of the princess follow the fashion prevalent during the Yuan dynasty. The pattern of the clouds is particularly distinctive, and reveals the Chinese esteem for its decorative value.. . One can fully appreciate the obvious differences between the Yuan Chinese style and the main corpus of the Newar idiom of Aniko's [A'nige's] workshop from the depiction of Phyag-na rdo-rje [a Tibetan wrathful deity] in the latter idiom found next to two imposing Yuan dragons.. . 3 0



Idid, 104. [bid, 105, and Richard Edwards, "Pu-tai-Maitreya and a Reintroduction to Hangchou's Fei-la,-feng," AYJOrientalis, "01. 14 (1984), 8-9. Vitali, 89 if. I b ~ d90-91, , pl. 47. Ibid., 105,121, notes 196,197. Ibid., 109-10.

The astonishing presence of Yuan-style wooden buildings with classical Chinese dougong bracketarms, tiled roofs, latticed windows, "owl's-tail" roof finials, and painted dragons in the wall paintings of the great processional corridor (skor-lam) of the Shalu Serkhang (fig. 11) provides further evidence for the direct influx of Yuan styles from China to Tibet in the period between 1306 and 1320.~' Similar architectural details appear in the wooden temple depicted behind the arhat Gopaka in the Cleveland thangka (fig. lb). At this juncture it is worthwhile comparing the Cleveland paintings to a remarkable Tibetan handscroll painting in the Virginia Museum, Richmond (figs. 12a-b). This long scroll is similar in materials and technique to the Cleveland paintings, and has been dated stylistically to the fourteenth century.j2It depicts a yet-unidentified narrative subject that centers on the offering of tribute by lay figures to a series of goddesses (dakinis). The colors of this scroll are rich, and include blue, green, red, orange, and gold pigments. Many details of the painting are remarkably close to the skor-lam murals in the Shalu Serkhang. The Chinese influence is strong, and appears in the landscapes (fig. 12a), which are surprisingly similar to works by the archaistic Yuan painters Qian Xuan, Zhao Mengfu and Chen Ruyan, and in the renditions of architecture (fig. 12b), with temple and palace buildings in Chinese style with bracket-arms and tiled roofs. A pronounced similarity between the Richmond and Cleveland paintings is the shared depiction of three-dimensional space and atmosphere, both alien to Tibetan traditions of painting up to that time. Another work that provides a useful contrast to the Cleveland paintings is a thangka depicting an arhat in the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (fig. 1 3 ) . This ~ ~ painting has also been dated stylistically to the fourteenth century. It depicts an arhat with attendants in a landscape dominated by Chinese-inspired motifs; these include the blue-and-green color scheme, and the reduction in size of distant mountains and figures. While the conception of three-dimensional space is much less successful than in the Cleveland thangkas, there are many points of similarity. Other Chinese elements that appear in the Los Angeles thangka are the gold-edged clouds, the dragons on the textile cover over the chair of the seated figure at the upper right (who holds, as Pal has shown, a Qingbaitype vase of the type prevalent between ca. 1300-1330~~) and the phoenixes on the edge of the arhat's seat cover, visible near lower center and at lower right. The style of the figures is heavily influenced by Chinese painting. Pal has written as follows about the artist who created this work:
The artist responsible for this beautiful thangka was a great eclectic who was familiar with the various Chinese styles of arhat painting prevalent in the Song and early Yuan periods, but who was not a slavish imitator. He followed none of the styles explicitly, but extrapolated elements from several to create his own distinctive manner. It also seems evident that the artist was a Tibetan rather than a Chinese.l5

j1 j2




lbid., 106-07, pls. 53, 57.

The handscroll was first published by Alan Priest in "A Buddhist Paradise," Arts zn Virgznzd, vol. 4, no. I (Fall, 1963), 16-21. See
also Pratapad~tya Pal, "Tibetan Religious Pa~ntlngs," Arts 271 Virgznza, vol. 27, nos. 1-3 (1987), figs. 21-23; Pratapaditya Pal, Tzbelan Painting1(Basel: R a v ~ Kumar, 1984), 124, pl. 55; and Joseph M. Dye, 111, "Ch~nese Influences on Tibetan Paintings in the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts," Orientations, September, 1992, fig. 2 , 62. Pal, Art of Tibet, 137-38, pl. 10 (P4) For another work of this type, see Pratapaditya Pal, The Art of Tibet (New York: Asia Society, 1969), pl. 7. This painting is part of a set of fourteenth-century Tibetan arhat paintings in the British Museum, London; see John Tate, "The Sixteen Arhats in Tibetan Painting," Oriental Art, vol. 35, no. 4 (Winter 1989/90), 199. Pal, Art qiTibet, 138. Ibid.,119.

A technical feature of the Los Angeles arhat thungku that links it to the Cleveland thangkas is the use of gold painting in raised relief, as if over gesso work. This appears in the border of the robe around the arhat's neck and chest. This rare technique also appears along the spine of the dragon next to the arhat Nagasena in the first Cleveland thungku. It is clear that the the technique of raised gold decoration is characteristic of fourteenth-century t h ~ n ~ k b s . ~ ~ The combined similarities between the Cleveland Museum of Art paintings, the Shalu Serkhang murals datable to between 1306 and 1320, the Virginia Museum handscroll, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art's arhat thangku (the latter two paintings having been dated stylistically to the fourteenth century) suggest that the three Cleveland scrolls can be dated to the fourteenth century as well, and more precisely to ca. 1340-1370. In addition to the technical and stylistic considerations outlined above, this tentative dating can be reached with the help of certain iconographical details.

As many scholars have shown, the set of sixteen arhats articulated in the Fuzhu ji,translated by Xuanzang in A.D. 654, had added to it in Tibet the figures of Hva Shang and Dharmatriita. At this point I would like to consider the origin of these figures, and the date of their appearance in the guise of z~pasukus to complete the set of eighteen arhats in Tibet. That this set was codified by the early fifteenth century is clear from the Newari artist Jivarama's sketchbook of 1435. The precise origins of Hva Shang are not entirely clear. There is a tradition in Tibetan literature, however, which states that Hva Shang was originally a Chinese monk named Ho-sang Mahiiyiina who took part in the famous debate at the Samye Monastery in Tibet in A.D. 782, during the Yarlung dynasty.j7 Hva Shang promulgated the doctrine of "sudden enlightenment" that had evolved in China in the late Six Dynasties Period, as opposed to the "gradual enlightenment" of the Indian schools represented by the monks ~anta-rakshita,Padma-sambhava and ~ a m a l a ~ i lWhen a.~~ Hva Shang lost this debate, he supposedly returned to China. If indeed a historical figure named Hva Shang existed in eighth-century Tibet, he may later have been associated or confused with the Chinese Chan (Zen) monk Budai heshang, considered a manifestation of Maitreya, the Buddha of the Future. The name Hva Shang is clearly derived from the Chinese term for monk, heshung. The figure of Hva Shang in the Cleveland thangku (fig. 2) is likewise clearly derived from Chinese images of Budai heshang. According to traditional Chan hagiography in China, the highly unorthodox monk Budai lived at the end of the Tang dynasty, and died in the early tenth century in Zhejiang. Budai's biography appears in Zanning's Song Guoseng zhuan (late tenth century) and the .~~ to literary records, early eleventh-century Jingde chuundeng lu (Trunsvnission of the L ~ v n p )According Budai's image was painted as early as the tenth century, with the now-common corpulent, smiling or laughing figure appearing by the early thirteenth century (fig. 14).~'The similarities between the Hva Shang of the Cleveland thungku and thirteenth- and fourteenth-century Chinese paintings of
For Pal's discussion of this technique see ibid., 138. For another fourteenth-century example see Marylin Rhie and Robert Thurman, Visdovti and Comnpassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet (New York: Harry Abrams, 1991), no. 46,168. The technique is also seen on some fifteenth-century thangkas; see Rhie and Thurman, nos. 3, 61. Pal, Art ofTibet, 46 (citing Tucci). See Waddell, The Buddhiim o,fTibet, 31. Edwards, 12 (citing Ferdinand D. Lessing, Yung-ha-hung (Stockholm, 1942), 21-37). Lessing, Yung-ho-hung, 31.




Budai heshang suggest a direct stylistic link. While the Cleveland figure is surrounded by little boys, the earliest known painting of Budai with little boys in China dates to the fifteenth century.41In Chinese Buddhist texts of the late Southern Song (thirteenth century), however, Budai is associated with "sixteen boys chasing him and seizing his bag."42 There is thus a textual antecedent in thirteenth-century China for the iconography of Budai with children that appears to have provided the prototype for the image of Hva Shang in the fourteenth century in Tibet. The precise mechanics of how the figure of Budai in China was transformed into the figure of Hva Shang in Tibet remains a mystery. A clue to the answer may, however, appear in China itself. At the Feilai Feng in Hangzhou is a famous carved stone image of Budai, surrounded by eighteen arhats (fig. IS). This sculpture was probably carved during the late thirteenth century.43As Richard Edwards has shown, the arhats were entrusted by the Buddha ~ i i k ~ a m uto n iprotect the Dhdrmd until the coming of Maitreya (shown here as B ~ d a i ) . ~ ~ It seems clear that the association of Budai with the eighteen arhats in China seen at the Feilai Feng can be somehow linked with the transformation of Budai into one of the eighteen arhats in Tibet. This transformation appears to have occurred in Tibet in the fourteenth century, during the Yuan dynasty, and not in the fifteenth century (Ming dynasty) as has been stated by Pratapaditya The Tibetans who worked for the Yuan emperors in the late thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries would, in addition, almost certainly have been exposed to Chan images of Budai that were prevalent in both northern and southern ~ h i n a . 'It ~ is well known that the Mongol emperors of the Yuan dynasty patronized and protected both the Tantric school of Tibetan Buddhism and the Chan (Zen) school of Buddhism that had evolved in China. The presence of the Tibetan Tantric deities Vajrapani (fig. 16,dated 1292), Kuvera, and VaiSriivana among the late-thirteenth century Feilai Feng sculptures in Hangzhou suggests that the incorporation of the image of Budai into a Tibetan conception of the arhats may have first occurred within a Tibetan milieu in China. In the eclectic Buddhist and artistic environment that obtained in both China and Tibet, the image of the Chan sage Budai could easily have been conveyed to Tibet in the early fourteenth century and been either transformed into the image of Hva Shang, or merged with an earlier conception of the Chinese monk. The mid-fourteenth century date of the Cleveland thdngkus proposed above, if correct, suggests that this set of arhat paintings includes one of the earliest surviving images of Hva Shang in Tibetan painting. Furthermore, as Lessing has shown, while in later Tibetan religious pantomimes (Cham) Hva Shang was an object of ridicule, a passage included in a late woodblock album presents a more serious image of Hva Shang. Lessing writes,






This painting, in the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, is published in Alice R.M. Hyland, Deities, Emperors. Ladies and Literati: Fzgz~re Paznting of the Ming and Qing Dynasties (Birmingham: Birmingham Museum of Art, 1987), cat. no. 2 . Lessing, Yz~ng-ho-kung, 24. Edwards, 13. Ibid. See also Fong, 25, 35. Pal, Art of Tibet, 175. Marylin Rhie and Robert Thurman have written, "It is nor clear at what juncture the Tibetan tradition adopted the seventeenth Arhat, Dharmarala [Dharmatr~ta], and the eighteenth, Hva Shang. In art they are known from at least the late 14th to early 15th century (possibly Dharmatala is known a little earlier in the wall paintings of the Guru Lhakhang in Ladakh)." See Rhie and Thurman, Wisdovz and Compassion: The Sacred Art of Tibet, 102. Edwards, 12-11, figs. 45-48; see also Shaolin si shike ~ishzl (Stone Carvings at Shaolin Tenzple) (Beijing: Wenwu chubanshe, 1985), pl.


Fig. I The Arhats Nagasena and Gopaka. Tibet, c. 1340-1370 Thangka, ink,colors, and gold on cotton; 72x34 cm. Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Fund (88.103).

Fig. Ia Newari script inscription on the back of The Arhats Nagasena and Gopaka (fig. I).

Fig. ~b Detail of the arhat Gopaka with Chinese-style temple in the background.

Fig. 2 The Sanctified Monks Hva Shang and Dharmatriita. Tibet, c. 1340-1370. Tbangka, ink, colors, and gold on cotton; 72x34 cm. Cleveland Museum of Art, Leonard C. Hanna, Jr., Fund (88.104).

Fig. 3 The Lokapiilas Dhrtargstra and Virudhaka. Tibet, c. 1340-1370. Tbangka, ink, colors, and gold on cotton; 7 2 . ~ ~ cm. 34 Cleveland Museum of Art, John L. Severance Fund (89.476).

Fig. ga Detail of fig. 3: The Lokapiila Dhytargstra.

Fig. 3b Detail of fig. 3: The Lokapala Virudhaka.

Fig. 4 The upasakas Hva Shang and Dharmatriita. Details from an iconographical sketchbook by the Newari artist Jivarama. Tibet, dated 1435. Ink on paper. Shri Suresh K. Neotia Collection, Calcutta.

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Fig. 5 The Lokapiila Dhytariistra. Detail of the Juyong Guan marble arch north of Beijing. Yuan dynasty, c. 1345.

Fig. 6 Arhat with Attendant. Southern Song dynasty, c. 12th-13th century. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk; 128.2x54.8 cm. T6ky6 National University of Fine Arts.

Fig. 7 Heavenly Palace. Detail of a wall painting at the Yanshan si, Shanxi Province. Jin dynasty, 12th century.

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Fig. 8 Dragon Ornament from a Blue-and-white Porcelain meiping. Yuan dynasty, 14th century. British Museum, London.

Fig. 9 The Deity Phyag.na rdo.rje with Dragon and Phoenix. Detail of the wall paintings in the Mgon-khang (Chapel of Wrathful Deities) in the Serkhang, Shalu Monastery, Central Tibet, c. 1306-1320.

Fig. 10 Lokapiila. Detail of a wall painting in the Mgon-khang (Chapel of Wrathful Deities) in the Serkhang, Shalu Monastery, Central Ti bet, c. 1306-1320.

Fig. 12a Chinese-style Landscape. Detail of a handscroll, ink, colors, and gold on cotton. Tibet, 14th century. Virginia Museum, Richmond, Williams Fund (62.28).

Fig. 12b Landscape with Chinese-style Architecture. Detail of a handscroll, ink, colors, and gold on cotton. Tibet, 14th century. Virginia Museum, Richmond, Williams Fund (62.28).

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Fig. 17 Monk with Siitras. From Dunhuang, c. 10th century. Ink and colors on paper; 43.ox27.8 cm. Tenri University Library Collection.

Fig. 18 The Tang Dynasty Monk Xuanzang. Japan, Kamakura Period, 14th century. Hanging scroll, ink and colors on silk, 135.5X90.0 cm. T6ky6 National Museum.

. . . on the back of a [wood-]cut from the album entitled "The Five Hundred Gods of Narthang (Snar-thang)" representing the Lokapiila Virudhaka we find a prayer or rather an invocation addressed to Hva Shang, which seems to contain an allusion to a legend unknown to the writer: "I bow in worship before Hva Shang, Seer of Truth, who invited the Buddha with his retinue of Arhats, entreating them as a Benefactor of the Summer (i.e., providing them during their varsha or summer-retreat) and enjoying the nectar of the sermon."47

This suggests that Hva Shang, while portrayed in as comical a vein in Tibet as Budai was shown in China, was nevertheless a figure with a serious role as well; one who in the Tibetan mind may have helped bring the arhats to Tibet. That the transformation of Budai into the image of Hva Shang in Tibet did not occur before 1335 is suggested by the fact that the gNas-rten Iha-khang (Arhat Chapel) at the Shalu Serkhang, decorated between 1333 and 1335 under the direction of the great monk Bu-ston rinpoche, contained only was a major central Tibetan monastery, and images (in this case sculptures) of sixteen a r h a t ~ . Shalu ~' its Serkhang is the only surviving building in Tibet decorated under the strong influence of Yuan dynasty styles and motifs in the early fourteenth century. Had the set of sixteen arhats with the addition of the two laymen or "sanctified monks" been introduced into Tibet by 1335, it would most likely have appeared at Shalu, which had among the strongest ties to China of any Tibetan monastery. That other images from the repertory of Chan Buddhism in China were introduced into Tibet at about the same time is clear from the astonishing presence of a white-robed Guanyin (Sk. Avalokiteivara) meditating on Mount Potalaka in the Eastern Ocean, found in the fourteenthcentury handscroll in the Virginia Museum (fig. 12a). This image was most closely associated with the Chan sect in China, and was entirely alien to the traditions of Tibetan ~ u d d h i s m . ~ ~ The origin of Dharmatriita is even more obscure than of Hva Shang. According to one tradition he was a lay devotee from ancient Gandhara, responsible for the authorship of several Buddhist texts.5o The most closely related image to that seen in the Cleveland thangku originated in Central Asia during the late Tang dynasty (ninth century). Tang paintings excavated at Dunhuang in the early twentieth century depict a monk with many of the same attributes seen in the Cleveland painting (backpack and fly-whisk, and accompanied by a tiger and sometimes the image of a Buddha in the sky above; fig. 17).~'Some of these images are labeled "Baosheng rulai fo" in Chinese, which translates to "the Buddha Ratnasambhava." Whether this refers to the monk himself or the primordial Buddha floating in the sky above is unclear. As Roderick Whitfield has recently shown, however, " . . . t h e monk with his load of scrolls was a powerful image that lived on in later images identified either as the famous monk Xuanzang who travelled to India between A.D. 629 and A.D. 645, or as the luohan [arhat] Dharmatriita, who, accompanied by a tiger, was an addition to the original total of sixteen luohans in China and Tibet.j2
Lessing, 36.
Vitali, 91.
O n the iconogaphy of the white-robed G ~ ~ a n y isee n , Helmut
Brinker, Zen in the Art ofpainting (London & New York: Arkana, 1987), 58-62. Waddell, The B u d ~ ~ h i rofTibet, m 377-78. Roderick Whitfield, The Art of Central Asiu: The Stein Collection in the Brittsh Museum (Tokyo: Kodansha, 1983), 336, pl, 59; see also Puinttngs qf Central Asiu from Jupunese Collections (Nara: Yamato Bunkakan, 1988), pl. 54. Whitfield, 337.





That the image of Dharmatriita was associated in the fourteenth century with images of Xuanzang is suggested by a Kamakura period (early fourteenth century) Japanese painting of Xuanzang carrying a backpack of szitras (fig. 18) that is extraordinarily similar to the figure of Dharmatriita in It is likely that the Japanese scroll is a copy of a Chinese painting of the Cleveland thangka (fig. Song or Yuan date. I t is significant in this regard that Xuanzang played a pivotal role in the transmission of the cult of the arhats from India to China (and ultimately to Tibet) through his i in 654. The incorporation of the image of the monk carrying .ritras into the translation of the Fazhu j set of eighteen arhats in Tibet is more clearly understood in this context. That this occurred in the fourteenth century is clear from the presence of the image in the Cleveland thangka. Although Tibet ruled certain parts of Central Asia (including Dunhuang) for over a hundred years after the mideighth century, it is likely that this image was transmitted from Central Asia to China in the ninth or tenth century, and then from China to Tibet in the fourteenth century. I t is worth noting that among the sculptures carved at the Feilai Feng in Hangzhou during the tenure of Yanglian Zhenjia in the late thirteenth century was a depiction of Xuanzang bringing sitras to China.5' As Edwards has suggested, this image may have served as a legitimizing symbol for the Tibetans in China who commissioned the Feilai Feng sculptures, who in bringing Tantric Buddhism east encountered resistance from Chan Buddhists, Daoists, and Confucians. In conclusion, one might observe that the figures of Dharmatriita and Hva Shang in the Cleveland thangkas pose more questions than they answer. Hva Shang appears to have been a transformation of Budai, who in turn was a manifestation of Maitreya, the Future Buddha; among the arhats' functions was the protection of the Dharnza until Maitreya's coming. Concurrently, Dharmatriita appears to have been a transformation of Xuanzang, the monk who translated the Fazhu jz and thereby helped convey the cult of the sixteen arhats to the Far East from India. While the precise mechanics of the transformation of the Chinese images of Budai and Xuanzang into these figures who become an integral part of the group of eighteen arhats in Tibet remains to be fully illuminated, the fourteenthcentury Sino-Tibetan thangkas in Cleveland reveal that the transformation occurred during a period of enormous cross-cultural interaction between China and Tibet. By the time these figures appeared in the sketchbook of the Newari artist Jivarama in 1435,they had been a standard part of the iconography of the arhats in Tibetan Buddhism for nearly a century.


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You have printed the following article: The Arhats in China and Tibet Stephen Little Artibus Asiae, Vol. 52, No. 3/4. (1992), pp. 255-281.
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The Recently Discovered Chin Dynasty Murals Illustrating the Life of the Buddha at Yen-shang-ssu, Shansi Patricia Eichenbaum Karetzky Artibus Asiae, Vol. 42, No. 4. (1980), pp. 245-260.
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