Past Exhibitions

Rakan: Japanese Paintings of Arhats
February 21, 2017 - March 20, 2017

Arhats, called rakan in Japanese, are ancient Indian high priests of Buddhism. Japanese paintings of such figures are usually depicted in a Chinese-influenced style, because the earliest arhat images were imported from China.
Arhats have been worshiped in Japan since the Heian period (794–1185), however their popularity increased dramatically in the Kamakura period (1185–1333) along with the growing influence in Japan of Zen.
The early Chinese and Japanese painters of arhats and their audiences must have believed these images to resemble actual Buddhist elders in ancient India. Today, we enjoy these paintings instead for their exaggerated and exoticized depictions.

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