Asian Art

Buddhist Elder, the Luohan Nakula

14th century

Hanging scroll: ink and color on silk

without mounting: 45 1/2 × 20 1/2 in. (115.5 × 52.1 cm)
with mounting: 54 × 21 7/8 in. (137.2 × 55.5 cm)
Gift of Mrs. Jared K. Morse

Although mentioned in Sanskrit texts, arhats (known as luohans in Chinese) are depicted primarily in East Asian and Tibetan art, and not in India or Southeast Asia. Because of their ascetic nature, they are often shown as strangely featured and emaciated, stylistic choices that also highlight their Central Asian and Indian ethnicity. This luohan, who holds a text and is attended by a standing figure, is the fifth of the standard set of sixteen and is known as Nakula in Sanskrit and Jialijia Zhunzhe in Chinese. Like all luohans, he is a protector of Buddhism and its practitioners, particularly during perilous or threatening times.

Yuan dynasty (1279–1368)

Handbook of the Collections, exh. cat. (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Art Gallery, 1992), 297.

Mimi Gardner Gates, The Communion of Scholars: Chinese Art at Yale, exh. cat. (New York: China House Gallery, 1982), 108–110, no. 49, ill.

George J. Lee, Selected Far Eastern Art in the Yale University Art Gallery (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1970), 49, no. 75, ill.

Xuanzang, Xi You Ji: Buddhist records of the Western World, 2 vols. (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trubner & Co., Ltd., 1906).

Watanabe Hajime, “Arhats in Tokyo Geijutsu Dagaku,” Bijutsu Kenkyu 7 (July 1932): 1–6.

Nihon bukkyo bijutsu no genryu, exh. cat. (Nara, Japan: Nara Kokuritsu Hakubutsukan, 1978).

Marinus Willem De Visser, The Arhats in China and Japan (Berlin: Oesterheld & Co., 1923).

Masterpieces of Yuan, Ming, and Qing Dynasties Collected Overseas (Hangzhou, China: Zhejiang da xue chu ban she, 2011).

Note: This electronic record was created from historic documentation that does not necessarily reflect the Yale University Art Gallery’s complete or current knowledge about the object. Review and updating of such records is ongoing.