Title: 18 Luohan

Date: ca. 1999
Culture: China
Material: Carved soapstone
Size: 19.5” H x 16.5” W
Credit: Anonymous Donation
On View: No

In Mahayana Buddhism, the Luohan (or Arhats) are the original disciples of Gautama Sakyamuni, the first Buddha. The Luohan are believed to have reached Nirvana and are free of worldly cravings. However, they chose to remain behind to help others reach enlightenment. In China, the 18 disciples are a popular subject in Buddhist art. (The notion of 18 Luohan is unique to China. Other countries only acknowledge 16.)

This sculpture is made up of soapstone, a magnesium silicate which has a hardness of 1, making it the “softest” of minerals. Soapstone is usually white or light green. However, it can also be colored by iron and other elements to create orange and red hues.

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