Title:Arhat and DragonArtist:Artist Unknown Date:1368-1643Creation Place:Asia, ChinaCredit Line:Gift of funds from Joan WurteleAccession Number:99.17.2
Executed primarily in fine line ink technique (pai-miao), a Buddhist lohan or arhat is shown riding his walking staff through turbulent waves. He holds a flaming pearl in his right hand and peers over his shoulder at a dragon emerging from a bank of dark, threatening clouds. The affiliation of lohans and dragons comes from early accounts of the miraculous powers of the great patriarchs or Chan Buddhism to control dragons. Dragons were believed to affect rain and thunder and those who could summon dragons could share their power to make rain. Buddhist monks and Taoist sages were both thought to have wonder-working control over the powers of the universe. The swirling waves, clouds, and contorted dragon represent the forces of nature over which an enlightened follower of the Buddhist law (dharma) could gain mastery.