Bodhidharma (Daruma), a hanging scroll painting

Momoyama period, late 16th century AD

Bodhidharma (died around AD 532), known as Daruma in Japanese, was the Indian founder of Zen Buddhism which he brought to China. He is said to have spent nine years seated in meditation in a cave, losing the use of his arms and legs. Zen became influential in Japan in the thirteenth century. From this period onward Japanese Zen monks began painting portraits of Daruma in brush and ink as an aid to reaching enlightenment (satori).

Portraits of Daruma traditionally emphasized his 'Indian' appearance with bushy beard and eyebrows, compelling eyes, large nose and long ears (a symbol of Buddhist sanctity). He wears a large earring. The painting is powerfully executed in a variety of fine lines for the face, hair and beard and dashing black brushstrokes for the robes. This follows Chinese traditions of calligraphy (the art of writing with a brush).

The painting is unsigned and a former attribution was to Sōami (around 1455-1525), ink painter and curator of art collections of the Ashikaga Shogunate (1338-1573). More recent scholarship suggests a date of the later sixteenth century.

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More information


L. Smith, V. Harris and T. Clark, Japanese art: masterpieces in (London, The British Museum Press, 1990)

I. Hirayama and T. Kobayashi (eds.), Hizō Nihon bijutsu taikan-2, vol. 3 (Tokyo, Kodansha, 1993)


Height: 765.000 mm
Width: 390.000 mm

Museum number

Asia JP 362 (1913.5-1.0101)


Arthur Morrison Collection
Gift of Sir W. Gwynne-Evans, Bt.


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