Four luohans and attendants, a hanging scroll painting

Possibly from Zhejiang, China
Ming dynasty, 15th-16th century AD

Buddhist enlightened beings

This scroll may have belonged to a series of scrolls which depicted all sixteen luohan (Sanskrit: arhat). Here, they are accompanied by four attendants, two of whom are holding a ceremonial sceptre (hu) and a model mountain.

The painting shows how the conventions of luohan paintings were continued from the Song and Yuan periods (10th-14th century). It was painted before the resurgence of the baimiao ('fine line') style by artists like Ding Yunpeng in the later Ming period.

The foreign-looking figures are one of the conventions of luohan painting, from the same tradition as a painting of Ingada in The British Museum's collection. The figure wears a halo and has a Chinese appearance, which derives from a naturalistic style of portraiture. The earliest depiction of an arhat exhibiting these qualities may be found from a Dunhuang painting of the arhat Kalika by a Tibetan artist.

The rocks and vegetation are rendered in ink wash and a variety of textured strokes, in a similar way to the academic style of the Zhe school. (See for example, the painting attributed to Jiang Song, Taking a lute to visit a friend.)

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More information


A. Farrer, The brush dances and the ink s (Hayward Gallery, London, 1990)


Height: 1690.000 mm
Width: 870.000 mm

Museum number

Asia OA 1983.7-5.02 (Chinese Painting Add. 442)



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