Posted by: softypapa | September 18, 2007

Japanese Shikishi Art – Daruma Zen Bodhidarma Nihonga


“Life falls down seven times, yet gets up eight…” This popular Japanese proverb is commonly associated with the Indian Buddhist sage Daruma. Daruma is the more familiar name of the historical Buddhist monk Bodhidarma, who lived sometime during the fifth or sixth century AD. Daruma is credited with the founding of the Zen sect of Buddhism, which he is reputed to have introduced into China during his travels there. Some of the legends surrounding this figure include tales that he achieved enlightenment or satori only after meditating in a cave for seven years without blinking or moving his eyes. Another story tells that his enlightenment occurred within a temple in China where he spent his seven years sitting in a room staring at a wall. Apparently at some point during his long meditation Daruma became so overcome with fatigue that he cut off his eyelids in anger and tossed them to the ground. These are reputed to have then sprouted into China’s first green tea plants! It is said that Daruma’s long meditation caused his arms and legs to wither and fall off, leaving him as an armless, legless and eyelidless (yet enlightened) Bodhidarma… The Japanese love this story and admire Daruma for his spirit and determination, and each new year many Japanese will buy a paper-mache Daruma tumbler doll in order to enlist its services in helping them persevere towards their own goals or achievements. The dolls are sold with unpainted eyes, allowing the new owner to paint in one eye to symbolize the start of a new goal or venture. The doll is then placed in a prominent place within the home or at work in order to remind the owner to keep after their aim. Japanese students especially utilize Daruma to motivate them with their studies; placing a one-eyed Daruma before them on their desk as motivation to work hard and make the grade. Only after the goal is achieved will the owner then paint in the second eye, symbolizing a realized goal. Daruma dolls which have completed their jobs as perseverance role models are normally then brought to a temple to be burned during special ceremonies set aside for this purpose. The last images below are various representations of Daruma found at a Zen temple near our home in Japan.

About the Listed Item
This Japanese painting (nihonga) dates from the late Japanese Showa period (1926-1989) and features a stylized image of Daruma. The painting was done on a rectangular sheet of stiff Japanese shikishi paper with gold trim at the edges. This nihonga painting is in good condition though it does have some small marks and the body of the piece is warped. A wonderful candidate for framing and display.

Size:
Height: 10.5 inches (27.0 centimeters)
Width: 9.4 inches (24.0 centimeters)

item code: R3S1B1-0003341
category code: nihonga
ship code: shikishihako

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