Theravada Buddhism, the Arhat, Arahat or Arahant, translated
into Chinese as Lohan, is one who has followed the Eightfold
Path and has achieved deliverance of this earthly existence.
He has reached "the other shore" and is saved
for all eternity. In him the asavas - the craving for
sensual pleasures, earthly existence, ignorance and
wrong views - are gone. He is subject to no more rebirths
are well-known for their great wisdom, courage and supernatural
power. Due to their abilities to ward off the evil,
Lohans have became guardian angels of the Buddhist temple
and there in the main hall standing guard are the ever-present,
indomitable-looking 18 Lohan figures, sometimes accompanied
by 500 or more lesser Lohans.
to tradition, there were originally only 16 lohans.
Two were added on the list by the Chinese in the Tang
has it that the first portraits of the 18 Lohans were
painted by a Buddhist monk Guan Xiu, in 891 A.D. Guan
Xiu lived in Chengdu, the capital of a small kingdom,
the Former Shu, formed at the decline of the Tang Dynasty
in what is today's Sichuan Province. He was adept at
the scholarly pursuits of painting, calligraphy and
was because of his expert painting skill that the Lohans
chose him to paint their portraits. They appeared to
him in his dreams to make that request.
traditional order of the 18 Lohans is based on the order
in which they appeared in Guan Xiu's dreams, not on
the strength of their power. The order is: Deer Sitting,
Happy, Raised Bowl, Raised Pagoda, Meditating, Oversea,
Elephant Riding, Laughing Lion, Open Heart, Raised Hand,
Thinking, Scratched Ear, Calico Bag, Plantain, Long
Eyebrow, Doorman, Taming Dragon and Taming Tiger Lohans.
then, Chinese artists, be they painters, sculptors or
potters, have sought to give flesh and blood to these
essentially mythical figures. Often they would base
their portrayals of the Lohans on Guan Xiu's paintings.
Innumerous legends have served to provide attributes
and dispositions, from which the artists draw their
inspiration. As each artist has his own method of expression,
thus the portrayals of the Lohans differ from dynasty
to dynasty and from place to place.