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HOME : Chinese Art : Yuan Dynasty : Yuan Dynasty Sandstone 'Lohan' head
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Yuan Dynasty Sandstone 'Lohan' head - DL.992
Origin: China
Circa: 1260 AD to 1368 AD
Dimensions: 10.25" (26.0cm) high x 6" (15.2cm) wide
Collection: Chinese
Medium: Sandstone
Condition: Extra Fine

Location: UAE
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The Yuan Dynasty was established by Kublai Khan, the grandson of Genghis Khan, upon relocating the capital of his empire from Mongolia to Beijing. The Forbidden City was constructed, a relative oasis of Mongolian culture in the heart of China. While the Mongol elite retained their native language and customs, they did adopt the Chinese system of bureaucratic government and cemented the authoritarian rule of the emperor. Although they were relatively unaffected by Chinese culture, the Yuan did little to stifle the native traditions and beliefs of their subjects. Buddhism continued to flourish, although the monasteries received little funding from the state. In fact, during the Yuan Dynasty, China first began to open up to foreigners. Christian and Hindu missionaries arrived in Beijing and Marco Polo made his famous journey during the Yuan era. While the Chinese never accepted the Yuan as a legitimate dynasty, instead viewing them as foreign bandits, the Mongolians rebelled against the Beijing Khans for becoming “too Chinese.” In the end, the Yuan Dynasty had the shortest duration of the major Chinese Dynasties, lasting little more than a hundred years.

Even today, when entering the main hall of a Buddhist temple in China, one will discover two rows of sculpted figures, traditionally numbering eighteen in total. These figures are known as the Eighteen Lohan. Lohan is the Chinese term, derived from the Sanskrit word Arhan, for a disciple or follower of Buddha who has reached a state of enlightenment. The Lohan had been a popular subject in Chinese art at least since the cultural flourishing of the Tang Dynasty. Traditionally, they are always produced in sets of sixteen or eighteen. The numerical difference is a result of discrepancies in Buddhist texts. By the Song Dynasty, artists began to depict each Lohan with individualized facial features. This superb example is distinctive for its long face and heavy eyebrows. A small mound, called an ushnisa, rises from the forehead symbolizing the Lohan’s universal wisdom. The sculpture is in excellent condition and a superb testament to the piety of the Yuan era. (AM) - (DL.992)


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