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Antique Chinese Root Wood Zen Master

Qing Dynasty, Circa: 19th century
H 25" (63.5cm.), W 10" (25cm.), D 4" (10cm.)

Condition : Excellent

In this soaring wood sculpture, thoroughly merged with the natural form of a tree root, half hidden by his rustic cloak, is Bodhidharma, the Indian sage who brought Buddhism to China. Upon his arrival there he was granted an interview with the emperor, after which he retired into silent meditation for nine years, then departed the country. His emphasis on meditation and his example of devotedness was revered and emulated in China. He is also credited as the Patriarch of Buddhism in Japan that came to be known as Zen. Thus he is also known as Daruma, the wish-fulfilling deity in Japan. He is usually seen either seated in meditation or standing with his staff as in this carving, where the gnarled wood still sends shoots downward toward its earthy beginnings. Tied to one of these tendrils is a gourd, on which a lotus is carved, symbolizing the limitless consciousness of Buddhahood which protects from all harm. Beside Bodhidharma is a tree stump upon which is placed a bowl of magical elixir erupting in spiraling clouds upon which are two bats with wings outspread, an extremely auspicious symbol, emblematic of happiness and longevity.

This carving is made of a naturally dark and extremely dense root wood. The irregularities and knots have been left in place, accentuating the rustic mood. All forms which have been carved into the wood are admirably done; however the remarkable face of Bodhidharma is the center and the highlight of this work.

As in many representations of Bodhidharma, the eyes look out intensely in a wide stare. One story about Bodhidharma recounts that he cut off his eyelids to avoid falling asleep when he was meditating; on the spot of earth where the eyelids fell, the first tea plant sprung up. The hair of the eyebrows and beard have been superbly and summarily accomplished , directly and without fussiness, the beard radiating in a bristly riverine flow, the prominent western features gathered into an _expression of irreversible determination.

Private Collection

Bodhidharma Darmo Root Wood Statue

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