This is a wooden sculpture of Asita, one of
the sixteen Arhats who were disciples of
Buddha Shakyamuni. With distinctive white
long eyebrows, he is conventionally
depicted as the oldest Arhat. In this
sculpture, Asita is seated in relaxed
posture, holding his eyebrow in his right
hand. The bump on his forehead symbolises
wisdom, pertaining to his status as an
Arhat. His robe is delicately depicted, as
reflected by the realistic folds.
Asita in Sanskrit means incomparably
proper, or of correct proportions in spirit
and physique. According to legend, Asita
was born with two long white eyebrows.
The story was that in his previous life he
was a monk who, though having tried very
hard yet could not attain enlightenment
even at a ripe old age and had only two
long white eyebrows left. In Asita’s next
life, his father was told that Shakyamuni
Buddha also has two long eyebrows,
therefore his son had the look of the
Buddha in him. As a result, Asita was sent
away to a monastery to become a monk,
eventually attaining enlightenment.
The artistic style of this sculpture resembles
that of Mid-Ming period. During the Yongle
and Xuande era, Buddhist figures had a
relatively slender and less bulky physique,
as this Asita Arhat sculpture demonstrates.
The sculpture has reasonable traces of
aging, while hints of gold paint are