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The Buddha achieved enlightenment in Bodh Gaya, India, in the fifth century BC, beneath a tree with large, spade-shaped leaves. This tree, a type of ficus, became revered by Buddhists as the sacred Tree of Enlightenment (bodhi tree) and was propagated by believers throughout Asia. In China, painters used leaves of the bodhi tree to create albums like this, which invest the ground of the image with an extra layer of sacred power by connecting it to the Buddha’s awakening. With bright, thickly applied mineral pigments, this album shows the luohans exercising their magical powers.

Luohans, Unidentified Artist, Album of eighteen leaves; ink and color on bodhi tree leaves, China

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