The Sixteen Luohans

Shitao (Zhu Ruoji) Chinese

On view at The Met Fifth Avenue in Gallery 216

Shitao, born Zhu Ruoji, a scion of the Ming imperial family, escaped death in his youth by taking refuge in the Buddhist priesthood. In 1662 he became a disciple of the powerful Chan (Zen) master Lü’an Benyue (d. 1676). In the late 1660s and 1670s, while living in seclusion in temples around Xuancheng, Anhui Province, he taught himself to paint.

In The Sixteen Luohans, Shitao’s earliest major extant work, the young painter, then twenty-five, drew what are possibly the most effective figures since the Yuan period (1279–1368). A rare religious subject for Shitao, known for his visionary landscapes, the scroll depicts the sixteen guardian luohans (saints) ordered by the Buddha to live in the mountains and protect the Buddhist law until the coming of the future Buddha.

Stylistically, the immediate sources for Shitao’s figures were late Ming painters, such as Ding Yunpeng (1547–ca. 1621) and Wu Bin (act. ca. 1583–1626). Unlike Wu Bin’s luohans, which seem to be merely grotesque caricatures, Shitao’s are carefully observed, showing such thoroughly human qualities as humor and curiosity.

#7645. The Sixteen Luohans

0:00
0:00
The Sixteen Luohans, Shitao (Zhu Ruoji) (Chinese, 1642–1707), Handscroll; ink on paper, China

Due to rights restrictions, this image cannot be enlarged, viewed at full screen, or downloaded.

Open Access

As part of the Met's Open Access policy, you can freely copy, modify and distribute this image, even for commercial purposes.

API

Public domain data for this object can also be accessed using the Met's Open Access API.