Puzzle of

The Arhat’s Gaze

The Arhat, one of the disciples of the Buddha, is drawing a dragon out of the water and into his begging bowl by the sheer power of his gaze. The whites of the Arhat’s eyes are much purer white than anything else in the picture, so they draw the viewer’s gaze, too.

Detail of Arhat Taming the Dragon, Yuan dynasty of China, early 14th C (Kimbell Art Museum, Fort Worth, TX). Cropped, brightened, and saturation slightly increased to be more puzzleable.

I also love the dragon’s face:

I don’t know if he’s intended to look more cute than truly fierce, but that’s how he looks to me. (Are Chinese dragons male by default? Or not?)

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  1. little Alex
    Posted October 9, 2009 at 3:32 am | Permalink

    Presumably, there are male and female dragons, as they reproduce sexually, iirc, but I can’t recall any specific female dragons in Chinese mythology (though that could be because I’m pretty ignorant in that respect).

    But in Chinese custom, the male is indeed usually represented by the dragon and the female would be represented by the phoenix (which technically also have two sexes as well). For example, a pair of male-female fraternal twins would be called “dragon phoenix babies”.

  2. The Librarian
    Posted October 11, 2009 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the info, Alex! Do you think the dragon is intended to look kind of cute? Or just shivery-dangerous?

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