USC Pacific Asia Museum
Pasadena, California 91101
Open Wednesday through Sunday 10am to 6pm
Insight: The Path of Bodhidharma
The Focus Gallery
September 19, 2014 through February 15, 2015
Insight: The Path of Bodhidharma explores the portrayal of the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma (known as Daruma in Japan) and how this religious figure has become a popular icon through an array of objects from paintings and sculptures to decorative objects and toys. Credited with introducing Chan (Zen in Japanese) Buddhism in China in the 6th century, the Indian monk Bodhidharma has become a well-known subject in Buddhist art, frequently depicted in ways that emphasize his non-East Asian origin and iconoclastic persona. As Chan (Zen) Buddhism gained popularity, various legends associated with the Chan patriarch evolved, and artists began to depict those legends alongside his portraits. Traditional depictions of Bodhidharma were executed in ink monochrome with free expressive brush strokes, alluding to his teaching that focuses on the spontaneous nature of reaching enlightenment through meditation. During the Edo period (1603-1868) in Japan, the traditional sternness of this pious monk's expression went through a radical change as he was often paired with a courtesan of the pleasure quarters—a parody to expose the hypocrisy of society. Today, Bodhidharma's depictions are still widely found both in fine art and pop culture.