Himalayan Art Resources

Painting Set: Arhat/Sthavira Set 3 (Palace Museum)

Palace Museum Main Page (Paintings)

Central Figures:
- Shakyamuni, Shariputra & Maudgalyayana
- Sixteen Elders (Sthavira)
- Two Attendants
- Four Guardian Kings

- Painting Set 3: Palace Museum
- Arhats: 16 or 18
- Arhat Iconography
- Arhat Composition & Sets

Additional Components:
- Secondary Figures Teachers
- Secondary Figures Deities
- Attendant Figures to the Elders
- Animals
- Landscape Features
- Others...

Organizational Layout:
- Center: Shakyamuni Buddha
- Paintings to the Proper Right
- Paintings to the Proper Left

For all sets of the Sixteen Great Elders, Shakyamuni Buddha is the central figure, the first painting or sculpture. The full group of elders always has twenty-five figures in total: the Buddha Shakyamuni, together with the two foremost disciples - Shariputra and Maudgalyayana, the sixteen Elders, the attendant Dharmata, the patron Hvashang and the Four Guardians of the Directions; Vaishravana, Virupaksha, Dhritarashtra and Virudhaka.

The set of paintings below (Palace Museum, Set 3) is complete with all twenty-three compositions included and all twenty-five figures accounted for. The main elder figure for each and landscape follows a 15th century Chinese Yongle compositional model. The details of drawing and shading, along with the secondary figures, follows a Tibetan Khyenri painting tradition. The painting set is believed to be a gift of the 3rd (6th) Panchen Lama, Palden Yeshe (1738-1780) to the Qianlong Emperor of China (1711-1799).

An extensive set of paintings would comprise twenty-three individual paintings. The two foremost disciples are always portrayed in the same painted composition along side Shakyamuni Buddha. In sculpture sets the total number of pieces is twenty-five with each figure its own sculpted, or metal cast, work. In the Tibetan system there are only sixteen elders. In the Chinese system there are eighteen elders (lohan) with Dharmata and Hvashang also counted as Lohan (elders). (See Arhat/Sthavira Main Page).

Jeff Watt, 9-2021

Reference: Tibetan Religious Art, (2 volumes). Loden Sherab Dagyab. Otto Harrasowitz, Wiesbaden, 1977