Himalayan Art Resources

Chinese Deity: Sage of Long-Life

Long Life Deities

Database Search: All Images

Subjects & Topics:
- Description (below)
- Long Life Deities
- Purification Outline
- Medicine & Tantric Healing Outline
- Masterworks
- Confusions: Yutog Yontan Gonpo, Tangtong Gyalpo, Elders/Arhats
- Others...

Six Iconographic Elements:
1. Rock of long life
2. Water of long life
3. Tree of long life
4. Man with long life
5. Birds of long life
6. Antelope of long life

The Sage of Long Life in Himalayan art is an iconic image of an elderly man, sage-like in bearing. He represents long life, health, harmony and wisdom. It is very common to find the Sage painted as a mural at the entrance way to temples or as a secular image found in the homes of the laity or carved onto furniture for use in temples or homes. Paintings of the Sage of Long Life are commonly mistaken for an arhat and mistakenly believed to be part of a larger set depicting the Sixteen Great Arhats. The Sage of Long Life is almost always created as an individual composition.

Painting HAR #1077 and block print HAR #87587 are based on the same model and follow the same composition.

The iconic representation requires six iconographic elements to be included together to create the image of the Sage of Long Life.

"From an early time in China there was an isolated and pleasant place known as the Pure Forest of Great Bliss (rnam dag bde chen gyi tshal) with a rocky mountain in the shape of a white conch turning to the right. In front is a continuosly flowing stream having the eight qualites [of water].

Residing there in the pureland is a sage with immortal life, a white mustache and beard, white face with a reddish hue. In the right hand he holds a longevity vase tied with a white scarf and the left, in a gesture of generosity, holding a peach having ripened for over a thousand years. By the blessing of the sage, from the back of the mountain, a river with eight qualities continuously flows.

At the side is a longevity tree (juniper) with a solid trunk, leaves and foliage spread widely, abundant with beautiful flowers - providing shade and cool air. Whoever feels the breeze and shade will obtain long-life.

Lovely birds and two white cranes gather because of the sage's gesture of generosity and gift of the Dharma. A male and female deer live nearby receiving the blessing of not aging and dying, happily enjoying the water and food." (Translation by Karma Gellek, 5-2012)

The Six & the Six Perfections:
The man represents knowledge (shes rab)
The water represents diligence (brtson 'grus )
The rocky mountain concentration (bsam gtan)
The tree represents discipline (tshul khrims)
The birds represent generosity (sbyin pa)
The deer represents patience (bzod pa)

The Six & Corresponding Colours:
Sage - skin colour
Deer - brownish in colour
Tree - green colour
Mountain - white
Water - light blue
Birds - white

Alternate Meaning:
Mountain - a sacred place blessed by the Buddhas & Bodhisattva
Water - the nectar of immortality
Tree - free from misery, the lengthening of life
Sage - attainment of immortality
Birds - peace
Deer - enjoying the possession of long-life

Jeff Watt 5-2012 [updated 5-2017]

在早期的中国, 有一个与世隔绝的美丽的地方叫做大乐纯林。那里有一座大山, 形如右旋的白海螺。在它前面, 具有八种特殊品质的水不断的流淌。
在净土里居住着一位长生不老的圣人,白色臉上帶有略紅的色彩, 胡须是银白的。他的右手拿着一个长寿花瓶, 用白色围巾绑着。他的左手做出慷慨的手势,拿着一个千年寿桃。在圣人的加持下,山后面的河里昼夜流淌着具有八种特殊品质的水。
在他旁边是一棵长寿树(杜松树)。树干非常结实, 盛开着美丽的花朵,为大家提供荫凉。任何感受到微风和荫凉的人将获得长寿。
因为圣人的宽厚和教导佛法,可爱的小鸟们和两只白鹤被吸引到了这里。生活在附近的一对鹿得到了长生不老的加持,愉快地享受着周边的水和食物。 (由噶玛格勒翻译