A Meiji Era Carved Wooden Daruma: The "Father" of Zen Buddhism
late nineteenth, early twentieth century
5 1/2" x 4" x 3 1/4", 14 cm x 10 cm x 8 cm
This small, hand carved folk sculpture is a depiction of Daruma, who, in addition to founding Zen Buddhism in China, is a popular god in Japan upon which a great deal of folklore and customs are based.
From onmarkproductions.com here is a wonderful quoted passage on the historical Daruma:
The historical Bodhidharma (known as Daruma in Japan) was an Indian sage who lived sometime in the fifth or sixth century AD. He is commonly considered the founder of Chan (Zen) Buddhism 禅, and credited with Chan's introduction to China. (Important Note: Zen is the term used in Japan, but Daruma's philosophy arrived first in China, where it flowered and was called Chan Buddhism. Only centuries later does it bloom in Japan where it is called Zen).
Practically nothing is known about Bodhidharma or his teachings. Early Chinese texts provide scant information, except to say he was a pious monk from Indian who came to China and introduced a form of meditation that involved "gazing at cave walls." Only one of ten texts attributed to Bodhidharma is presently considered authentic. The lack of robust historical evidence concerning Bodhidharma, paradoxically, is offset by countless legends about this sage. Legends come in two varieties -- the orthodox Chinese version, and the far more fanciful Japanese version. Both versions are considered largely apocryphal, containing layer upon layer of embellishments and legendary accretions spanning many centuries. Modern scholars and art historians are trying to discern the underlying historical figure by stripping away the ideological, idealizing, & idolizing accretions.
This folk carving of Daruma shows him with his characteristic, stern-faced gaze, a kind of intense, soul-searing look that reminds one of the powers of the mind.
He is carved from a single piece of wood, which seem to be a naturally formed root or burl. The details of the carving are focused on his face--and the form of his body seems to be echoing the natural form of the wood from which he was carved, or, maybe more precisely, the folk carver found a root or a burl of wood that suggested to him the form of Daruma, and he simply finished it by carving Daruma's head and face.
Note some worm holes and some patina from wear.
A beautiful, strong, intense little wood carving, a real treasure from old Japan.