Pindola Bharadvaja, the First Venerable Luohan

Artist: Formerly attributed to Wu Daozi (傳)吳道子 (active ca. 710-760)
Historical period(s)
Yuan dynasty, 1345
Ink and color on silk
H x W (image): 126.2 x 62.6 cm (49 11/16 x 24 5/8 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Ruth Meyer Epstein
Freer Gallery of Art Collection
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view

Hanging scroll

Buddhism, China, Pindola, prayer beads, Yuan dynasty (1279 - 1368)

To 1970
Eugene Meyer (1875-1959) and Agnes E. Meyer (1887-1970), New York, NY, Washington, DC, and Mt. Kisco, NY [1]

From 1970 to 1992
Ruth Meyer Epstein (1921-2007), Scarsdale, NY, by descent from her mother, Agnes E. Meyer

From 1992
Freer Gallery of Art, given by Ruth Meyer Epstein in 1992 [2]


[1] According to acquisition report, dated June 12, 1992, the painting has been in the United States since at least 1919. Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer started collecting Asian art in 1914 and in the following years they acquired a number of Chinese paintings, primarily from Charles Lang Freer’s dealers in Shanghai.

[2] See Ruth Meyer Epstein’s Deed of Gift, dated July 9, 1992, copy in object file.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Eugene and Agnes E. Meyer (1875-1959) and (1887-1970)
Mrs. Ruth Meyer Epstein 1921-2007


The subject of this painting, Pindola Bharadvaja (Binduluo Boluoduoshe), was one of the Buddha's main disciples. He was a vigouous exponent of the Buddhist Law (dharma), and has manifested himself on several occasions to pious Chinese believers. Pindola has a voice like a lion's roar, and is often depicted with extraordinarily long eyebrows, a physical attribute for which he is sometimes named Changmai seng.  Pindola was one of the first arhats to be depicted in China, and is the only luohan afforded special worship. He is said to dwell with eleven-hundred luohan protogees in the Western Continent of Apara-godaniya (Xi Qutuoni zhou).

In this portrait, Pindola is seated below banana leaves and lichen-studded rocks in a chair made of gnarled branches, one of which is shaped like a dragon. He holds an elaborate, long-handled incense burner in his left hand, and a white rosary is wrapped around his left forearm. He has a dignified, but stern, countenance with a prominent nose and jutting chin, which is covered with the stubble of a white beard. He has long white eyebrows and white hair that is streaked with gold. The patches of his robe are decorated with interlocking circles of white dots, while darker strips of fabric bear the repeated symbol of the Wheel of the Law. The folds of his robes, his rumpled leggings, and his sandals of woven straw are rendered with particular attention and skill.

To learn more about this and similar objects, visit Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy.

Published References
  • Zhongguo shuhuajia yinjian kuanzhi. 2 vols., Beijing. vol. 1: pp. 61-65, vol. 2: pp. 465-466, 655-658.
  • Henry Dore. Researches into Chinese Superstitions. 10 vols., Shanghai. vol. 6: pp. 332-87.
  • Edward Theodore Chalmers Werner. A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology., 1st ed. Shanghai. pp. 259-79.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Song and Yuan Dynasty Painting and Calligraphy
Google Cultural Institute
CC0 - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

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