| Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries

Visitors' Forum

Asian Art  Forums - Detail List
Asian Art Forums

Message Listing by Date:
Message Index | Back | Post a New Message | Search | Private Mail | FAQ
Subject:need help with unusual chinese calligraphy
Posted By: Ben Thu, Oct 19, 2023 IP:

I found this inscription on the back of an unusual tibetan thangka, depicting an unidentified arhat painted in a chinese style.

There are other inscriptions in tibetan, that seem to be the usual praise to the guru found on many thangkas.

I asked several people to translate the chinese, but everyone had a diffrent opinion.
I hope to find someone more knowledegable here, who might help...

thanks a lot for your atention

Subject:Re: need help with unusual chinese calligraphy
Posted By: Ben Fri, Oct 20, 2023

I transformed the original scan into black and white to enhance readabiltity, but maybe its helpfull to see the original, so I will ad a picture of the whole back of the thangka here...

thanks for the opportunity to share this here!

Subject:the actual painting... surfing arhat ;)
Posted By: Ben Sun, Oct 22, 2023

Maybe it will aid translation to see the actual picture?

I bought it at an us estate auction. no other discription given than "tibetan thangka."

the monetary value is probably low due to the poor condition and so was the estimate.

I was interested in it because I liked the picture of a surfing monk showing a "hang loose" - mudra ;)

...and, more seriously, because the mixture of chinese and tibetan elements was reminding me of a well known series of arhat paintings from ming dynastie, that were part of some "diplomatic exchange" between the chinese emperor and the tibetan gelug order as far as I remember. Attribution varied between china and tibet.

For a long time though I couldn´t figure out which arhat it was?

He didn´t seem to be one of the initial 16 arhats displayed in tibetan art.

My first guess was that this could be from a set depicting the arhats traveling to china, but that lead nowhere.

By chance I stumbled across a celadon plate at auction that showed a similar picture.
Later I found several other pictures from china and japan, mostly 14th century, that were very similar to this one.

the subject was bodidharma crossing yangze river on a reed after his famous encounter with the chinese emperor. One of them is actually already on

The similaritys I think are striking, despite the fact that the attributes the arhat (Bodidharma) is holding as well as the mudra he is showing, are diffrent from the chinese "original".

Some of the elemetns, as well as the sun / moon iconography in the top third seemed typically tibetan to me, yet I found no other depiction of bodhidharma anywhere in tibetan art!

I opened the frame to look at the back of the picture and found the blessings in tibetan script as expected.

I showed the pictures to a specialist on tibetan art who told me that I would be on the right track with my attribution, despite the rarity of Bodhidharma as a subject in tibetan art and encouraged me to keep searching...

this is how I ended up here, hoping that translating the chinese (?) script will help to find out more about this riddle...

URL Title :link to a similar painting on

Subject:Re: the actual painting... surfing arhat ;)
Posted By: Synlex Sun, Apr 07, 2024

宇堂(Yu Tang) should be the name of the studio or painting workshop.
III号半(Sān hào bàn, three and a half point) is the industry name of the workshop for its standardised sizes.

The arhat is Bodhidharma.

Subject:Re: the actual painting... surfing arhat ;)
Posted By: Benjamin Tholen Mon, Apr 08, 2024

Thanks for the helpful reply!

The term „industry workshop“ and „standard sizes“ suggests a late (20th century or later) origin?

Kind regards
Benjamin | Associations | Articles | Exhibitions | Galleries |