PASADENA — “Insight: The Path of Bodhidharma” is on view at the Focus Gallery of the USC Pacific Asia Museum, 46 N. Los Robles Ave. in Pasadena, through Feb. 15, 2015.

HOTEI Hokuga (fl. early 19th century), Courtesan and Daruma, Japan, c. 1805, Ink, color, paper and silk, Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Frazier, 1986.67.8
Hotei Hokuga (fl. early 19th century), “Courtesan and Daruma,” Japan, c. 1805. Ink, color, paper and silk. Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Calvin Frazier, 1986.67.8

The exhibition explores the portrayal of the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma (known as Daruma in Japan) and how this religious figure has become a popular icon through an array of objects from paintings and sculptures to decorative objects and toys.

Credited with introducing Chan (Zen in Japanese) Buddhism in China in the 6th century, the Indian monk Bodhidharma has become a well-known subject in Buddhist art, frequently depicted in ways that emphasize his non-East Asian origin and iconoclastic persona. As Chan Buddhism gained popularity, various legends associated with the Chan patriarch evolved, and artists began to depict those legends alongside his portraits.

Traditional depictions of Bodhidharma were executed in ink monochrome with free expressive brush strokes, alluding to his teaching that focuses on the spontaneous nature of reaching enlightenment through meditation.

During the Edo period (1603-1868) in Japan, the traditional sternness of this pious monk’s expression went through a radical change as he was often paired with a courtesan of the pleasure quarters — a parody to expose the hypocrisy of society. Today,

Bodhidharma’s depictions are still widely found both in fine art and pop culture.

Museum hours are Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Admission is $10 general; $7 for students with valid ID and seniors (60+); free for children 11 and under; free for all USC faculty, staff, students and alumni with current ID; free to all visitors on the fourth Friday of the month.

For more information, (626) 449-2742 or visit

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