[Tidbits] Buddhist in the Boulder

Buddhist in the Boulder

Nephrite…as many of you may know…is the less valuable form of
jade…and comes in many colors from green to gray to white to
reddish brown and is found in Siberia, New Zealand, Wyoming,
California, Alaska, and China…among other localities.

However…when it comes to carving this stone…the Chinese were the
leaders in their craft…creating anything from tiny little netsukes
of jade to huge and ornate bottles with links of unbroken chain
connecting the cover to the main body…all cut from one single piece
of jadeite, or nephrite, or quartz.

As early as the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368) many carvings depicted
scenes that related to legendary characters of Buddhism and Taoism.
The workmanship was incredible…the detail exacting. No Robin Hoods
here…no super-heroes of Greek mythology…no Hercules or
Mercuries… nothing in fact that was bigger than life itself. Nothing
that is… except for the skill of the artist carving his creations
out of solid rock…or nephrite.

A boulder was once found…a boulder of red and white
nephrite…which led one unknown sculptor to dig out of its entrails a
Buddhist monk whose smiling and wrinkled face depicts the very
humanity of the man. He holds in his hands symbols of intelligence and
meditation. He sits in his carved cave surrounded by leaves of the
Wutong tree.

A quick history folks…in order to understand our little boulder. A
Buddhist monk who has reached Nirvana is called a Luohan. There are
eighteen Luohans that are known to have become disciples of Buddha. I
find that number eighteen to be interesting because it is also
symbolic in the Jewish religion. Is everything connected to
everything in one way or another? Hmmm? In any case, the proper place
to display these monks is usually in a mountain cave which provides the
seclusion necessary for meditation. It is hence no accident that our
sculptor forever destined to anonymity chose this environment for his
creation. A creation which–I might add–I have a graphic of. It shows
the artistry and skill that lived in a day long long gone by, and for
which we seem to have no substitute today…unless you want to
consider a can of Campbell soup on a canvas as art.

In any case, for those of you who are new subscribers and want to see
the monk of which I speak…go to my home page…scroll down the
table menu till you get to the box that says Tidbits…and inside the
box it says Tidbits Graphics…and click on the link that says:
Boulder Carving. I scanned a blow-up of the monk…and in the lower
right hand corner is the complete item…resting on a wood carving of
unknown material and composition…my source does not list it.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.

Benjamin Mark