Teaching Ideas

Encouraging Dialogue

For Students K-12

  • This figure of a monk is a representation of an arhat (Japanese, rakan), one of a group of holy men who were originally disciples of the historical Buddha, Shakyamuni. Arhats were regarded as having achieved extraordinary spiritual levels but, like bodhisattvas, have put off their own enlightenment to help others. Is there anyone you know who make sacrifices to help others?
  • Consider how this figure stares thoughtfully at a small lotus blossom in his hand. Think of a time that you gave quiet, meditative focus to one idea or one object and share your thoughts with the class. What benefits may come from slowing down to focus on the simple and beautiful things around us?
  • What materials do you think this sculpture is made of?
  • Does this look like a portrait of a specific person? Why or why not?

Making Connections

For Students K-12

  • Study the facial expression and body language of this figure. What emotion is communicated by the face and posture of this sculpture? Take the pose and expression of this figure and describe how you feel.
  • Together with your class, view a series of images of faces with diverse expressions of moods. These images could be a collection of photographs from the web or from magazines. Mimic the expressions that you see in the series of images and write a short response about how you feel when you assume each expression. Review the series of images and share thoughts and ideas associated with each expression.
  • Consider how facial expressions and body language vary by culture. Have students research the expressions and gestures of another culture and share their findings with the class.
  • This sculpture would have appeared in a Buddhist temple alongside many other Buddhist objects. In groups, research a particular religious or sacred structure from the following list. Create a presentation that shows the types of materials, sculptures, and other artistic elements used throughout the space. Potential structures: The Hanging Church (Cairo), Notre Dame Cathedral (Paris), Hagia Sophia (Istanbul), Temple of Heaven (Beijing), Angkor Wat (Angkor), Dome of the Rock (Jerusalem). Compare and contrast your discoveries to Portrait of an Arhat.