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A Nineteenth Century Folk Carving of Daruma

Written on September 24, 2008

In Japan, Daruma is a ubiquitious presence and is a symbol of good luck–his most popular manifestation is that of a bright red, papier-mache, roly-poly tumbler doll, often whose eyes are left blank.  At new year, when you make your new year resolution, you paint in one of the eyes.  If you are able to acheive your goal for that year, you paint in the other eye.

One of my favorite local restaurants here in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Bozu, has a wonderful installation of papier-mache Darumas suspended by wires at the entrance to their restaurant.  Have a look: the Darumas are the third image of the slide show.  If you’re in the neighborhood I recommend you enjoying a meal there: the food is excellent.  And they make their own pickles.

Shown here is a nineteenth century folk art Daruma of carved wood.  In actual fact, Daruma is really the Indian sage Bodhidharma, who lived some time around the sixth century CE and who is the founder of Zen Buddhism.  His image is proliferated in temples around Japan, and his intense eyes and careful glare grab hold of you, to be sure.

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