Who is Daruma ?


Who is Daruma ? What is Daruma?

"For centuries Zen masters have said that
Daruma is Zen.
Perhaps it would now be appropriate to say that Daruma is Japan.

In neither case is the definition fully explicable or applicable. Each is essentially a KOAN whose solution is acessible only to experience, not to rational analysis.
This is to assert finally that Daruma is one key to an authentic and rewarding experience of Japan and the Japanese people."

These are the final words of Prof. McFarland in his classic about Daruma in Popular Japanese Culture.

Koan and Haiku 公案と俳句

My very first laquer Daruma


The Japanese Daruma Association
Zen Nihon Daruma Kenkyuukai 全日本だるま研究会

They publish a yearly magazine DARUMA NEWS with a lot of interesting subjects about Daruma art and monthly newsletters full of funny and serious details.
. . . CLICK here for Photos !

Daruma News 18 : SHIKOKU special


The Zen teachings of Daruma Daishi entered Japan during the Kamakura period, where he is revered as the First Patriarch of the Zen Sect.

Daruma Practising Zazen
for Nine Years in Front of a Wall

(menpeki kunen 面壁九年)

There are many renderings of Daruma figures, but what they want to express on the inside is always the same. It is the spirit of Daruma Daishi (about 5th Cent.), the eighth generation Great Master after Shakyamuni Buddha, founder of the Zen sect. Legend says that Daruma was born the third prince in a South Indian kingdom. He was of a sharp mind already as a child and followed the Great Master Prajnaatara, where he studied Buddhism intensly and carried on his tradition. He then took off to China to preach Buddhism, taking the sea road to South China. He was invited by Emperor Wu and expounded his wisdom for him. But the emperor did not understand the preachings of Daruma, so Daruma took off again, crossing the Yangtse River to the east and ended up in the Shaolin Temple near Loyang. He stood on some reeds when crossing the river, which leads to the famous iconographic rendering of
"Rush-leaf Daruma" (royoo Daruma 芦葉達磨).

Rush-Leaf Daruma (royoo) Daruma on a reed

Suusan 嵩山 was one of the five great centers of religious learning in China, so Daruma sat down in a cave at the foot of the mountain to practise Zazen Meditation for nine years. Later the folks of Edo imagined this long period of meditation, where his beard grew long, his legs withered away and his hands shriveled of no-use, rendering into the tumbler doll as we see him now.
The Zen teachings of Daruma Daishi entered Japan during the Kamakura period, where he is revered as the First Patriarch of the Zen Sect.

During the middle of the Edo period the famous Zen priest and painter Hakuin (白隠禅師 1685 - 1768) painted many simple impressive pictures to teach the townspeople of Edo who could not read.

Hakuin Ekaku ... 白隠 慧鶴 Hakuin Zenji

Menpeki Kunen, Wallgazing for nine years
Daruma and Meditation


Daruma as a Drinking Companion (shukoshi 酒胡子) -
Daruma as the "Old man who never falls down"
(futoo-oo 不倒翁)

and the self-righting Tumbler Doll
(okiagari koboshi 起き上がり小法師)

The origin of papermachee dolls (hariko 張子) comes from China. During the Tang period (616 - 906) Chinese culture reached a pinacle. During that time there was the custom of using a wooden doll with a pointed base, which was like a spinning top. When the doll fell, it pointed to a person who had then to drink the next cup of ricewine or do a short performance. (Remember, the cups were really quite tiny.) Times passed and we reach the Meiji Period of Japan (1868 - 1912).

The Chinese Drinking Companion had changed to a Japanese papermachee doll and was now called "Old man who never falls down". This old man seemed to get healthier with the years and was the symbol of long life. Japanese travellers to China brought the Chinese dolls back as souvenirs, since they were light and easy to carry. Falling down and tumbling up again, this was so much fun that it soon turned into a toy for little children - the Tumbler Doll was born. It seemed to fit the parent's wish for children to grow up healthy and was a hit on the market. Going through many changes during time, the old man turned into Daruma as we know the doll today.

. . . CLICK here for Photos !


From the Tumbler Doll (okiagari koboshi)
to the Tumbler Daruma

(okiagari Daruma 起き上がりだるま)

After the Period of the Warring States Japan reached a time of 300 years of peace under the Tokugawa regime. The Tumbler Dolls of papermachee、first made in Kyoto, soon reached the new capital of Edo. The inventive townspeople of Edo painted a big black beard on the face of the old man and a visiting priest came to say: "Well, if this is not the face of Daruma Daishi himself!"
The red robe was the traditional garb of a priest. Getting up after falling down was taken as a wish getting better for an ill person. It was also said that the stark red colour would ward off smallpox, so the red tumbler doll of Daruma would be the best present for a sick child.

This one blessing was soon followed by others and developed into "Falling down seven times, getting up eight times" (nanakorobi yaoki 七転八起), turning into a blessing for many generations of the family line, good business and others. Thus Daruma got a firm place in the heart of the Japanese people and seemd to work for the good of people with six heads and six arms. The faith in him grew steadily and soon the dolls were sold at the New Years fairs at many local temples and the tradition to paint one eye for a wish started. You had to buy a new one every year, so the tradition expanded and we have to thank the founder of the Zen Sect for all of this.

Nanakorobi yaoki 七転び八起き
seven times down, eight times up


Why is the Tumbler Doll Daruma always of
RED color?

Red was the color of the robe of a high-ranking priest and since Daruma Daishi was the founder of the Zen Sect, he must have worn a red robe. The patterns painted in gold on the doll represent the Buddhist stole that a priest wore.

During the Edo Period, Daruma came to be seen by the townspeople as the healer of smallpox. Nowadays we have medicine to cure this illness, but in former times children suffered a lot from this and other diseases. It was believed that RED would ward off diseases, so the Red Daruma Doll with a threatening face became the preventor and healer of sickness. Modern medicine has found out that the color red really helps prevent smallpox!

But the Tumbler Doll Daruma is not always red. In Yamanashi Prefecture we have a white Daruma as a talisman for the silk industry and the healthy upbringing of children.

Akai ... 赤いRed Hoosoo 疱瘡 
.Smallpox, Red and Daruma


Why are the eyes of a Daruma for Good Luck
(engi Daruma 縁起だるま) always white?

In the beginning, Daruma dolls always had eyes painted. But in the Kanto area around Tokyo, Daruma Dolls with white eyes were sold during the New Years markets. The person who bought it or the priest at the temple had to paint one eye and cast a wish and after the year was over and the wish had come true, the other eye was painted and the doll then burned in a consecrating bonfire at the temple at Years End. You then got a new one for the New Year and the circle begun again.

But why did the Daruma dolls not have eyes?
When the priest Daruma sat in a cave for nine years meditating, he had to fight sleepiness. He thought: "Because I have eyes, my eyelids fall over them and I start snoozing." So in a bold act he cut off his eyelids to keep awake. (The eyelashes, which he had thrown away, took root and turned into the tea bush to give us this wonderful wakening beverage, as legend knows!)
Another explanation seems more realistic. If you paint eyes on a Daruma Doll it gets some facial expression and if you are not a good painter, it might look akward or evil. So to sell your piece, it is a lot easier not to paint the pupils and leave the blame of facial expression with the customer when he paints the eyes himself.

The next step then was to cast a wish while painting an eye, then burn it after service time was over and buy a new one - who says they did not have good business ideas in Old Edo?! Daruma Dolls were very popular and the habit of getting a new one every year has stayed with us, as we can see at the many Daruma Markets during the New Years Season.
He is a real steady Long-Seller!

Me-ire - Painting Eyes for Daruma 達磨の目入れ
Daruma and his EYES


Does the Beard and the Eyebrows of Daruma
have a Meaning?

The face of Daruma


The face of a Daruma for Good Luck is usually painted with bold strokes for beard and eyebrows. The most traditional of this kind, the Takasaki Daruma
has eyebrows in the form of a crane and a beard in the form of a tortoise, both symbols for long life (see story about TSURUKAME).

Another explanation says the beard is like a pine tree, around the eyes we have bamboo and the nostrils represent the plum, altogether the tree auspicious symbols for long life (shoochikubai, shochikubai 松竹梅). On the sides and the belly of the doll, other spells for good luck, good business and a long family line are painted, so he is the epitome of Good Luck Symbols and that is maybe why he sold so well to the Edo townspeople.

The eyebrows and the beard are painted carefully with the brush and some even used real hair to create a beautiful male face (see story about HIGE DARUMA).


. Daruma and his beard ひげだるま / ひげ達磨  

. Takasaki Daruma 高崎だるま .

. "Three friends of Winter", Pine, Bamboo and Plum  


Daruma - Does he have Arms and Legs or Not?

A normal tumbler doll of Daruma does not have any arms or legs. This shows the influence of the real Daruma Daishi sitting in long years of meditation where his legs shriveled and he cut off his arms since they distracted him, as legend tells. This little fellow with arms and legs hidden under his robe had to get up soon after he fell down and so captured the fancy of the Edo townspeople; he encouraged them and gave them hope for the future. But we have other dolls of Daruma with hands or legs from Shizuoka, Nagano or Okayama, which we will explore in a different story.

. TE 手.. The Hands of Daruma

. Jimotsu ... 持物 ... what is Daruma holding?  


When and Why did Princess Daruma
(Hime Daruma 姫だるま) come to Life?

Daruma Dolls took as model the Indian Priest Daruma Daishi, who was obviously male. But in some areas of Japan we find a sweetlooking female Daruma Doll, the Princess Daruma. The most representative of these comes from Takeda in Kumamoto Prefecture.

Here is her story:
Once upon a time more than 300 years ago, there was the young girl Aya, wed into a Samurai family and thrown out of the house by her unfriendly mother in law on an icecold winter night. She had to stay in a shed braving cold and hunger for two days and was rescued by her husband just in time. The mother in law heard the story and came to see Aya, tears in her eyes and remorse for her harsh behaviour and from that day on the family lived happily together.
The diligence of Aya became the model for a tumbler doll in the fashion of Daruma, since he is the model for diligence too, meditating nine years in a cave.

We also have the story of a curtesan who commented about Daruma
"Well, he was sitting in quiet meditation for nine years, but we here have to sit and suffer in the Noisy Pleasure Quarters for more than ten years!"
The painter Hanabusa Itchoo made a picture of the curtesan, which became the model of the Princess Daruma Dolls.

The Princess Daruma dolls where also bought as talismans when a baby girl was born to pray for her healthy upbringing.

Hime Daruma 姫だるま Princess Daruma

Oiran to Daruma 花魁と達磨 
Daruma and the Courtesans (geisha)

. Hanabusa Itchoo, Itchō 英一蝶 Hanabusa Itcho .
(1652 – 1724)


Since when was Daruma used during an Election?

Before an election, you can see pictures of the cantidates with a huge Daruma, painting in one eye while wishing to win the election. On the belly of Daruma there are the characters: Certain Victory" (hisshoo 必勝). It seems the cantidates need this lucky charm to go through the election times, it gives us the feeling: Now its election time! But when was this custom started?

The earliest elections were in 1928 for the House of Representatives. A papermachee maker of Takasaki made a Daruma called the "God to Win the Election" and went around selling it. We do not know about the outcome of the election, but we know that during the election of 1930 the representative of Nagano City, Mr. Matsumoto, painted an eye on the face of a big Daruma with the characters "God of Good Luck" and put it up in his campain center, as was shown in a newspaper article of February 6th in Asahi Shinbun. And of course, he won the election! This success story made its way around Japan in no time and the custom was born.
We can only bow to the wonderous power of Daruma to bring good luck to people.

Hisshoo Daruma 必勝ダルマ
to win an election

(Hissho Daruma, Certain Victory)


Features of a Daruma doll

One of the most popular talismans of good luck in modern Japan is the armless, legless, and eyeless Daruma doll, or tumbling doll. It is made of paper mache, weighted on the bottom so it always stand up, even when pushed- symbolic of Bodhidharma's persistence in meditation.
This has the meaning of standing up positively even if failing, and has the meaning of reaching the objective.
Moreover, the design such as "pine bamboo plum" (sho-chiku-bai), cranes, and turtles assumed that the history is good from old times is given to the pattern of the face.

History of the Daruma doll
In about the 5th century, DARUMA - Father of Zen Buddhism - obtained realization at the end when he sat for nine years toward the wall, and the teaching was succeeded from generation to generation by apprentices, spread to China, and to Japan.
In 1697, Daruma-ji temple was founded by Priest Shinetsu here in Takasaki.
He drew the image of the DARUMA in zen meditation and it is distributed at the New Year of every year, and it is assumed that it is the start of the Takasaki Daruma doll.

Toward the end of the 18th century, Yamagata Goro carved the initial Daruma doll getting a hint from the type by Priest Togaku, and he put Japanese paper on it afterwards.

During the Meiji era when the sericultural industry of silk became active, a Daruma doll was requested to pray that the farmers were able to harvest a lot of silk threads. Afterwards, at the present age, the tumbling doll became necessary and indispensable as a guardian that people pray to for their business prosperity.

There is the Daruma-ji temple at the Mt. Shorinzan in Takasaki City, and a Daruma fair is held on the 6th and January 7 every year.
It is crowded with the people who buy the Daruma doll from the Japanese whole country.
© www.daruma.jp/about.


seems a nice way to put it.

Daruma is really quite a phenomenon here in Japan.

I always tell our visitors that he is
the most famous foreigner in Japan!

To get a glimpse at the scope, check out this long list of items I have been writing about in the culutral context of Japan:

Daruma Museum Japan

If you have finished reading all of the above, you might have
a glimpse of the
Daruma Phenomenon in Japan.

. Haiku and Daruma

Daruma san (Darumasan, Bodhidharuma, Bodhidharma, Daruma Daishi, Dharuma, Dharma)  だるま 達磨 ダルマ ぼだいだるま 菩提達磨 だるまさん

GOOGLE for more answers
WHO is Daruma ?

GOOGLE for more answers
WHAT is Daruma ?


..... Books about Daruma だるまの本、大百科など


My special Daruma reading the sutra

Zen and Daruma
have always been very close to me since my first steps in Japanese Archery (弓道) in 1977 in Kamakura. My first purchase was a huge seated Daruma statue (see top of this story), which had to spend a long time on our television set, since the house was so small. Now he got his promised space in our large farmhouse compound,
the Paradise Hermitage (GokuRakuAn 極楽庵)
in Okayama Prefecture, where we moved in 1995 and now have a real Daruma Museum.

Towards the end of 2001 I was lucky to encounter Mr. Kyobashi and his fantastic homepage (which unfortunately closed down in 2009), so I started to write some stories about Daruma myself. I intend to continue this with his valuable help and I want to take this opportunity to thank him very very much for his support.

Gabi Greve, January 2010

. . . . .

司馬江漢 Shiba Kokan, Shiba Kōkan (1747 - 1818)

. DARUMA - Father of Zen Buddhism .  
by my friend, Mark Schumacher


Someone who seeks the Way doesn't look beyond himself.
He knows that the mind is the Way.
But when he finds the mind, he finds nothing.
And when he finds the Way, he finds nothing.
If you think you can use the mind to find the Way, you're deluded.
When you're deluded, buddhahood exists.
When you're aware, it doesn't exist.
This is because awareness is buddhahood.

- Bodhidharma

source : facebook


- #daruma -


Gabi Greve said...

Legend from Kyoto,
亀岡市 Kameoka

About 350 years ago at the temple 嶺樹院 Reiju-In there was a scroll with a Daruma painting said to be by the Chinese Zen painter 顔輝 Ganki (Yan Hui).
When the priest wanted to sell it to make some money, Daruma came to his dream pillow and said
"I want to go home!" 「帰りたい」.
more Daruma legends to come
7 達磨 / ダルマ 6 to explore

Gabi Greve said...

Beyond Zen: Japanese Buddhism Revealed
Ikumi Kaminishi Katherine Anne Paul
at the Newark Museum of Art

A compelling visual history of Japanese Buddhist art of the Edo, Meiji and Taisho periods and its appreciation in popular practice