The Powerhouse Museum in Sydney will open its Five Hundred Arhats exhibit on December 2 – a major display of historic arhats shown for the first time outside Korea. The exhibition coincides with and celebrates the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Korea and Australia.

Arhats are ancient stone figures discovered in 2001-02 among the ruins of Changnyeongsa Temple in Gangwon-do Province, South Korea, believed to have been built during the Goryeo Dynasty (918-1392) and destroyed in the middle of the Joseon dynasty (1392-1879). The stone statues represent “arhats” – “nahan” in Korean – known in Buddhism as having achieved enlightenment.

The five hundred arhats represent five hundred disciples of the Buddha who gathered to compile his words into the scriptures after the Buddha entered nirvana. Although they have attained enlightenment, they delay entering nirvana themselves and remain in their human state in order to teach and save sentient beings. The arhats have been carefully restored by the National Museum of Korea in Chuncheon and this Australian premiere marks the first time that the arhats have been seen outside of Korea.

Presented in collaboration with the National Museum of Korea in Chuncheon, the exhibition will feature 50 stone arhats and a Buddha in an immersive exhibit designed by contemporary Korean artist Kim Seung Young.

Five Hundred Arhats is the final installment of Powerhouse Ultimo for 2021. Five Hundred Arhats opens alongside the Powerhouse’s world-class collection as well as contemporary collaborations and artist commissions in eight new exhibitions featured through Powerhouse Ultimo – including the refreshed and reinvented boiler and turbine Room.

Marking the first time that the powerhouse has launched these many new exhibits together since the opening of the Ultimo building in 1988, the new exhibits featured are Eucalyptusdom, Robert Rosen: Glitterati, Clay Dynasty, Electric Keys, Graphic Identities, Microcars, Invisible Revealed and Five Cent Arhats.

Exhibition: Open from December 2, 2021 to May 15, 2022

Image: Arhats engaged in spiritual practice, Chuncheon National Museum of Korea

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