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The Eighteen Arhats (10)

The Long-Armed Arhat
(Chángshǒu Luóhàn 长手罗汉)

Bàntuō-jiā 半托迦 and his younger twin brother were born beside the road, and for this reason they were called Big Born-Beside-the-Road (Dà Lùbiànshēng 大路边生) and Little Born-Beside-the-Road (Xiǎo Lùbiànshēng 小路边生). These were are not very nice names for babies, and perhaps they had other names as well, but these are the names we know..

Big Born-Beside-the-Road grew big and strong and very, very tall, and his arms grew longer and longer. In fact, they had the magical property that they could become as long as he wanted them to be. He could pick fruit from the tops of trees, or even pluck birds right out of the air.

photo by DKJ

Furthermore Big Born-Beside-the-Road had a very sharp mind and understood things that even grown-ups had trouble making sense of.

Compared with his precocious twin brother, Little Born-Beside-the-Road seemed like just an ordinary child. In fact he too grew very large and extremely strong. But he had no magical arms, and his wit was slow. and his mind dull. And so even though he was big and strong, Little Born-Beside-the-Road was considered to be quite unremarkable.

Big Born-Beside-the-Road loved his little brother very much, and took very good care of him, and the two strong boys worked hard together to care for their widowed mother.

Eventually their beloved mother died, and after they had mourned her, the two brothers decided to become monks. Big Born-Beside-the-Road was given the religious name Bàntuō-jiā 半讬迦, which is what we call him today. His little brother was far less prepared for the rigors of the contemplative life, so he did manual work in the monastery, and looked after visitors, and served tea. He was known as Zhùchá Bàntuō-jiā 注茶半托迦, which means "the Bàntuō-jiā who serves us tea." or Kànmén luóhàn 看门罗汉, which means "the Gatekeeper Arhat." He became Arhat Number 16.


Throughout his life, Bàntuō-jia used his remarkable abilities to do many good works, especially good works requiring long arms. Today he is remembered as "The Long-Armed Arhat."


With his distinctive long arm, Bàntuō-jiā is one of the easiest arhats to recognize, since artists nearly always show it extended. He stands out among his brightly painted fellow arhats at Kūnmíng's Huátíng Monastery 昆明华亭寺 (left) and Qióngzhú Monastery 昆明筇竹寺 (right).

Indian Names: Panthaka or Pantha the Elder
Bàntuō-jiā 半托迦 (commonest)
also written Bàntuō-jiā 半讬迦
also written Bàntuo-jiā 半跅迦
Chinese Names:
Chángshǒu Luóhàn 长手罗汉, The Long-Armed Arhat
Tànshǒu Luóhàn 探手罗汉, The Stretching-Armed Arhat
Cǎishǒu Luóhàn 採手罗汉, The Harvesting-Armed Arhat (probably a miswriting of the former)

Kūnmíng Picture Source:
劉慧葵 1982 中華名寺古利。臺北地球出版社。 5 Volumes. Vol. 3, pp 65, 75

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