Daruma Dolls are a type of Japanese doll with their origins in Buddhism.
Brief history and description
Daruma dolls originate from Japan, and are modelled and named after the perseverance and positive outlook of the Bodidharma, founder of the Zen sect of Buddhism, who, after meditating for nine years straight, is reputed to have lost the use of both his arms and legs.
Typically made from papier-mache, the daruma-doll shape (rounded, and weighted at the bottom) allows it to stand upright once more after being knocked over, and the doll is meant to be used as both a symbolic talisman of learning from our setbacks, and as a learning tool concerned with the virtues of persistence. The eyes on a daruma doll are first left blank; the owner is supposed to paint one eye when beginning a new project or making a wish, and to paint in the other eye upon successful completion of the task or acquisition of the wish.
In addition to being considered a valuable good luck charm, the doll is also popular with school-age children, and in the Far East is enduringly considered to be very effective, helping to focus the mind on a given goal. Many politicians in Japan, upon commencement of a campaign, will paint in the first eye and if successful, the second. They have also gained increasing usage in Buddhist temples.
Popular gifts, the dolls are often purchased during Japanese New Year, as a symbol of new beginnings and hope for the year ahead.
Guide for collectors
Daruma dolls are traditionally thought of as red, but now several manufacturers produce them in five different colours, each symbolizing different aspirations. Gold is used for wealth, Purple for health, Yellow for security, Red for luck, and White for love.
Whilst not being a mainstream collectable, their optimistic interpretation, rich cultural history and positive connotations make daruma dolls a highly desirable and charming object amongst those who choose to seek them out. Dependant upon the age and size of the daruma doll in question, they can also be an inexpensive collectable, although the older the doll, the higher the price tag.
Given the daruma doll’s cult status, there are several specialist online shops and forums which cater to those wishing to invest in them; websites such as www.welovedaruma.com sell them in a variety of colours and sizes, as well as providing extensive background information, history, and insight into the complex and precise production of this unique object, whilst www.daruma.jp ships authentic daruma dolls direct from Japan, including optional text of your choosing, with prices ranging from $19 to $484.
Notable auction sales
Though rarely appearing there, authentic antique daruma dolls can fetch very high prices at auction, for instance a set of three Meiji period daruma dolls sold for $800 on 5th September 2011 at Art & Object in New Zealand.
New daruma dolls made in the traditional way typically retail for around £20-£50, and at times even lower prices. eBay features them for as little as £5-10 dependant on size, the intricacies of design, and overall authenticity of style.
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