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What is a daruma doll?

Updated on November 24, 2014
A hand carved daruma from Japan.
A hand carved daruma from Japan.

The Daruma Doll represents the fighting spirit of perseverance and a wish for good luck


Look at this cute little roly-poly red Daruma doll! Want to learn all the secrets about him and his good luck?

Keep reading! Here you will discover who Daruma was, the history of the Daruma doll, how he is used for goal setting, and why the Daruma doll's eyes painted in or not.

Daruma's "good luck" is explained in the phrase "Fall down Seven Times, Stand up Eight." Join in the discussion on whether you believe in good luck or not, and how you feel about the importance of persistence.

No matter what, the next time you see a Daruma doll, you will have a much better feeling for who he is and what he represents.

Intro photo from wikimedia-commons and is in the public domain.

Who was Daruma?

What is a daruma doll?
What is a daruma doll?

Daruma is an important part of Japanese culture. He is the symbol of persistence in the face of adversity, the Japanese version of "If at first you don't succeed, try try again." But he represents more than just "do it again." Why?

What did Daruma do?

Daruma was actually a person, the founding fathers of Chan (Zen) Buddhism in the 5-6th century in China. In China they call him "Da Mo," and his understanding of Buddhism, his story and teachings traveled from China to Japan 1,000 years later. In Japan they called his teachings "Zen."

Why does he have no arms and legs?

Daruma meditated for nine years facing a wall of a cave to achieve enlightenment, and the story goes that his arms and legs fell off! Of course, they didn't really. That was just a way of explaining how dedicated he was. The fact is, he taught the monks at the famous martial arts temple, Shaolin Temple, their marshal arts skills, so we know he had arms and legs! But Daruma's nine years of sitting meditation is why the doll has no arms and legs. He is the Japanese version of the roly-poly doll. If you push him over, he stands upright again.

photo in the public domain

daruma doll eyes
daruma doll eyes

How about Daruma's eyes?

Why are there sometimes none - or one - or two?

Datruma's eyes have special meaning. In the beginning the eyes are not painted in. Why?

You paint in Daruma's eyes when you make a wish or set a goal.

See the little Daruma on the right in the picture? When I set about to write my book Character Reflections, which is about Chinese characters and all the wisdom they contain, I painted in the first eye.

When you have achieved your goal, you paint in the other eye

When I finished, I painted in the second eye in part because I finished my goal, and in part because I felt grateful for the divine assistance I had in achieving my goal.

And the other bigger Daruma?

I have his right eye painted in because I set the goal to write my next book, How to Make Beads From Your Wedding Flowers. I am really glad to say that I am about to complete it, so soon I will paint in his left eye, with real gratitude for the opportunity to write it.

The fact is, you don't have to have a doll just like this to fill in Daruma's eyes. With some construction paper and some markers, you can do your own!

See Japanese master craftsmen make a daruma doll - This is really cooll!

Would you like your own Daruma Doll?

Daruma dolls are not expensive. You can buy them everywhere in Japan. When I wrote my first book, I painted in an eye on a daruma doll, which I kept. Do you know how long I had to keep him before I could paint in the other eye? Ten years! But I did it, and had the fun of painting in the other eye when it was done, and feeling happy about how I had persisted.

Want to try painting your own daruma's eyes?

Fall Seven times - Stand up Eight

what is a daruma doll
what is a daruma doll

Because Daruma is the one associated with perseverance and persistence, and trying many times until you get success, this is why he is associated with the phrase Fall Down Seven Times, Stand Up Eight.

This is how it is written in Japanese using the western alphabet:

Nana korobi yaoki

(Pronounced: "Nana koh row bee yah oh key" )

In Japan they also say: Shichiten hakki, pronounced "she-chee ten ha-key."

The Japanese character pictographs come from the Chinese language, so you can say this same proverb in Chinese. It is Qi Zhuan Ba Qi, pronounced "chee ju-ann ba chee." But it is interesting, when you talk about the numbers 7 and 8 in China, they have an expression they use more than this one, which means Seven Times Up, Eight Times Down, whici has the reverse meaning!

Did you know we have a Bible verse in English that is similar?

For a just man falleth seven times, and riseth up again: but the wicked shall fall into mischief.

Proverbs 24:16, King James Bible

What does perseverance have to do with good luck?

Have you ever considered that there are several meanings for "Good Luck!"

1. We say good luck when we give our good wishes for something to happen. Like "Good Luck on your exams" - which means that you hope the person will have success.

2. "Good luck" may not be a wish for something specific. It may be a wish that all will go well on all fronts, as in "Good luck in the new year!"

3. You can also say "I had good luck and won a prize." In this case you are saying that something good happened out of the blue, without any effort.

I think people love it the most when something good happens completely unexpectedly. But Daruma has hard work, perseverance, and the fighting spirit rolled into his story. That is why he is used as a gift of encouragement, not that you will have good luck unexpectedly, but that in whatever goal you have, that you will be blessed with perseverance and a fighting spirit to succeed in your goal. Nice! I like that kind of Good Luck!

Let's say you needed to give someone a good luck charm, or good wishes for some occasion, like when they take the SAT or some other important test, or you just wanted one to make you feel luckier yourself. Which one would you give?

What is your favorite good luck charm?

See results

Doesn't the Daruma make a perfect shape for a snowman?

Doesn't the Daruma make a perfect shape for a snowman?
Doesn't the Daruma make a perfect shape for a snowman?

Would you like to have a Daruma doll? Any other thoughts?

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    • bibliopola profile image

      Işın Tuzcular 3 years ago from Istanbul

      I haven't heard about Daruma, very interesting hub. I like learning about different cultures.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 3 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @rmasten88: I can see how you might think that. I guess it is all what you grow up with. In Japan everyone loves Daruma - I like his bright red color.

    • profile image

      rmasten88 3 years ago

      no there kinda scary

    • takkhisa profile image

      Takkhis 4 years ago

      Thanks for sharing and yeah i have heard of Daruma before.

    • Elyn MacInnis profile image

      Elyn MacInnis 4 years ago from Shanghai, China

      @BritFlorida: He really grows on you, doesn't he?

    • BritFlorida profile image

      Jackie Jackson 4 years ago from Fort Lauderdale

      I have had one for about ten years. I love it!