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In early Buddhism, arhats were those who had followed the path taught by the Buddha, and achieved release from the cycle of birth and death, or samsara. In later Mahayana traditions in China, the arhats were understood as a set group of disciples to the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, and an artistic tradition arose that depicted them as wizened sages with exaggerated features drawn from Daoist immortal imagery. Inspired by these Chinese paintings, Tibetan artists began to depict these figures in a genre that often carried with it aspects of Chinese artistic and material culture. In the Tibetan tradition they appear as a group of sixteen, representing the monastic ideal, and are invoked in rituals of confession and mending vows.