Rope-a-dope to them. The face in the ropes is that of Bodhidharma, or sometimes referred to as Daruma, the Buddhist mystic who founded the sect of Zen in China in the fifth century. While Zen was later adopted in Japan, folk tales there made Daruma an object of ridicule, as is a not uncommon fate of professional wise men who become derogatively termed as wise guys and spiritual quacks.
Daruma had been revered for a feat of meditation lasting nine years, but the Japanese claimed that nothing was left of him afterward but his head, which his disciples were obliged to carry about on their backs. The story persisted in folk art. The Japanese version, two inches high, dates from the early 1800′s. It is called a netsuke, an ivory piece designed to be fastened to the strings of a purse ot tobacco pouch.