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Antique Image of Matzu on Lucite
Item No. 5677

19th - 20th Century, Taoist / Popular Religions, China
Lacquer over Wood with Polychrome and Gilt
21" x 11.5" x 8"
( 53.34 x 29.21 x 20.32 cm)
(H x W x D)

This statue probably represents Matsu, which translates as “Mother Ancestor”. In the Yuan Dynasty, she was officially the "Protector of the Empire and the Brilliantly Outstanding Heavenly Queen," and in the Ch’ing Dynasty she was made the "Heavenly Empress.” She is the Taoist Goddess of the Sea who protects fisherman and sailors. She is extremely popular among Taiwanese, Fujanese and Cantonese people who have cultures strongly linked to the sea.

She is garbed in a decorative vibrant red-tiered outer robe, which his carved in graceful folds around the body emphasizing her knees and legs. The regal nature of the robe is emphasized by the elaborate black scalloped collar, which is bordered with gold and extends to her shoulders. A black belt is tied under the chest above an ornamental element, probably a sign of the sun that is painted on her stomach. A black undergarment is exposed under the robe and extends over her slightly revealed shoes. Her hands, clasped together at the waist, are concealed within the full black lined sleeves of her robes, a common pose in Taoist images. Her hair is pulled under her elaborate headdress made in the shape of a phoenix. The phoenix, as a decorative motif in a ceremonial costume, was often use in the head ware of the Empress of China, which would be appropriate here, as one of Matzu’s titles is Heavenly Empress.

Matsu was born a during the Northern Sung dynasty (960-1127 A.D.) and lived only 28 years during which time she exhibited an exceptionally pure spirit and compassion for those in need throughout the world. She was said to have had supernatural powers and performed miracles, subduing evil spirits and averting disasters at sea. After her death, people prayed to her as a deity. Her image is venerated in temples called Matsu Temples or Heavenly Empress Taoist Halls.

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