Image of Zhenwu
Item No. 16097
19th Century, Taoist / Popular Religions, China
Lacquer over Wood with Polychrome and Gilt
12" x 5.5" x 4"
( 30.48 x 13.97 x 10.16 cm)
(H x W x D)
This statue represents Zhenwu, one of the most revered deities in the Taoist pantheon whose popularity was so great that he became incorporated into Buddhist beliefs as well. The image conforms to the godís classical iconography as he is represented with long hair down the back of his neck and with bare feet above a turtle entwined by a snake that appear below. Zhenwu sits on a backless chair in a dignified posture lifting his belt, befitting his status as a celestial emperor, reflecting the title he received in 1304: Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven, Primal Sage and Benevolent Majesty. His left hand with an extended finger rests on his left knee. The face is well articulated with open eyes looking outward above slightly smiling lips.
The back of the image contains an open cavity or bung which was cerved by the image maker to contain messages to ancestors, Buddhist sutras, and sticks and cordage to represent the innards. These objects would have been placed inside the bung, closed and sealed with a flat piece of wood made to be the cover during an Eye Opening Ceremony intended to call the deity to occupy the statue and bring fu to those who commissioned it. Once the objects were placed inside the cavity, the bung would be closed and permanently sealed shut with the addition of paint and lacquer.
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