Ancestor Seated on a Horseshoe Chair
Item No. 19054
19th Century, Taoist / Popular Religions, China
Wood with Polychrome
12.5" x 6.5" x 5.5"
( 31.75 x 16.51 x 13.97 cm)
(H x W x D)
This remarkably well carved Mandarin official sits on horseshoe chair, arms resting firmly on the arm rests with fingers of both hands extended over the edge and feet spaced apart squarely on the footed high decorated plinth upon which he is seated. The chair is carved in the round, with cabriole legs, arched back and carved dowel supports holding the rounded back and armrest. During the Ming and Ch’ing dynasties, both round backed and square backed horseshoe chairs were “markers of high status, seats of honour” (Clunis, p. 14). Thus, placing an ancestor on a horseshoe backed chair was a strong indication of the perceived status of individual being represented.
He is dressed in typical garb of a Mandarin. He wears a summer official’s hat which is conical in shape and made of fine woven split bamboo, indicated in the statue as parallel striations radiating from the center, “edged with a narrow band of brocade and topped by a circle of brocade at the apex for the hat finial to rest on.” ((Garrett, Chinese Dress Accessories p. 37) He wears a plain long gown (nei tao) under a solid color calf-length center-fastening surcoat . These garments comprised informal wear, called “half dress” which meant that he did not have to wear his badge of rank (Garret, Chinese Clothing p. 68) His face is well and deeply carved, with heavy lidded eyes, rounded nose and pursed lips in a benevolent expression. His advanced aged is indicated by the wrinkles on his forehead and cheeks. throughout. \
This carving was used on a home shrine. The back of the carving contains a cavity into which was placed sutras (or scriptures) and messages to ancestors. The figure originally would have been brought to a temple, where it would have been given an “eye opening ceremony" performed by a Buddhist or Taoist monk.
The entire base is covered with inscriptions.
Craig Clunis, "Chinese Furniture," Victoria and Albert Publications, London, 1988.
Valery M. Garrett, “A Collector’s Guide to Chinese Dress Accessories,” Singapore, Times Editions
Valery Garret, Chinese Clothing, An Illustrated Guide.” Hong Kong, Oxford University Press, 1994.
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