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Carving of an Official
Item No. 14001

19th - 20th Century, Taoist / Popular Religions, China
Wood with Pigmentation
14.5" x 5.5" x 4.5"
( 36.83 x 13.97 x 11.43 cm)
(H x W x D)

This image probably depicts Confucius in court costume. Its carving style displays a naive simplicity that reflects the artistic tradition of the provincial areas of China. This figure was probably displayed on a home shrine since it has a carved niche in the back used to place sutras (scriptures) and messages to ancestors. The original contents are still enclosed in the niche that has never been opened. Images of Confucius, as well as Buddhist and Taoist deities and regional figures were often displayed on the same shrine.

Confucius is China’s greatest sage and has been revered throughout the ages. He is chiefly noted as a teacher, and for editing the national lyrics, known as the Odes. His Discourses or Analects, which were recorded by his disciples, taught that the nature of man is to be pure at birth, and became vitiated only by the impurity of one’s surroundings. Confucius taught that there were Eight Virtues, which are frequently seen written in very large individual characters painted on the internal sidewalls of the main halls of Confucian temples:

Hsiao filial piety
Ti brotherly reverence
Chung loyalty
Hsin honesty
Li politeness
I righteousness
Lien integrity
Chieh chastity

Confucius is generally depicted seated on a throne. The usual characteristics are his large and heavy head with large ears, deep eye sockets, thick lids, and his hands held before his chest overlapping on top of each other, a long -- often pointed -- beard, mustache, slightly parted lips and a kindly expression in his eyes. He is represented in an attitude of contemplation with his eyes gazing upward and dressed in undercoated robes. He generally wears a flat mortar-board crown with a veil of pearls, described as a ceremonial imperial hat from which are suspended tassels of red and green silk decorated with pearls. In many instances, such as this image, he is clutching a tablet in both hands before his chest. Confucian temples in Taiwan (25 remain) are still used, as were similar temples in Mainland China during imperial days. A major tablet bearing his title is the main focus of reverence of these temples, and Confucians have no priests and divination is never permitted within the temples or their precincts.

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