Seated Ancestor Figure in Mandarin Coat
Item No. 19075A
19th Century, Taoist / Popular Religions, China
Lacquer over Wood
16" x 7.25" x 5.75"
( 40.64 x 18.415 x 14.605 cm)
(H x W x D)
This seated Mandarin sits on a backless chair. Both arms are bent, the right with the extended hand over the knee, and the left holding what is probably a tael. Taels were ingots of silver used in China as a measurement of currency exchange made locally by individual silversmiths for local exchange. The shape and amount of details of taels varied considerably, and included . squares, ovals and boat shapes such as the one carried by this official. The tael in this instance is symbolic of a wish for wealth for the family, and for successful high accomplishments, such as sons passing civil service exams.
He is dressed in typical garb of a Mandarin official. He wears a Mandarin hat (which in real life was made of woven bamboo) which is conical in shape with a broad black band. He wears a short black jacket which originally would have had with five loops and brass buttons over his plain long gown (nei tao) which falls to just above his black satin boots, with thick white soles, a sign of his status. These boots were similar to those worn at the court, and said to cost as much as a servant would earn in one year. According to Garrett, “they were such a symbol of superiority that a proverb at the time stated ‘A man in boots will not speak to a man in shoes.” (Chinese Clothing p. 74). Underneath the jacket is a ling tou, or silk collar.
Details of his face are painted including his eye brows, moustache and goatee.
This carving was used on a home shrine. . 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 back of the carving contains a cavity closed with a bung into which the sutras (or scriptures) and messages to ancestors were placed during this ceremony and still remain. There are painted calligraphic representations on the back.
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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