National Gallery of Art - THE COLLECTION
image of Figure of a Daoist Deity Chinese Qing Dynasty (artist)
Figure of a Daoist Deity, Kangxi period, 1662/1722
porcelain with famille jaune and famille noire enamels on the biscuit
overall (height): 26 cm (10 1/4 in.)
Harry G. Steele Collection, Gift of Grace C. Steele
Not on View
From the Tour: Chinese Porcelains
Object 18 of 24

Figures of this type, representing Daoist, Confucian, and Buddhist deities, are a common Kangxi product. This example is decorated on the biscuit with enamels in the famille jaune and famille noire palettes. The standing figure has a high crown and holds a gui scepter (a symbol of official rank) in his right hand. He is dressed in a jacket and a long gown. The jacket is decorated in the famille noire palette with magnolias and plum blossoms, and the gown in the famille jaune palette with clouds, flaming jewels, and stylized hexagrams. The cuffs, collars, and hems are painted with elaborate border and diaper patterns. The enamels include black, yellow, green, and aubergine, and there is additionally a colorless glaze. The crown has a small hole at the top that may originally have held a plume or other decoration.

The presence of the crown, gui scepter, and trigrams on the robe indicate that the figure is a deity of the Daoist pantheon, possibly either Wen Chang, the God of Literature, or Lu Xing, the God of Emolument.1 The figurine would likely have originally formed part of a larger group of Daoist deities on a temple or home altar. Many of these figurines have survived from the Kangxi period. In the eighteenth century they became very popular in Europe.

(Text by Stephen Little, published in the NGA Systematic Catalogue: Decorative Arts, Part II: Far Eastern Ceramics and Paintings; Persian and Indian Rugs and Carpets)


1. On Wen Chang, see E.T.C. Werner, A Dictionary of Chinese Mythology, Shanghai, 1932, 554-558. On Lu Xing, see Henri Maspero, "The Mythology of Modern China," in J. Hackin et al., Asiatic Mythology, New York, 1963, 344-345. On the symbolism of the eight trigrams, see C.A.S. Williams, Outlines of Chinese Symbolism and Art Motives, 3d rev. ed., New York, 1976, 148-151.

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