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Qing Dynasty Wooden Temple Figure of a Taoist God of Wealth Caishen

Qing Dynasty Wooden Temple Figure of a Taoist God of Wealth Caishen

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Qing dynasty, 18th century or earlier, Yunnan, China.

Charming and aged temple figure, finely carved from a single block of hard wood depicting Caishen, the Chinese God of wealth and good fortune. The corpulent deity is seated in dhyanasana, dressed in loose fitting robes, and adorned with a elaborate headdress. His ornate robes have been covered in a deep vermillion lacquer with black lacquer highlights, which have been touched up with gilding over time. The red symbolising happiness and the gold wealth in Chinese culture. His round visage been carved beautifully, with a downcast eyes, a strong nose, and full lips, all flanked by a pair of sizable ears with lengthy lobes, a symbol of his holiness. The face is of typical Ming early Qing form, well rounded, almost to the point of being chubby, and exudes an aura of affluence and benevolence.

Caishen (also known as Ts’ai Shen, Tsai Shen Yeh and Cai Boxing Jun) is the mythological figure worshipped in the Chinese folk religion, Taoism and some Buddhist schools. Caishen’s name consists of the characters for money (cái) and god (shén). The deity is sometimes depicted in a combat position with a long black beard, a fierce expression on his face, and an iron sceptre or sword in his hand that can turn stones into gold. Wooden house gods were part of Chinese religion. Figures in temples or dedicated spaces serve as focal points for devotees seeking blessings of wealth, prosperity, and good fortune. There are many hundreds of gods and deities, often having a small cavity in the back sealed with a wooden lid, which would contain a wrapped package. The package contains mostly sacrifical materials such as a live insects (as it was thought that this would inject life into the figure), a piece of paper with a written prayers, rice grains for food, herbs and spices for good health, textile fragments for clothing etc. The Qing dynasty (Qīng cháo), officially the Great Qing (also sometimes referred to as the Manchu dynasty) was the last imperial dynasty in China, lasting from 1644 to 1912. 

Moderate condition. Age-related heavy wear, fractures and chips. Remains of gilding, with loss and flaking to the lacquer, revealing the gesso and wood. Encrusted dark patina. Size approx. 16,3cm x 10,3cm x 7,8cm. 

Provenance: Swedish private collection

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