Antique Shen Nong, Founder of Natural Medicine, China (16530BCEM)


H: 30.5″  W: 19.5″  D: 11.75″

In this very large finely carved rare image Shen Nong is carved in the round sitting with his knee up, shoulders covered with leaves that drape down his back and a ribbon draped underneath his bared navel. His face is set in a benevolent smile, emphasized by stylized curls in his eyebrows and beard. He sits on clouds that surround the face of a mythical beast carved in the back of the image.  Exquisitely carved and extremely rare this statue would be a prized image for anyone in the medical or pharmaceutical field.


This fine and very rare large kneeling image represents Shen Nong (Shennong (神農), “Divine Farmer” or “Divine Husbandman”) one of most revered cultural heroes in Chinese mythology, second of the mythical emperors, said to have been born in the 28th century BCE .  Considered the Founder of Natural Medicine and the Father of Agriculture, Shen Nong, the second of the Three Emperors of the Celestial Ministry of Health, is syncretic, both a Poplar Religion and Taoist-deity. He was deified by the time of the Han Dynasty as the Father of Agriculture and one of the Earth-Gods credited with inventing many farming implements such as the plow and the axe; introducing methods of planting, cultivation and crop rotation; and raising domestic animals. He is crediting with writing the earliest known Chinese medical classic, The Canon of Internal Medicine a compilation of writing on medical physiology, anatomy, and acupuncture considered the bible of traditional Chinese medicine and the Divine Husbandman’s Materia Medica, the earliest Chinese pharmacopoeia which includes 365 medicines derived from minerals, plants, and animals. He is believed to have discovered tea in 2737 almost 5000 years ago while sitting under a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the water and thus the first cup of tea! Intrigued by herbs, he was the first to analyze beneficial and harmful properties and determined their efficacy by testing them on himself. He died after testing a poisonous herb after which his body turned black. He is believed by some to be an immortal who assumed human form and came down to Earth out of pity for and to benefit the plight of humanity with his many talents and contributions. He is usually portrayed as here in this antique-Chinese-wood-carving sitting on a rock or seat on clouds that surround the face of one of the mythical animals carved in the back of the image, dressed only in leaves and grass either wound around his neck, waist and calves, or as a skirt of leaves (Stevens, p.37) since he was viewed as a primitive God who lived on earth before clothes were invented. The closed bung indicates it was consecrated. This rare carving is part of the VA Spiritual-and-Inspiration Collection of Deities-and-Legends.


Stevens, Keith: Chinese Gods, The Unseen World of Spirits and Demons, Collins and Brown Limited, London, 1997

National Institutes of Health, National Library of Medicine, History of Medicine Division online Exhibit of the Classics of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Bethesda, MD, Oct 1999-May 2000.

Additional information

Place of Origin


Materials and Technique



Antique, Qing Dynasty


19th Century

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 30.5" W: 19.25" D: 11.75"

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 77.47cm W: 48.89cm D: 29.84cm


Excellent, fine patina demonstrating age and use

Shipping Box Size


24” to 35.9”


6” to 11.9”

Reference Number

16530 BCEM