Antique Wood Zhenwu the Taoist “Perfected Warrior,” China (19416XLKE)


H: 14.5″  W: 6″  D: 5.75″

Zhenwu (Perfected Warrior) is one of the most important and powerful Taoist deities, god of one of the 4 cardinal directions (the north) revered for his potent magical powers to suppress demonic forces. This statue is an excellent example of a folk-art provincial image for personal devotion and reflects his classic iconography: seated on a multi-tiered throne as a sign of his importance, long hair, bare feet resting on a snake and a tortoise, a celestial scarf hanging in space and around his body and garbed in maille armor.




One of the most important and revered Taoist-deities, Zhenwu was a protector of the state and the imperial family venerated for his ability to heal and protect China and its emperor and during imperial dynastic times, he was considered a patron of soldiers and a protector of national security. He was a renowned emperor, worshipped in imperial and provincial temples throughout China reflected by imperial titles he received in 1304:  Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven, Primal Sage and Benevolent Majesty. As a syncretic deity, he was a significant figure in the Buddhist pantheon and was considered a mighty exorcist in Chinese Popular Religion. He is still venerated today as a stellar god and one the most powerful ministers of the Jade Emperor whose followers believe he uses his potent magical powers to suppress demonic forces. This antique-Chinese-wood-carving of Zhenwu is a provincial rather than imperial sanctioned images made in metal. He sits in a dignified posture on an elaborate multi tiered throne wearing military maille metallic armor with a taotie image at his waist and long hair draped down his back. He is barefoot with a snake under his right foot and a tortoise under his left, his most notable iconological features. These mythical-animals symbolize those over whom he presided including “…both celestial officers under his command, [and] former demons that were conquered by him.” (Stevens, p.19.) Greve claims the ancients believed there were no male tortoises so the females had to mate with a snake, and “…the tortoise embracing a snake became the protector symbol of the north; but as the word ‘tortoise’ was taboo in Chinese, it was referred to as the “dark warrior” (genbu) and finally became “… one of the protector gods of the four areas, Zhenwu.”  His right hand may have held his weapon, a sword. His head is framed in a celestial long ribbon from the chest above the shoulders, behind his head and forms two circles. The first character for the word long ribbon (shoudai) means longevity (shou) and the second means both “to bring” and “ribbon” (dai) which thus creates the auspicious Chinese phrase  “May longevity bring blessings.” Ribbons and sashes surrounding, next to or behind an object, person or deity indicates a significant, special or extraordinary power they or the object represents. This carving is part of the VA Deities-and-Legends and Taoist-Art Collections.

Click here for the Blog Consecrating Wooden Images to Imbue Them with A Life Force


Gabi Greve, Daruma Museum, Tortoise and Snake,

Jeremy Roberts, Chinese Mythology A to Z, New York, Facts on File, 2004.

Brock Silvers, The Taoist Manual: An Illustrated Guide, Applying Taoism to Daily Life, Honolulu, Sacred Mountain Press, 2005.

Keith G. Stevens, Images of Asia Chinese Mythological Gods, Oxford University Press, New York, 2001.

Patricia Bjaaland Welch, Chinese Art: A Guide to Motifs and Visual Iconography, North Clarendon, Vt., Tuttle Publishing, 2008.

The Art Institute of Chicago, Taoism and the Arts of China: The Taoist Renaissance, 2000

Additional information

Place of Origin



Antique, Qing Dynasty


18th century

Materials and Technique

Wood, polychrome, lacquer

Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 14.5” W: 6” D: 5.75”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 36.83cm W: 15.24cm D: 14.6cm


4lbs 6oz


Very good, see description


19416XLKE, 12” to 17.9”

Shipping Box Size