Antique Wood Zhenwu, The Taoist “Perfected Warrior”, China (19066BME) $575


H: 13”  W: 5”  D: 4.875” | FREE SHIPPING!

The Taoist god Zhenwu, the Perfected Warrior, is one of the most revered Chinese Taoist deities venerated for his ability to heal as well as to protect his country and the emperor. In this fine provincial piece he is humbly presented with a plain robe with an official’s belt wrapped around his back and over his ample stomach which more resembles a Chinese official than a deified warrior.  His face has well-defined features including the eyes and lips set in a benevolent slight smile. It was painted in polychrome and some of the original black, yellow, and red paint can be seen on the bottom.



Zhenwu (aka Xuanwu, Wuandi and Zhenwudadi), is one of the most revered Chinese Taoist figures, venerated for his ability to heal as well as to protect his country and the emperor. There are various depictions of his attire, but here he wears a plain black robe with an official’s belt which he holds in his hand. His long black hair flows down his back covering the carved cavity, indicating the image was consecrated. The face is carved with well-defined features including the eyes and lips set in a slight smile. Some of the original gilt and red can be detected under the black robes and remaining lacquer. Chinese lacquer naturally darkens over time, especially when an image has been exposed to burning incense and candles . The back is designed for easy handling. There is a crack there, paint losses, and minor insect damage, but these and the paint losses on the front are expected for wood pieces of this age and use. Zhenwu is known by many names and titles:  Emperor of the Dark Heaven,  Northern Emperor and the most commonly True Warrior and  Perfected Warrior. One of the most popular Taoist-deities during the Ming and Qing dynasties, he was depicted in all sizes – large porcelains and bronze imperial images and, like this antique-Chinese-wood-carving in a small renditions for personal worship on a home altar or shrine. Local provincial artisans took liberties in their iconographic representations with more humble and relatable images. He is most often presented seated on a throne with a large snake coiled around the smaller turtle underneath his bare feet, his right on the snake and his left on the tortoise. (Silvers p. 23) This image is a slight departure as they are presented nose to nose underneath his throne and  the substantial turtle sits on top, his head raised to touch the downward-facing reptile.This pair of mythical animals symbolizes those over whom he presided including “…both celestial officers under his command [and] former demons that were conquered by him.” (Stevens, p.19.)  Because tortoises were believed to live for 10,000 years, they became an early symbol of longevity. Zhenwu is a syncretic deity, still venerated today by Taoist, Buddhist and Popular Religion devotees. Much of the lacquer and paint has been removed on this folk-art like carving and the lacquer has naturally darkens over time.  There are expected cracks and surface losses and old insect damage at the base and back common for wood pieces of this age and the effects of China’s modernization. Otherwise this fairly rare and interesting piece with a wonderful patina is in very good condition. His long black hair flows down his back covering a now open carved cavity indicating it was consecrated. This carving is. part of the VA Deities-and-Legends Collection.

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


Dr. Gabi Greve, “Tsurukame – Crane, Tortoise and Snake,” Daruma Museum,

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

Dale Saunders, Mudra: A Study of Symbolic Gestures in Japanese Buddhist Sculpture, Princeton, Prinston University Press, 1960

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.

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



Additional information

Weight 5 lbs
Dimensions 14 × 10 × 6 in
Place of Origin



Antique, Qing Dynasty


18th century

Materials and Technique


Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 13” W: 5” D: 4.875”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 33.02cm W: 12.7cm D: 12.383cm


1lbs 15oz


Very good, see description

Item Number


Shipping Box Size