Antique Female Taoist Priest with Hu Tablet, China (19154BLE) $495


H: 12”  W: 4.235”  D: 2.25” | FREE SHIPPING

This charming female figure with a sweet smiling face is a female Taoist priest wearing plain priest’s robe and an unusual headdress centered with a phoenix, the Chinese “king of birds” holding a ceremonial Hu tablet often carried by Taoists priests to indicate their power and status and their presence before a Taoist deity. Although there are few carved images of female Taoist priests, from its inception Taoism was very compatible with feminine characteristics and ordained them as priests.



Taoists were represented in art as scholars, sages, heroes, officials and priests When these images are taken out of context they are very difficult to identify so we use the term Taoist to signify an Official, Priest or sage. Taoist priests are called a daoshi (道士 “master of the Tao”) a moniker for Taoist priests, monks, officials or Masters and sometimes shamans. Carvings of them often appeared on a home altar along with Buddhist, Popular Religion and ancestor-figures. Taoist priests were responsible for protecting people against evil spirits in this life while Buddhist monks were responsible for looking after souls in the next life, thus Taoist images generally reflected the wish to ward off malevolent spirits and bad luck. Many images carried Taoist symbols with hands in ritualistically held at the chest sometimes covered by ritual cloth. Priests like this antique-Chinese-wood-carving often carried long slender ritual Hu-tablets indicating to others that they were in the presence of a Taoist deity or official. This image ,which we assume to be a female Taoist priest, has an unusual headdress with five spikes centered by a long necked phoenix, the Chinese “king of birds” who represents virtue, propriety, duty, mercy, and credibility. Women were Taoist priests soon after the inception of Taoism and there are many legends about female Taoist female deities as well. Taoism is very compatible with feminine characteristics including modesty, softness, yielding to the Tao, and non-aggression and some schools admired their ability to communicate with deities. The Tang Dynasty was the zenith for Taoist women who numbered one-third of the Shangqing School clergy. This consecrated figure with closed bung was probably included on a home altar along with other carved figures to bring good fortune and  protect against malevolent forces. It is in very good condition with much paint remaining despite expected chips, cracks, paint losses, and old insect damage and a small old restoration on the right arm which is common among religious antique Chinese carvings. This image is part of theVA Taoist-Art Collection.

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


Fabrizio Pregadio, The Encyclopedia of Taoism Volume 1, New York, Routledge, 2008.

Stephen Little with Shawn Eichman, Taoism and the Arts of China, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2000.

Women in  Taoism, Wikipedia

Additional information

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



Antique, Qing Dynasty


18-19th Century

Materials and Technique


Dimensions (inches)

Ht: 12” W: 4.325” D: 2.25”

Dimensions (metric)

Ht: 30.48cm W:10.98cm D: 5.71cm


13 oz


Very good, see description

Item Number


Shipping Box Size