The Chinese phoenix (凤 凰 Fenghuang) is the “king of birds” with fabulous colors and the head of a pheasant, crown of a duck, beak of a swallow, back of a tortoise and tail of a fish. According to the 4th century BCE Chinese Classic of Mountains and Seas, its head represents virtue, back propriety, wing duty, chest mercy, and abdomen credibility. Said to have been born facing the sun’s rays, the mythical bird symbolizes the sun’s warmth, embraces the yang(male) principles of light and heat and promotes creation of male progeny. It brings affluence and only appears during periods of prosperity, peace and good government. Phoenix images decorated ceremonial costumes and were used in the Empress of China’s headwear and the ceremonial headdresses of the Queen Mother of the West and Matsu. As one of the four divine animals that presides over the southern quadrant it was a popular motif in Chinese Straits furniture and accessories with special meaning for Chinese residents in Southeast Asia. A pair with wings out or flying balance each other, represent harmony between a husband and wife and is a wish for a harmonious marriage with many sons. When the “king of birds” is paired with peonies (the “king of flowers”) they symbolize harmony, blessings, rank, good fortune and prosperity. A dragon and phoenix together symbolize a happy and harmonious union a popular decorative motif, especially in bedrooms. In feng shui, the phoenix symbolizes luck and is said to bring auspicious chi both to one’s life and home.

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  • Antique Lacquer and Gilt Straits Chinese (Peranakan) Shrine Cabinet, China


    This beautifully carved and heavily gilt antique cabinet is a fine example of Straits Chinese furniture made in Guangdong for the Southeast Asia market.  Double hinged vertical doors with wood pegs are composed of three carved openwork panels: horizontals on top and bottom and a tall one in between. Each door has a phoenix flanked by peonies in the center panel. Above and below the doors are open-work panels with florals running horizontally. The shrine rests on a low pedestal with curving gilt lines and florals. Above and below the tall panels are thin horizontal panels centered with a pod filled with seeds expressing a wish for many sons. The inside rear wall has a painted outline of a gilt table holding a finely painted gold, black and grey Chinese screen.

  • Antique Elegant Queen Mother of the West, China


    This exquisite and finely carved piece is the Taoist Queen Mother of the West sitting elegantly on a backless throne set on a hexagonal pedestal. She is a mature woman with full cheeks, an intense stare, heavy-lidded eyes, and a small but resolute chin. Her hair – pulled back above her pendulous ears, a sign of wisdom and her deified status – is up in a chignon under her headdress with a large finely carved seated phoenix. She wears a high-necked garment with graceful fully-flared robes with her hands together under a finely carved ritual cloth with an indention to hold a missing object, probably a staff. The image is triangular and culminates in the elaborately carved headdress which adds stability and strength to the image . Carved from dense wood with polychrome, gilt, and lacquer on the front side, it is in excellent condition with a crack on the back,  most of the polychrome pigmentation and lacquer intact, minor insect holes now stabilized, and some losses consistent with age and use, none of which compromises its integrity.


  • Antique Female Taoist Priest with Hu Tablet, China


    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. Although there are few carved images of female Taoist priests,  women assumed this role frequently as Taoism from its inception was very compatible with feminine characteristics. It was probably included on a home shrine along with other religious and ancestor figures to bring good fortune and protect against malevolent forces.


  • Antique Heavenly Empress Mazu, Protector of the Sea, China


    This vibrant image represents the “Heavenly Empress” Mazu wearing a vibrant, red-tiered outer robe topped with a black scalloped collar bordered with gold carved in graceful folds. Mazu is often dressed in red so travelers at sea can easily spot her if they need assistance. Three ornamental flowers painted on her stomach might reflect the Popular Religion myth that when Mazu’s mother was pregnant, she prayed for a daughter as she already had six sons. In a dream Guanyin gave her a flower blossom to wear, and the next day Mazu was born. This piece is wonderfully carved and is in excellent condition with exception of a few lacquer losses on her face and dress. She originally sat on a detached throne that is now replaced by a lucite base.

  • Antique Home Altar Mazu, Protector of the Sea, China


    This home devotional image, finely carved in the front and back, represents Mazu, the most revered Taoist female deity in coastal towns throughout mainland China, Taiwan and Vietnam. She sits in a traditional Taoist deity pose with her hands held before her covered by a ritual cloth with a space to hold a now missing hu tablet seated on a plain armless high back chair. She is a provincial matronly figure, eyes cast down in serene calmness, in humble attire with characteristically small feet, a red sash down the front of her robe, and a modest hat with a flat phoenix. The piece was originally covered with gilt, red polychrome, and lacquer on front and back,  which has been dulled from incense and candle smoke.  It is in very good condition with expected losses and cracks and larger cracks in the rear.


  • Antique Home Altar Queen Mother of the West, China


    Finely carved from a dense hardwood, this the Queen Mother of the West image sits in a traditional pose on a backless throne with a large iconic phoenix on her hat and wearing in a graceful robe with two fingers of her right-hand holding a long sleeve that covers her left hand – common in Taoist deity images. It was brightly painted as seen by her red garments under a lacquered cover that naturally darkened over time from  incense and candle offerings.  Her carved facial features, including full cheeks and pursed lips depict a solemn authoritative matronly figure.


  • Antique Imperial Mazu, Empress of Heaven, China


    This colorful large image represents Matsu as the Empress of Heaven in elaborate robes covering her front and back with gilt appliqué and rich and intense hues of red, blue, green and yellow applied on an original white background which allows those at sea in need of her assistance to see her. Raised curvilinear designs of strands made from incense ash highlight her robe that has two blue beads on the bottom of her sash and five inset mirrors – three across her chest and two inside flowers on her sleeves. A gilt headdress with raised threads inset with a mirror and topped by a phoenix sits on her intricate hair strands.  Originally on a chair or throne and made to be seen in the round, it now has a wood slat to stabilize it. Otherwise, this very powerful statue is in very good condition with normal scrapes and paint losses.


  • Antique Puppet Head of Queen Mother of the West, China


    Chinese puppet theatre has thrived in China for centuries to educate and entertain with puppets that often had detachable heads. A most popular figure was the Queen Mother of the West the highest ranking female Taoist deity who women venerated as a powerful, independent deity embodying yin (female energy) and prayed to for health and long life. In the Ming and Qing dynasties she became a cult figure with local temples dedicated to her and artisans modifying her features and iconography making her more folk than regal. Her elaborate complex headdress includes a large outstretched tortoise atop a phoenix surrounded by an arch bordered with a scale like finish. It is mounted on a contemporary frosted acrylic base.

  • Antique Queen Mother of the West Casting Out Demons, China


    Queen Mother of the West is  the most significant Taoist female deity and a patron deity of woman who pray to her on her birthday for health and longevity.This charming image sits on a backless throne with decorated pedestal, her iconic phoenix in her crown dressed in a high-necked outer garment with an ornamental disc and a scarf from her girdle. Her left hand is in karana mudra of casting our demons and negative energy. It was probably placed on a home altar for personal devotion.



  • Antique Queen Mother of the West on Horse with Elixir Bowl, China


    Given its size and quality, this rare and exquisite Queen Mother of the West probably was placed in a local temple or village/family clan setting. She has the delicate features of a mature woman with a round face, radiant smile, full cheeks, and a small chin all highlighted with gilt. Her black hair surmounts her pendulous ears in a chignon under her glorious headdress centered by a striking phoenix. Her sumptuous adornments include a finely carved highly decorative net-like shoulder garment covering a long-sleeved robe covering her shoes, long earrings, and a necklace below a gilt collar. She holds the elixir of immortality.

  • Antique Queen Mother of the West on Horse, China


    In this Queen Mother of the West image her significance as one of the most important and powerful Chinese goddesses is indicated by making her very large in comparison to her horse. The regal horse is adorned with a wide blanket, prominent headgear and a double-rowed harness with a decorative medallion. She wears her characteristic headdress with a phoenix, her square face framed by abundant hair, pendulous ears and dangling earrings. Her right hand holds up the cup with the elixir of immortality. She is worshipped today in China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and other overseas Chinese communities.


    , who is outfitted to reflect the importance of the deity he carries




  • Antique Queen Mother of the West on Raised Pedestal, China


    This Queen Mother of the West, the highest ranking female Taoist deity was probably displayed as a pair along a statue of Guanyin, the most significant Buddhism female (Guanyin on a Lotus Pedestal (16206B) highlighting the importance and similarity of these revered female images  Like the Guanyin, the Queen Mother’s delicately carved face has half closed eyes, serene composure mouth with a hint of a smile, which is more Buddhist than Taoist. Her headdress, centered by her iconic phoenix, rests under a hood extending to her shoulders and back. She wears a high collared three-layered Taoist robe, her hands covered by a ritual cloth.

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