Popular Religion

Chinese Popular Religion is a wide spread belief in a multitude of deities, with each community – province, city or village – having its own pantheon of deities which include spirits of national and local worthies and heroes from recorded history as well as heavenly and nature deities. During the Ming and Qing dynasties popular religion images proliferated in temples and on home altars throughout China and were considerably more modest that the imperially and government sanctioned renderings.

Showing 1–12 of 22 results

  • Antique Agricultural Deity and Spring Ox, China


    To pay homage and respect to one’s ancestors, Chinese families commissioned images to protect family members, and in some instances, their domestic and farm animals as seen in this exceptional and rare carving.  Intricately modeled and deeply carved from one piece of wood, it depicts two distinct juxtaposed images. On the top is a Taoist official in typical official attire holding a hu and on bottom is the “Spring Ox” accompanied by the “Herd Box”, who together perform an ancient agricultural rituals at the end of each winter to wake the earth up so that spring can arrive This is an exceptional and rare statue with considerable history and iconographic significance.


  • Antique Ancestor In Mandarin Attire, China


    This masterfully carved ancestor as a mandarin official sits on horseshoe chair set on a footed high decorated plinth dressed in a well-appointed formal 3-button Mandarin long coat, pointed rattan hat. His face is uniquely and unusually very individualized with heavy lidded eyes, in a benevolent expression and his advanced aged indicated by the wrinkles clearly depicting a loved individual. It is in excellent condition with a fine patina. This exquisitely carved image was true homage to a revered family member and is one of our finest ancestor figures.


  • Antique Ancestor with Removable Head, China


    This very finely carved figure of an ancestor was commissioned by a family of either high status or wealth, having been carved from a single piece of an exquisite and rare hardwood with a lustrous patina. The removable head, which is fairly unique, is individualized with a round face, bald head, and oversized ears and markings to delineate his advanced age, a respected characteristic in 19th-century Chinese society. There is no indication of his status, however, as his robes are simple and he wears no hat indicating that he is not an official. He sat on a detached chair which is now missing and we are in the process of having one made for it . The exquisite carving in beautiful dense wood and patina make this a wonderful and distinctive piece in excellent condition with cracks and minor surface losses consistent with age and use.

  • 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 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 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 Kitchen God and His Wife


    This pair of the Kitchen God and his wife are mirror-images on backless chairs with multi-sided pedestals wearing simplified officials robes. Both are finely carved, clasp hands at their chests covered in ritual cloth to symbolize holding a  hu tablet, and reflect reverence and solemnity for deities who hold the future of multiple generations in their hands. They  were covered in red, the color of fu, and lacquer which has darkened naturally over time and from exposure to candle and incense smoke. These images are in very good shape and were consecrated.

  • Antique Kitchen God and His Wife, China


    This extremely fine quality pair of the Kitchen God and his Wife are carved on a single base which is somewhat unusual. Unlike our the other pairs, these figures closely resemble but do not mirror each other. The intricately detailed and different hats are those of very high officials as are their well carved and elaborate officials’ robes. His serene expressive face seems to have an uncharacteristic smile and is highlighted with facial hairs. Their hands are hidden under a curved ritual cloth and hold pointed hu tablets. These charming figures with a smooth warm patina are in excellent condition.



  • Antique Kitchen God and his Wife, China


    This Kitchen God and His Wife are near mirror images and carved with fine quality and lesser but sufficient details. They sit on backless chairs on a high plinth, with similar layered gold officials’ robes with black borders and red decorative sashes with faded painted designs and clasped hands covered in ritual cloth symbolizing holding a hu tablet, and well-carved, articulated, well presented and very different headdresses. Their faces are generalized with carved and painted features, with the reverence and solemnity associated with house gods whose future of families are in their hands.


  • Antique Kitchen God and His Wife, China


    Finely detailed and carved from dense wood, this Kitchen God and his Wife are near mirror images of each other. Both sit on backless chairs on a high plinth, with layered gold officials’ robes with decorative sashes and hands clasped symbolically as if holding a hu tablet. Their different well-carved faces have arched brows, pendulous ears and hair under detailed, different and distinctive head wear. They are in excellent condition with most of the original red, black, and gold pigmentation and lacquer and have been consecrated.


  • Antique Kitchen God and His Wife, China


    This pair is VA’s most unique and finely crafted Kitchen God couple. Both are mirror-images on backless chairs on a multi-sided pedestals, wear beautifully carved flowing officials’ robes, clasped hands at their chests covered in ritual cloth holding Hu tablets  Their faces represented requisite reverence and solemnity for deities who hold the future of multiple generations in their hands, but have soft approachable features and subtly smiling lips. The original red and overall gilt and lacquer coating have darkened naturally over time. They have a painted character on the base expressing a wish for “happiness.”  These exceptional consecrated pieces are in excellent condition with a fine patina.


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