A Taotie (tao tie, tao tieh, t’ao t’ieh) is a mythical creature used as a decorative motif on bronze devotional and wine vessels in the Shang (1750-1045 BCE) through Zhou (1045-221 BCE) dynasties, allegedly as warnings to avoid sin, and were placed prominently in officials’ halls to remind them of the dangers of self-indulgence and gluttony. Although considered a full functioning animal, the taotie was usually a horned image with just parts of a face, composed of profiles of dragon-like beasts facing each other with bulging circular eyes and heavy eyebrows with a lei design pattern representing thunder or with an anima-like broad flat nose and an open gaping mouth with no jaw suggesting a huge capacity for swallowing. There is no consensus, but some believe it had such an appetite that it ate its own head.  It is sometimes depicted religious officials or shamans hats to warn against greed and excess and as a  guardian figure to protect against bad spirits.

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  • Antique Taoist Priest on a Horse, China


    This fine carving is likely a Taoist priest dressed in official garments astride a lively horse that was originally place on a home or community clan shrine to protect devotees. In contrast to the erect and calm priest with expressive facial features, the ornately attired horse is active as it turns his head, opens his mouth, and widens his nostrils.  The priest’s powers as a guardian figure are symbolized in his hat with a mythical taotie that wards off evil and warns against gluttony and his raised hand in prana mudra that activates vital energy flow to avert evil and bring good fortune.

  • Antique Wood Zhenwu the Taoist “Perfected Warrior,” China


    Zhenwu (Perfected Warrior) is a powerful Taoist deity, god of one of the 4 cardinal directions (the north) and revered for his ability with magic. This statue is an excellent example of a provincial traditional small image for personal devotion and reflects his classic iconography: seated on a complex multi-tiered throne as a sign of his importance, long hair down his back, bare feet resting on a snake and a tortoise, a celestial scarf hanging in space and around his body and garbed in maille armor. He was a renowned emperor, worshipped in imperial and provincial temples throughout China reflecting by imperial titles he received in 1304 – Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven, Primal Sage and Benevolent Majesty.



  • Antique/Vintage Taoist Shaman with Taotie on Hat, China


    This vibrant carving of a Taoist priest or shaman is in religious attire with double-winged high hat centered with an image of a taotie. His left hand has two fingers pointing up in the Taoist karana mudra and holds a tael in his right hand. It was repainted many years ago  common for Chinese religious statues, as families traditionally requested re-paintings of images to honor the image. The image is very similar to one in Canterbury auction of the Keith Steven’s collection.



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