Daoist wall painting "Homage to the Highest Power" (west wall) - ROM2003_917_2


Daoist wall painting "Homage to the Highest Power" (west wall)

Medium:ink and colour on clay
Geography: Longmen Monastery? Shanxi Province, China
Date: c. 1300
Period: Yuan dynasty
306.5 x 1042 cm
Object number: 933.6.2
On view
Gallery Location:Bishop White Gallery of Chinese Temple Art
Description"Homage to the Highest Power" has been a popular theme in Daoist pictorial art since the Tang dynasty. However, no example from that period exists today. From the Song dynasty, two handscrolls treating this subject have survived. The earliest extant wall paintings of this genre are this pair and those decorating the Sanqing Dian (Hall of Three Pure Ones) of the Yongle Gong (Monastery of Everlasting Happiness) in Shanxi province. The Sanqing Dian wall paintings are dated by inscription to AD 1325. This pair, though known only to have come from Pingyang prefecture in southern Shanxi, can be dated about the same time from strong stylistic affinities with their better-documented Yuan companions. Daoist theology advocates the concept of Dao (the Way), a primeval force which gives form to all things in the universe. It commands the highest respect of a host of deities who maintain the order of Nature and govern the welfare of human beings. Vast and complex, the Daoist pantheon is modelled on the bureaucratic structure of the earthly world. Some of the deities lack distinctive attributes, however, which raises iconographical problems and makes identification of them no better than tentative. Symmetrically balanced, these paintings both show a procession of heavenly beings moving at a leisurely pace to pay homage to Yuanshi tianzun (Celestial Worthy of Primordial Beginning), who was probably represented by a sculpture placed against the north wall of the temple from which this painting came. Each has at its centre three main figures of enlarged size, preceded and followed by lesser deities and attendants. This, the west wall, presents Heisha (Black Killer) leading the representatives of jiutian (Nine Heavens), a Daoist priest, Dongwanggong (King Father of the East), Xiwangmu (Queen Mother of the West), and personifications of the twelve Terrestrial Branches. Charged with vibrant brushwork and brilliant colours, these masterly renditions epitomize the human endeavour to follow the pattern of the gods in the hope of forging a harmonious relationship with the Almighty.
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