WHAT ARE THESE STATUES
WHEN AND WHERE IN CHINA WERE THEY MADE?
WHAT ARE THE BUNDLES INSIDE OF THEM?
The mystery is solved thanks to
a friend, Richard Wang, and a scholar at Xi'an University.
Information about the statues:
These are two wooden statues we bought in Hong Kong. The seller said
they were very old and came from a temple on the Mainland.
However, I think they may be ancestor figures with a blessing packet in
the back of the statues.
The one on
the right may be an empress or an ancestor or may even be Guan Yin. The
one on the left has
more gold leaf applied to her figure. She also has a coating of what
may be sandlewood build-up. Both have remnants of old paint
(polychrome). The one on
the right has mostly red paint on her chair. The one on the left has a
blue band around her hair, white paint/gesso and red paint on her dress
body. The statue on the left is more crudely carved than the other one
& has worm holes in it. I assume it is older than the statue on the
right, although both are probably from the Qing Dynasty period.
Each of the statues had a male "companion" statue which we did not
purchase. This is what made me think they might be ancestor statues
They each have a rectangular compartment on the back. When I opened the
compartment of the one on the left I found a paper covering wadded up.
The paper was inscribed with blue Chinese characters. Under the paper
covering was a silk bundle (orange silk) tied with very thin silk
threads of different colors. Inside the bundle are some animal bones
and what appear to be claws. They are very fragile and brittle, so I
did not open the bundle. I did not open the other statue's compartment.
If I had found this kind of thing in a Native American context, I would
call it a "fetish bundle." I would assume it was a "charm" to ensure
good luck or good fortune.
The notch on the back of the statue on the left seems to be something
that would enable the statue to be "pegged" onto a shrine or wall. The
notches on the statue on the right connect so that it may be the statue
was anchored onto something by a post slid through it (?)
Left to right: wooden "cover"; wadded up paper underneath the cover;
silk bag tied with thin silk threads containing small animal bones and
what look like claws; hollowed out back of statue
The circular "thing" appears to be some sort of snake or animal bone.
It is round. The semi-circular things have a shiny brown cover, but a
center that is cartilagenous. I did not unwrap the bundle. A Cambodian
friend says the brown articles look like claws.
This is the wadded up paper with Chinese writing unrolled. The
text, written in unsimplified Chinese, according to a scholar who can
read it, is rather ungrammatical and poorly written. It says:
"The Liu family heirs divided land owned by their deceased parents, in
the 42nd rein (?) of Qianlong, the Emperor (1777AD), the second year
after their father's death. It also lists names all the family members.
They begged blessings for their whole big family, and had this statue
made and placed in a DRAGON KING TEMPLE for good fortune in Ningxiang
County, near Changsha city, now the capital city of Hunan Province in