WHAT ARE THESE STATUES CALLED?
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 and 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 (figures).

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 central China."