Description Around the cylindrical body of this incense burner is painted the Taoist god Zhenwu flanked by figures with animal heads that emerge from the water holding tablets of their rank. Four figures are depicted on the opposite side of the incense burner in an outdoors scene. The god Zhenwu, whose name means Perfected Warrior, originated from the 3rd century B.C. Dark Warrior Xuanwu, represented as a tortoise entwined by a snake and symbolic of the Northern cardinal direction. His anthropomorphic depictions began in the early Song dynasty, gaining popularity during the Ming where after 1304 he became known as Supreme Emperor of the Dark Heaven, Primal Sage, and Benevolent Majesty. Zhenwu acted as healer, exorcizer, and celestial protector of the emperor and the state and was worshiped through the Qing dynasty to the present. The scenes, figures, and inscriptions that name the donors of this gift to a temple are painted in underglaze cobalt blue on white porcelain. A cylindrical body, tapering slightly at bottom, stands on three feet in the shape of lion heads. Diaper diamond bands above the main scene frame inscriptions and panels of branches filled with birds. The figures are part of a natural scene of land, water, scrolling clouds, and plants. An inscription dates the incense burner to the 31st year of the Wanli reign, 1604. Other inscriptions indicate the donation of the incense burner as a temple gift.
- Masterpieces of Chinese Porcelain. The Walters Art Gallery, Baltimore. 1980-1981.
Provenance Yamanaka Sale, American Art Galleries, 1912, no. 24; Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1912 [mode of acquisition unknown]; by bequest to Walters Art Museum, 1931.
Inscriptions [Date] 1604 (31st year of the Wanli reign)
Credit Acquired by Henry Walters, 1912
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