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Daoist wall painting "Homage to the Highest Power" (west wall)
Coloured pigments; clay; plaster
Centimetres: 306.5 (height), 1042 (length)
1271-1368 AD
Late Empire I; Yuan Dynasty; late 13th to early 14th century AD
Area of Origin: China
Purchased from Yamanaka & Co., New York. Gift of The Flavelle Foundation in Memory of Sir Joseph Flavelle.

Description: The wall painting is one of a pair from Pingyang prefecture in southern Shanxi province. This work would have decorated the west wall of a worshipping or temple hall. Symmetrically balanced, it shows a procession of heavenly beings moving at a leisurely pace to pay homage to the Supreme Power. “Homage to the Highest Power” has been a popular theme in Daoist pictorial art. Daoist theology advocates the concept of Dao (the Way), a primeval force which gives form to all things in the universe.

The fierce warrior at the head of the procession is the Lord of the Southern Dipper (Sagittarius). He leads nine star spirits, female attendants with plant offerings, three important deities, and personifications of the twelve Terrestrial Branches. The three deities have been identified as Laozi (founder of Daoism) with the Jade Emperor and the Empress of Heaven, or Laozi with the Holy Ancestor and Ancestress of the Song dynasty (AD 960-1279). Since the Daoist pantheon is vast and complex, deities that lack distinctive attributes are hard to identify and for this work, further research is needed.

In subject matter, composition and painting style, this work is very similar to the wall paintings decorating the Sanqing Hall of the Yongle Monastery in Shanxi province. The Sanqing Hall paintings are dated by inscription to 1325 AD. Based on the strong stylistic affinities, this work can also be dated to the Yuan dynasty (AD 1279–1368).

Publications: 1. White Chinese Temple Frescoes. 140: 202-226.
2. Tsang, Ka Bo. 1992. Artibus Asiae.
3. Zeng, Jiabao. December Zhongguo wenwu shijie, 52 Dno. 12: 109-21.

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