Antique Bronze Censer Six Taoist Patriarchs
AGE: – Exact age unknown, definitely antique, more than one hundred years
CONSTRUCTION: – Brass/bronze
HEIGHT: – 44cm
WEIGHT: – 4.25kg
#118 PRICE: AUD 1,400.00 CONTACT
This Antique Bronze Censer Six Taoist patriarchs is highly detailed with five Taoist Buddhist figures in relief strategically placed around the outside of the burner, and one figure on the lid, seated at the feet of a Phoenix with wings spread. Two dragons snake their way down on each side of the burner. Plum blossoms (prunus) and foliage are dispersed between the figures.
The most well-known of the Patriarchs, Hung Neng (Liu Tsu) is seated with one leg bent, wearing a crown with a mark on the front of the body with two Chinese letters “Da Wang” which translates into English, meaning King, Magnate or person having expert skill in something.
Myth and legend related to the Chinese Phoenix date back at least 4000 years, this bird has been depicted in motifs on Shang Dynasty pottery as well as bronzes from this period and is a common feature in Chinese art, frequently seen painted on Chinese ceramics, on paintings, on temple decoration and other art objects such as jade carvings. In Chinese mythology, the Phoenix (Fenghuang) symbolizes the union of females and males and represents the six celestial bodies.
The Phoenix In China is referred to as Fenghuang, “Feng”, a male bird, and “Huang” a female bird, the two words over time were merged together. There are a variety of meanings associated with Fenghuang, it symbolizes Yin and Yang, represents balance and harmony, virtue, and prosperity, and is often present in some form or another at royal ceremonies and weddings.
The phoenix is usually paired with dragons and was believed to have been good-luck totems of eastern tribes in ancient China. The phoenix is believed to reign over all other birds and is a composite of five birds with the body of a duck, the tail of a peacock, the legs of a crane the head of a pheasant, the beak of a parrot, and wings of a swallow.
During the Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD) two phoenixes, one a male (Feng), and the other a female (Huang) was often seen facing one other. During the Yuan Dynasty (1279-1368 AD) the two terms were merged to become the generally translated “phoenix”, or “King of Birds”. The Phoenix became the symbol for the Empress when paired with a dragon, with the dragon representing the Emperor.
The dragon in China is a mythological creature and has been part of Chinese myth and folklore for a few thousand years. During the Han Dynasty, the dragon was chosen by the Emperors as their symbol to show imperial power with the colour gold or yellow becoming the Imperial colour for all Emperors to follow.
Like the Phoenix, dragons are a popular theme in Taoist (Daoist) religion, as well as mainstream Buddhism and Chinese literature and poetry, they are frequently painted on ceramics with their long twisting body winding their way around a vase or bowl, depicted in paintings and Taoist sculptures as well as being popular features in many Chinese temples, decorating roof lines. They are also highly symbolic in the principles practiced in Feng Shui and is one of the animals in the Chinese zodiac.
The Chinese dragon differs from the western dragon represented in medieval tales where they are portrayed as an angry fire-spewing creature that destroys everything in their path. In China, the dragon is portrayed as an auspicious creature, benevolent and powerful, the bringer of good luck, master of the weather and moving bodies of water such as waterfalls, rivers, and oceans, as well as bestowing blessings and good fortune, but whatever you don’t anger him, if angered their rage can be extremely harmful and can work in reverse.
Dragons also feature in Japanese and South East Asian cultures and have similar traits to the Chinese dragon.
THE SIX TAOIST PATRIARCHS IN TAOISM
By the late 8th century, under the influence of Huineng’s student Shenhui, the traditional list of patriarchs of the Chan lineage had been established: