A large iron cast figure of the JJade Emperor ith in relief and on the back of the throne on which he is seated, a cyclical date corresponding to the end of the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722)
The Jade Emperor ("Yuhuang Dadi") is a legendary figure in Taoism who rules all other gods in the ancient Chinese pantheon. He is recognizable by his characteristic headdress and his posture with folded hands hidden in the wide sleeves of his imperial robe. It embodies the principle of the regulation and stability of the celestial elements.
It was under the Yuan dynasty (1279-1368) that the first cast iron appeared, cheaper alternatives to bronze for religious statuary art. Under the Ming (1368-1644), large figures in cast iron continued to be produced, even on a larger scale, because bronze was reserved for weapons of which the wars under the Ming were major consumers.
We can see in the Guimet Museum three statuettes of Buddhist kings of the Buddhist cast iron (Yanluo wang, Biancheng wang, Songdi wang) executed under the Ming dynasty, proof that Buddhist subjects were also treated in this material.
Under the Qing dynasty (1644-1912), the first Manchu emperors brought back prosperity with peace, and bronze for good, dethroned the cast iron in the temples, which will remain permanently associated with the previous Yuan and Ming dynasties.
This large statue therefore belongs to the very last productions of this type, under the nascent Qing dynasty with the reign of Emperor Kangxi (1662-1722). It obviously adorned a Taoist temple or we know that Kangxi, second emperor of the young Qing dynasty, was keen to unify China by giving pride of place to the three Chinese spiritual philosophies: the Taoism of the dominant Han ethnic group , the oldest, Confucianism of the literati and Buddhism, arrived the last from India.
The end of the 17th century and the beginning of the 18th thus saw during the long reign of Kangxi a still fairly balanced production of Taoist and Buddhist religious figures for their respective cults in the temples, then from Yongzheng (1723-1735), his son, and even more of Qianlong (1736-1795), his grandson, the balance is upset in favor of Tibetan Buddhism, a sectarian current that eventually becomes the official religion of the Manchu minority who seized power in China in from 1644.
The figure of the Jade Emperor was undoubtedly not, for this statue of an impressive size and weight, chosen at random by the sponsors of this work, usually a wealthy family benefiting from imperial charges and benefits. , because, intended for a traditional Taoist temple, it well represented the desire displayed for stability and fusion of the traditions of the new Manchu power.
Through it, the sponsors also praised the regime in place and its ecumenical emperor, Kangxi, rightly famous in the history of China for having succeeded in the first to pacify and completely reunify the vast Chinese Empire, after long and exhausting years of military campaigns.
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