Daoist Immortal, probably Laozi (老子)

Period: Five Dynasties period (907–60)

Date: 10th century

Culture: China

Medium: High-leaded bronze

Dimensions: H. 9 1/2 in. (24.1 cm); W. 4 1/2 in. (11.4 cm)

Classification: Sculpture

Credit Line: Gift of Abby Aldrich Rockefeller, 1942

Accession Number: 42.25.19


This sculpture epitomizes the merging of religious and secular imagery in later Chinese Buddhist sculpture. With his shaven head and elongated earlobes, the figure resembles a luohan (one of the Indian disciples of the Buddha), but his refined facial features, dignified posture, long-sleeved robe, and pointed shoes—all attributes associated with Confucian scholar-officials—identify him unmistakably as a youthful monk.

The sculpture’s tendency toward abstraction and stylization—the contours of the head, body, and robes are conveyed through the buildup of simple, curved forms—recall thirteenth-century images, but a radiocarbon date suggests that the piece dates to between A.D. 1324 and 1617.