Zhenwu, Lord of the Northern Palace, Qing dynasty, Kangxi period (1662–1722), early 18th century
Porcelain with clear glaze (Dehua ware [blanc de Chine], Fujian Province); H. 11 3/4 in. (29.8 cm)
Purchase by subscription, 1879 (79.2.481)
This porcelain figure of Zhenwu, the Perfected Warrior, dates to the eighteenth century and was made in today's Fujian Province. Called Dehua ware, the clear glaze over a white body explains why the French named it blanc de Chine. Zhenwu, also called Lord of the Northern Palace, is one of the most prominent deities in the Daoist pantheon. Beginning in the Warring States period (475–221 B.C.), Zhenwu, then known as Xuanwu, the Dark Warrior, was represented by a serpent coiled around a tortoise. This motif, often found on roof tiles from the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–220 A.D.) and on stone sarcophagi from the Wei dynasty (220–265), can be seen at the front of this figure's porcelain pedestal, which is how he can be identified. It was only in the eleventh century that Zhenwu assumed an anthropomorphic form.