Tray with Daoist Figures

Ming dynasty (1368–1644)
16th century
Black lacquer with mother-of-pearl inlay; basketry sides
H. 1 3/4 in. (4.4 cm); W. 18 3/8 (46.7 cm); D. 11 5/8 (29.5)
Credit Line:
Purchase, Barbara and William Karatz Gift, 2006
Accession Number:
Not on view
The eight figures, male and female, assembled on a riverbank represent figures important to the Chinese tradition of Daoism. Some are members of a group of exemplars, known as the Eight Immortals, who became popular during the development of the Quanzhen (Complete Realization) sect of Daoism during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. These luminaries are based loosely on historical figures of the Tang dynasty (618–906). Here, they await the arrival of Shoulao, a principal figure in the Daoist pantheon and a symbol of immortality. He is shown to the left flying above the waves on the back of a crane. Daoist imagery was particularly important in the late fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, not only at court but within all levels of society.
Inscription: Hao ("good"; on back of tray)
[sale, Sotheby's, New York American, Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art; March 30, 2006, lot 81 , to MMA]
The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Mother-of-Pearl: A Tradition in Asian Lacquer," December 2, 2006–April 1, 2007.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Chinese Lacquer: An Introduction," December 4, 2007–May 11, 2008.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Celebration: The Birthday in Chinese Art," February 27, 2010–November 28, 2010.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Red and Black: Chinese Lacquer, 13th–16th Century," September 7, 2011–June 10, 2012.

New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Introduction to Chinese Lacquer," December 11, 2013–July 6, 2014.