Zhenwu, Daoist Lord of the Northern Palace

Period: Qing dynasty (1644–1911), Kangxi period (1662–1722)

Date: early 18th century

Culture: China

Medium: Porcelain with ivory glaze (Fujian Province; Dehua ware)

Dimensions: H. 11 3/4 in. (29.8 cm)

Classification: Ceramics

Credit Line: Purchase by subscription, 1879

Accession Number: 79.2.481


The tortoise at the base of the sculpture identifies this figure as Zhenwu, an important Daoist deity who also was worshipped in Buddhist traditions. Zhenwu became particularly popular during the Ming dynasty (1368–1644), when he was revered as a protector of both the state and the imperial family. His role as a guardian reflects his association with the north, the direction from which China was constantly threatened by neighboring peoples from Central Asia.