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Wooden guardian figure
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This rare wooden image is nearly 2500 years old. Figures like this were placed as guardians in tombs in the ancient Chinese state of Chu in what is today Hunan and Hubei province. When this figure was made, the Chu ruled a large part of China.

The Chu venerated and feared a large number of spirits, and shamans were used to intercede and communicate with them. The wearing of antlers seems to have been significant in shamanistic rituals. Carved wooden figures, such as this example with dry lacquer antlers, probably represented the shamans or their powers. The Chu are renowned for their sculptural tradition and wood-carving skills, which also embraced more realistic creatures such as cranes and deer.

Wooden guardian figure

From Southern China, Eastern Zhou period, 4th century вс
Ht (from base) 43.7 cm.

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