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Photo credit: Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University

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Culture: China
Title: Xuantian Shangdi (Zhenwu), god of the North
Date: Ming Dynasty, early 15th century
Medium: Ink and colors on silk
Dimensions: 51 15/16 x 38 9/16 inches (132 x 98 cm)
Credit Line: George and Mary Rockwell Collection
Object Number: 2000.003
Label Text: This monumental painting depicts the Daoist deity Zhenwu (Perfected Warrior) as Xuantian Shangdi, Supreme Emperor of Dark Heaven. Seated on a rock throne in the clouds surrounded by attendants and an entourage of divine marshals, he presides over the northern quadrant and is considered the force behind the moving energy of the universe. Zhenwu is also the divine founder of Taijiquan, the Chinese martial art.

Zhenwu became the most important Daoist deity in the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Ming emperors credited him with bringing them to power and regarded him as supreme protector of the state in the areas of political administration, military success, climate control, cure of diseases, and prevention of disasters. The imperial court carried out regular sacrifices to Zhenwu and, as a means of appeasing the deity, would have commissioned paintings such as this to bestow upon important Daoist temples.

NOTE: This electronic record is compiled from historic documentation which may not reflect the Johnson Museum's complete or current knowledge of the object. Review and refinement of such records is ongoing.