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Chinese gilt-lacquer bronze figure of the Daoist deity Wenchang Wang, late Ming (1368-1626), seated upon a raised stand, holding a hu-tablet in front of his chest, wearing layered robes.
Wenchang Wang is the Daoist god of literature and learning; according to the Book of Emperor Zi Tong, he ‘had a mature mind at birth’ and was thus praised for his scholarly virtues. He is, to this day, called upon by scholars and students in China for help in academic matters, and there are many temples and shrines dedicated to his worship. During the early to mid-Ming period, there was a notable increase in the establishment of local temples and smaller altars with shrines to specific figures as well as to more general and popular Daoist deities. The small size of this lacquer and bronze figure indicates that it was installed in such a local temple or even a domestic shrine, so that young adults and scholars in the community or family could appeal to Wenchang Wang in times of academic need.