Jonathan Cohen

Jonathan Cohen

Posted on 01/29/2014

Photo taken on November 17, 2012

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Zu Dashou
Tomb of General Zu Dashou
Ming Tomb
Bloor Street
relief sculpture
Royal Ontario Museum
Chinese art
Chinese sculpture

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Photo replaced on January 30, 2014
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Tomb of General Zu Dashou – Royal Ontario Museum, Bloor Street, Toronto, Ontario

Tomb of General Zu Dashou – Royal Ontario Museum, Bloor Street, Toronto, Ontario
A cornerstone of the ROM since its opening in 1914, the Chinese holdings total more than 30,000 objects, of which some 3,300 are on display. At the core are purchases by Bishop William C. White, a Canadian missionary with an eye for antiquities. From 1908 until his return from China in 1934, he bought for the ROM, then became the first curator of its Far Eastern division, selling some of his personal collection to the museum. Equally crucial were purchases made from 1918 onward by George Crofts, a fur trader and collector who discovered the ROM serendipitously.

Especially compelling are the tombs, which illustrate a salient characteristic of Chinese architecture. As senior curator Chen Shen explains, structures for the living are traditionally made of perishable materials – thatch, wood, ceramic tiles. By contrast, the Chinese have historically favoured permanent materials such as stone and hard-baked clay to house their dead. wood originals have perished.

The Tomb of General Zu Dashou (also known as the "Ming Tomb") is one of the earliest pieces in the Royal Ontario Museum’s collections. In 1921, Crofts shipped the tomb reliefs and statuary to the ROM, where they are displayed not as isolated artworks but as a reconstructed ensemble, inviting visitors to enter the burial compound as mourners once did.

Legendary in Chinese history, General Zu Dashou was celebrated for his defence of the Ming dynasty against the Manchu invasion. His story, however, is not without tragedy. In 1631, the general gave the enemy army one of his loyal sons as a hostage in hopes to speed up negotiations and relieve the people of Dalinghe of constant warfare. By the time the Ming dynasty fell in 1644, a number of the general’s sons had switched loyalties. In 1656, the exiled general died and construction on his tomb began. The scale of the tomb is an indication of respect and esteem General Zu held even amongst his enemies.

The tomb complex is full of imagery representing good fortune and immortality. As in many cultures across the world, Chinese burial imagery acts as a charm for those crossing to an after life and signals the passage to the sacred from the profane. The tomb also serves as a visual reminder to those left behind of the departed and of his good deeds. The relief panel shown above is on the archway leading to the actual burial mound. Symbols on the panel include:

· Deer –the symbol for longevity

· Monkeys near the bees nest – a pun for high rank.

· Qilin – mystical animals with antlers, said to appear with the imminent arrival or passing of a sage or illustrious ruler.

thank you soooo very much for this fabulous picture and explanations ! what a marvelous carved stone !
4 years ago.
Jonathan Cohen has replied to Nylonbleu
I love your enthusiasm ... it brings a smile to my face. I should keep it in mind the next time that I'm having a bad day!
4 years ago.
Nylonbleu has replied to Jonathan Cohen
You can, I'm a real art lover, and it is always a great joy for me to discover fabulous pieces from all over the world, be sure you made a person happy in posting you pictures !!!
4 years ago.