Daoist Manuscript A Highly Impressive Illuminated manuscript, Brilliant Watercolours and Gouache on Mulberry paper comprising 204 panels, laid onto heavier paper and bound concertina style, depicting an elaborate Daoist religious ceremony, including a procession of musicians, banner bearers, dignitaries, deities and mythical creatures, and Kaigen-kuyo or the ritual of the eye-opening ceremony, the Five Thunder Gods are invoked to dispel demons (the blue figures with flaming red hair), the twelve animals of the zodiac are present representing the blending of religious and secular Chinese beliefs, as well as drawing attention to the importance of the date of the ceremony (the second day of the second division of the second month of winter, in the eleventh year of the reign of Tongzhi, a ren shen year).

£25,000

Titled and dated on opening leaves, approximately 30metres (100ft) long, 27cm (10.5ins) high, blue calf covers, silk floral fitted case.

Account of a Daoist religious ceremony, Chongfu Altar, Shanxi Province, Northern China, 12 December 1872 but earlier.

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Titled and dated on opening leaves, approximately 30metres (100ft) long, 27cm (10.5ins) high, blue calf covers, silk floral fitted case.

Account of a Daoist religious ceremony, Chongfu Altar, Shanxi Province, Northern China, 12 December 1872 but earlier.

An astonishing illustrated manuscript account of a complex ceremony, the present work appears to be in tradition of the manuscript histories of the Yao people, and the blending of Buddhist, Daoist and traditional motifs appears to correspond with the history of the Yao and their migrations across Asia.

Whilst the British Library and other institutions in the West, hold collections of Yao manuscripts, we have been unable to locate any comparable document either in terms of length or density of illustration.

The date referred to in the title of the text is described as “very auspicious” and it is likely that this document was prepared before this date to serve as an instruction manual for the performing of rituals like the eye-opening ceremony and the exorcism of evil spirits.

For many centuries, the Yao have developed and tailored their unique religion, incorporating Han Chinese-influenced Daoism as well as pre-Daoist folk religion and animism. To the Yao people, Daoism is laced with magic, prophecy and the supernatural.

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