Advanced Search

K-12 Educator
K-12 Student
Museum Visitor
UMMA Docent
UMMA Staff
University Faculty
University Student
Between and Mortarboard


UMMA Object Specific Fields






Query builder

Journey of the Soul to the Paradise of the Queen Mother of the West

Accession Number
2000/2.1

Title
Journey of the Soul to the Paradise of the Queen Mother of the West

Artist(s)
Chinese

Artist Nationality
Chinese (culture or style)

Object Creation Date
2nd century

Medium & Support
carved limestone slab

Dimensions
33 in x 34 in x 7 1/2 in (83.82 cm x 86.36 cm x 19.05 cm);33 in x 34 in x 7 1/2 in (83.8 cm x 86.3 cm x 19 cm)

Credit Line
Museum purchase made possible by the Friends of the Museum of Art and the Margaret Watson Parker Art Collection Fund, in honor of Senior Curator Marshall Wu on his retirement

Label copy
This magnificent carved limestone slab was originally part of a memorial hall or tomb. It portrays the vertical ascent of the soul of the deceased from earth toward the “Happy Homeland” or heavenly abode of the Queen Mother of the West.
On the lower register of the carving, the soul of the tomb occupant rides in a chariot procession. The fish-inhabited waters indicate his earthly surroundings. In the central three registers the family and friends of the deceased are shown carrying out the proper funerary rites that will insure the success of his journey. The Queen Mother herself, shown as a winged creature with a human face, dominates the top row. She is flanked by two writhing dragons and other heavenly immortals, including two rabbits, who reside on the moon and are shown pounding rice cakes, and an auspicious nine-tailed fox, associated with the sun.
The Queen Mother of the West was the subject of a very popular cult during the Eastern Han Dynasty, when concerns about immortality reached a new and feverish pitch.
Maribeth Graybill, Senior Curator of Asian Art
Exhibited in "Flora and Fauna in Chinese Art," April 6, 2002 - December 1, 2002.
The Han imagination was simultaneously down-to-earth and preoccupied with immortality and other- worldly spirits. While the inexpensive mortuary pottery in the large wall case testifies to Han practicality, this carved limestone slab illustrates Han flights of fancy.
This magnificent square-shaped frieze was originally part of a memorial hall or tomb. Its seven horizontal registers portray the vertical ascent of the soul from the watery netherworld on the lowest register to the “Happy Homeland” or heavenly abode of the Queen Mother of the West at the top. In the widest register, above the watery netherworld of six swimming fish, is a burial procession lead by an ox cart—an accurate depiction of Han dynasty burial practice for the elite. The central three registers portray groups of mourners, performing rituals to send the deceased properly into the afterlife. The Queen Mother herself, shown as a winged creature with a human face, dominates the top register. She is flanked by two writhing dragons and other heavenly immortals, including a pair of rabbits who reside on the moon pounding rice cakes of immortality, and an auspicious nine-tailed fox, associated with the sun and magic.
The Queen Mother of the West appears in Chinese texts as early as the tenth century BCE of the Zhou dynasty (1027-256 BCE), but her cult became popular during the Eastern Han dynasty, when the desire for immortality reached a feverish pitch.
(Label for UMMA Chinese Gallery Opening Rotation, March 2009)

Subject matter
This magnificent carved limestone slab was originally part of a memorial hall or tomb. It portrays the vertical ascent of the soul of the deceased from earth toward the “Happy Homeland” or heavenly abode of the Queen Mother of the West.
On the lower register of the carving, the soul of the tomb occupant rides in a chariot procession. The fish-inhabited waters indicate his earthly surroundings. In the central three registers the family and friends of the deceased are shown carrying out the proper funerary rites that will insure the success of his journey. The Queen Mother herself, shown as a winged creature with a human face, dominates the top row. She is flanked by two writhing dragons and other heavenly immortals, including two rabbits, who reside on the moon and are shown pounding rice cakes, and an auspicious nine-tailed fox, associated with the sun.
The Queen Mother of the West was the subject of a very popular cult during the Eastern Han Dynasty, when concerns about immortality reached a new and feverish pitch.

Physical Description
Limestone slab carved bas-relief with six registers. The lower register depicts a chariot procession above fish-inhabited waters. The central three registers depict figures carrying out funerary rites. The top register shows a winged creature with a human face flanked by two writhing dragons and other animals, including two rabbits and a nine-tailed fox.

Primary Object Classification
Sculpture

Primary Object Type
narrative relief

Collection Area
Asian

Rights
If you are interested in using an image for a publication, please visit http://umma.umich.edu/request-image for more information and to fill out the online Image Rights and Reproductions Request Form.

Keywords
Fox (style)
chariots (ancient vehicles)
dragons
fish (animals)
funerary objects
moons
rabbits
relief (sculpture techniques)
ricing sticks
sculpture (visual works)
shrines (structures)
stone
tomb
tombs
water (inorganic material)

15 Related Resources

Death and Dying
(Part of 8 Learning Collections)
Grief and Mourning Rituals
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Transportation
(Part of 5 Learning Collections)
Heavens, Hells, and Afterlives
(Part of 3 Learning Collections)
Daoism / Taoism
(Part of: Religion and Spirituality)
Second Grade Tour: Art Rocks
(Part of: Visit UMMA: Curricular Tour Descriptions for Teachers)
Taoism
(Part of: World Religions)
Chinese Gallery
(Part of: Spring 2019 Tours)

& Author Notes

Web Use Permitted