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Money Tree: Gallery Label - Current


Minneapolis Institute of Arts



Institution Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Among the most intriguing objects recently discovered in the Eastern Han (25-220) tombs of Szechuan province are so-called "money trees." Typically made of a bronze trunk and branches set into a ceramic base, they are called "money trees" because the lower part of the lattice-like branches are decorated with coin-shaped designs that imitate actual coins of the Han period. The coinage represents the wealth and abundance necessary to nourish the spirit in the afterlife, and the tree symbolized renewable, on-going monetary sustenance and unending prosperity.

The top of the tree is surmounted by an elegant phoenix (feng huang) or bird of good omen, but perhaps the most interesting aspects are the tops of the branches, which are cast with lively scenes of ancient ritual. In the top center of the branches is Hsi Wang-mu, Queen Mother of the West, seated in a sort of canopied shrine and being entertained by various performers, flying horses, and other mythological animals. Hsi Wang-mu emerged during Han (206 b.c.- a.d 220) as an important deity of rulership and self-cultivation. She was eventually incorporated into the Taoist pantheon and became a popular subject for sculpture, mirrors, and decorated textiles.

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Type: Commentary, Gallery Label - Current
Source: Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Rights: Copyright Minneapolis Institute of Arts
Added to Site: November 21, 2009