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Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra

Across the Universe – A Bridge to the Other World

Each of us has wondered at some time or another about what happens when we die.

Too many questions that have no answers.

And then along come the religious bosses – part of some organisation – who have us believe that THEY know the answer. An answer that is not to be questioned further or tested by logic. If they all had the same answer it might be that somehow their affiliation to an organisation confers upon them some insight privy only to some secret society – and it might have ben easy to believe the answers they offer.

BUT the fact is that each organisation comes up with a different answer. And since none of them is more convincing than the other – this question remains open in my mind.

And I remain a curious questioner rather than a believer – since nothing seems to offer a ‘total’ explanation / solution for all aspects of life.

But in the meanwhile it is interesting to read about the next theory and the next answer proposed by groups that I am only now encountering.

For, in the field of knowledge the truth is not decided by the  ‘number of votes’ – the ayes and nays that it can garner. The size of the flock of ‘believers’ is irrelevant in concluding whether the conjecture holds up to logic & reality and proves it to be a fact.

But the politics of religions is a digression.

Coming back to the theories and the diversity of these theories, I came across the Yao religion which is an offshoot of the Taoist philosophy practiced by the Mien or Yao people an ethnic minority in China that also spread out to Laos, Thailand and Vietnam.

RARE YAO CEREMONIAL PAINTING

Mien or Yao Taoist paintings are religious, not decorative. Each has a ritual function and is considered the abode of the gods. During the one to two months it takes to complete a set of paintings, the artist works in an atmosphere of religious devotion and ceremonial purity. When the work is finished, the painter himself ‘opens the eyes’ of each character according to the Chinese custom for consecrating Taoist icons. The Mien Taoist tradition goes further and also requires a priest to perform a ceremony that introduces the gods to the paintings. Priests then display the set of paintings in a certain order to play a part in ceremonies. At other times, they are rolled and stored up in a box hanging near the domestic altar.

One such work of art is the Dragon Bridge:

 

The Dragon Bridge of the Great Tao –  Tom To Luang Tsiou,

The processionals scroll painting serves as a bridge that connects this world with the supernatural worlds. The dragon bridge, a long paper scroll, is used in ceremonies and serves as a bridge that connects this world with the supernatural worlds and symbolises a communication line to the other world.

Featured in such Dragon Bridge paintings are

– The God of the Soil and his assistant stand under a shrine at the far left.
– Standing to the right of the shrine are priests welcoming the gods.
– The sacrificial table separates the living from the deities illustrated in the other paintings.

– Orderlies

– the Twelve Immortal Maidens

– the Seven Stars stand in front of the sedan chair carrying the deceased’s soul

–  An orchestra

– Tai Wai on his white horse leading the major gods

– The Celestial Worthies or Pure Ones sitting in oxcarts at the end of the scroll.

Some day I hope to spend more time to understand the Yao philosophy that has survived several centuries (13th century? if my understanding is correct) but today  is practiced by a very small group!

Dragon Bridge - Full

More images of this amazing work of art may be viewed here on wovensouls,com

 

REFERENCE: “Yao Ceremonial Paintings” by Jacques Lemoine

MUSEUM PRESENCE:
1. Haffenreffer Museum of Art, Brown University
2. The Metropolitan Museum of Art

 

jm

May 2, 2015

 

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