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W360xD190XH360mm, China

This fine lacquered cabinet was a household shrine for worshiping the ancestors in the Chaozhou area.  Ancestral tablets would be kept inside of the cabinets, with the higher ranking ancestor on the upper stage and the others on the lower level.  The decoration of the exterior of the doors are blessing figures of warriors and top scholars (zhuang yuan) while in the interior are scholarly plants, all a blessing for the descendants of the family.

The ancestral tablets are made of word with the name of the ancestor.  The legend goes like this; a long time ago there lived a poor widow and her son.  The son was a brute, abusive to the mother verbally and sometimes even physically, but the mother took care of him all the same.  One day, while the son was collecting logs in the mountain he saw a mother bird busy looking for food to feed her young, so tired is the bird that she collapsed in the nest after feeding the nestling.  Seeing this the young man realized he had been wrong of how he had treated his mother and felt terrible.  Right about the same time, his mother arrived with his lunch, the young man hurried to greet his mother.  Not knowing his intention, the mother told she would get another beating, she put down the food and started to run down the hill.  The son yelled behind her and the mother hurried, tripped, hit a tree and died.  Unable to tell his mother how sorry he had been, he took a piece of the tree, wrote on it his mother’s name and worship it on her birthday.  The character of the son changed and became a very successful man and the idea of ancestral tablets were adopted by others.

worship cabinet

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