Archives for posts with tag: tanka

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAW50xD40xH140mm, Hong Kong

This figurine belonged to the Tanka tribe, a group who lived on junks by the bay and fish for a living.  In the Guangdong area, it said that their junks used to be tied together which stretches a mile long.  As time goes by, with development along the coastline, better living offer on land, most and almost all of the junks have disappeared.

This is an ancestor figurine of a middle ranking female, the crane symbolizes a departure from this world like the saints.

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figurine
W85xD70xH200mm, Hong Kong

This is an effigy of a elder female ancestor of the Tanka tribe.  These ancestor figurines were kept at the boats of the Tanka fisherman offering them safety at sea.

Click here to see our other junk boat gods.

junk boat god

junk boat godjunk boat god

W70xD50xH150mm, Macau

This dragon and tiger rider was an ancestral saint that was kept at the alter of the junk boat for keeping the fisherman’s journey safe.  The multiple faces offer a supernatural power for this ancestral saint which is an usual expression for these figurines.  Or would the fisherman had been to Bangkok on one of their fishing spree and got their inspiration from the famous Erawan Shrine?

Click here to see our other junk boat gods.

W100xD70xH180mm, Macau

The courageous looking figurine, riding on a tiger on the right and stepping on a dragon on the left is in fact an ancestral saint of the fisherman of Hong Kong.  For the Chinese both the dragon and tiger are creature of power, being able to control them would give extraordinary strength.  These ancestral saint are kept and worshiped on the junk boat by the Tanka tribe for keeping safe their journey at sea.

See our other junk boat gods; Tanka Wooden EffigyJunk Boat God (god?), Junk Boat God, Crane Riding Mother Saint

W40xD50xH130mm, Macau

This is an old figurine worshiped by the fisherman on the junk boats of Hong Kong, it is one of the ancestral saints – Crane Riding Mother Saint, a figurine representing the female ancestors.  It is believe that ancestors would protect the fisherman at sea.  In Taoism, the Taoist saints be believe to travel around by riding a crane.

See our other entry of the Junk Boat Gods;
Tanka Wooden Effigy, Junk Boat God (god?), Junk Boat God

W50xD40xH120mm, Macau

We have posted this form of wooden figurine (Junk Boat God, Junk Boat God, god?) twice already in the blog, but this time with a new understanding.  Last week I was at the Hong Kong Heritage Museum visiting the Picasso Exhibition (Masterpieces from Musée National Picasso, Paris), if you are visiting Hong Kong try to prebook a ticket to see, its well worth the trip.  Now I have got you all excited, well, the effigy has nothing to do with Picasso, I found similar  figurines in the local history section of the museum and here is the describsion;

“Wooden Effigies – People who lived on land worshipped wooden tablets with the names of their ancestors written on them.  Fishermen worshiped wooden effigies instead.  the appearances of the effigies vary according to the status and sex of the deceased.  The usual practice was for a family to hire a spirit medium to conduct a ceremony, and sculpt a wooden effigy of the deceased according to her instuction.  As time passed and fishing families became better educated, wooden effigies were replaced by wooden tablets.”

If this is correct, I wonder if the person this effigy is made for had an ambition to become a concert conductor.  The explanation from the museum is quite different from the one told me by the old Tanka gentlemen in the Tai O fishing village (see Junk Boat God, god?).  Would a Tanka person help me to clarify this?

DIA100xH60mm, Hong Kong

This is a compass used by Tanka clan, a clan who lived on junk boats along the coast of Southern China and worked as fisherman.  As it is a day to day object, their compass is more simple then the traditional geomancers’ compass.  The compass for the Chinese is not only for telling the direction but related to space (direction extending to the universe) and time (past and future) as a whole

The Chinese Compass Points

Chinese navigators reduced the compass they inherited from the geomancers to its simplest form, using only 24 points, or even reducing them to 12 or 8.  The dial itself is divided into segments of 15 degrees each, represented by 24 Chinese characters.  These are the compass points, which scholars say were the basis for calculations by diviners and geomancers in ancient times.  These compass points were stabilized in their present system by at least the early 8th century.  These characters used on the compass dial are not the characters commonly used in China to represent directions.  Their origin or etymology is, for the most part, lost in the mists of antiquity.  But scholars have traced many of them back to over 4000 years ago when they appeared on “oracle bones” used to look into the future.  12 of the characters ;  子 zi, 丑 chou,  寅 yin,  卯 mou, 辰 chen, 巳  si, 午 wu, 未 wei,  申 shen, 酉 you,  戌 xu, 亥 hai, have been traditionally grouped together and referred to as the 12 branches.  8 of these character 甲 jia, 乙 yi, 丙  bing, 丁 ding, 庚 geng,  辛 xin, 壬 ren,  癸 gui,  are part of the traditional grouping knon as the 10 stems.  The remaining 4 乾 qian, 坤  kun , 艮 gen,  巽 xun derive from one of the earliest Chinese works on divination, the I Ching.  In very ancient times, the 12 branches were applied to the months of the tropical year and the 10 stems were used to name the ten day week.  Diviners used the stem/ branch combinations of the day, month and year of birth as basis for their calculations and conclusions.  The 12 brances are also associated with the Chinese zodiac; the rat, ox, tiger, hares, dragon, serpent, horse, gost, monkey, cock, dog and bear.  Each of htese creatures is supposed to exercise an astrological influence over a particular 2 hour period of the day, and one year out of every 12.

子 zi – North, rat, 23:00-01:00
癸 gui – N15°E
丑 chou – N15°E , ox, 01:00-03:00
艮 gen – NE
寅 yin – N60°E, tiger, 03:00-05:00
甲 jia –  N75°E
卯 mou – East, hare, 05:00-07:00
乙 yi –  S75°E
辰 chen –  S60°E, dragon, 07:00-09:00
巽 xun – SE
巳  si – S30°E, snake, 09:00-11:00
丙  bing –   S15°E
午 wu – South, horse, 11:00-13:00
丁 ding – S15°W
未 wei – S30°W, sheep, 13:00-15:00
坤  kun – SW
申 shen – S60°W, monkey, 15:00-17:00
庚 geng – S75°W
酉 you – West, cock, 17:00-19:00
辛 xin – N75°W
戌 xu – N60°W, dog, 19:00-21:00
乾 qian – NW
亥 hai – N30°W, pig, 21:00-23:00

H170xW50xD70mm, Macau

I have been pondering about this figurine for a long time.  It is a Tanka god which would have been worshiped on the junk boat, keeping them safe on their fishing voyage.  But what kind of god would it be to be on a bicycle?!!  All my research led to dead ends.

A couple of days ago, I was in Tai O, an old fishing village in the remote part of Hong Kong.  I was attracted by the artworks surrounded a small convenience store, to my surprise they were created by the 84 years old owner, Mr. Lu, who was borned in Tai O of the Tanka clan.  He is like a walking history book and I took the opportunity to find out from him the nature of this figurine.  The figurine was indeed for worshiping, however it is not a proper god as such but someone in general who might harm you (giving you trouble, tummy ach, etc.)  So these people are made into figurines and offerings are made to them as if they are some kind of gods.  From the costume of the figurine, he is likely to be an official similar to today’s policeman.

Decoration outside Tokyo Store, Tai O.
They were created each year for the Chinese New Year with the corresponding animals from the zodiac signs, this was for the year of the rabbit.
If you are visiting Hong Kong, Tai O is a great place to go if the city and the malls becomes too overwhelming.

H150xW50xD70mm, Macau

Along the coasts and waterway of the southern China there is a tribe called the Tanka who reside on the junk boats.  Each family would have two small boats,one anchored for living and the other for fishing.  Wooden figurines of Gods and ancestors are made for worshiping and to offer blessing when they are out at sea.  With the decreasing number of fish and the better job opportunities on land, there are now only 1/5 of the Tanka still living at sea.