Taoist Gods from China:  Ceremonial Paintings of the Mien

Open January 20, 2012

The Mien, one of the many hill-tribes who inhabit South China, North Vietnam, Laos and Northern Thailand, have adhered for centuries to an early southern school of Chinese Taoism.  This ancient Taoist tradition, differs significantly from the Taoist practice found in most parts of China, although it still exists in some parts of Taiwan and among a few Chinese communities in Southern China.  In this early Taoist tradition, paintings play a central role in religious practices and serve as the abode of the gods.  This exhibition will include paintings from the Museum's collection dating to the 17th century depicting the major gods of the Taoist religion.  It will also explore the symbols and religious concepts depicted in these paintings.

This exhibition coincides with the Year of China initiative at Brown and is accompanied by an exhibition at the Rhode Island School of Design Museum of Art entitled "From the Land of the Immortals:  Chinese Taoist Robes and Textiles" which opens Friday, January 13 and will be on display through Sunday, April 22, 2012.

Also, on view at the Roberts' Campus Center during the month of April, 2012 are two Taoist robes.  Please see the Center's website for hours. 

Taoist priests of the Mien or Yao people of Southeast Asia wear elaborately decorated robes like these. The robes are decorated with designs symbolic of the Taoist world and depictions of the Taoist heaven. By wearing such robes, the priest becomes the bridge that connects this world with the heavens. Also essential for making this connection are paintings depicting the Taoist pantheon.


Taoist priest’s robe, Mien people, Thailand, 20th Century, Cotton with silk floss and gold thread embroidery, Purchased with funds provided by the Haffenreffer Family Fund



Taoist priest’s robe, Mien or Mun Yao people, Vietnam, 20th Century, Cotton with silk floss embroidery, Gift of Dr. Mark Rapoport