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THE TAOIST CHURCH

The Taoist Pantheon



  Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure (Detail)
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Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure (detail)
Early Qing dynasty, 17th/18th century
Hanging scroll; ink and colors on silk
160 x 80 cm
White Cloud Monastery (Baiyun Guan), Beijing
cat. no. 66

    

Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure

This and the following painting, the Celestial Worthy of the Way and Its Power, were originally part of a triptych depicting the Three Purities, the highest gods of Taoism. Such a triptych would have been made to serve as the central object of worship in the most revered place in a Taoist temple.

This painting shows the second of the Three Purities, the Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure. His name comes from the scriptures written in response to the growing influence of Buddhism in the early fifth century. These writings eventually formed the basis for the second section of the Taoist Canon, which is dedicated to the Celestial Worthy of Numinous Treasure. Like the Celestial Worthy of Primordial Beginning, he is considered a source of Taoist knowledge and scripture. He is often described as the attendant of the Celestial Worthy of Primordial Beginning, who gives him the task of revealing the scriptures to lesser gods and humans. As such, he is the principal disseminator of Taoist teachings. He is depicted here sitting on a throne in his celestial realm and holding his identifying attribute, a scepter in the shape of a mushroomócalled a ruyi. The hierarchic scale of his two attendants emphasizes the superiority of this lofty god.


  


    




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