A Superb Paiwan Mortar Formosa Island Tawian
|Size||Height 18cm x Diameter 18cm|
This superbly carved Paiwan Mortar was used for making botanical medicines in a chief’s household. Dating from the late 19th to very early 20thy Century.
Carved from a single piece of hardwood in high relief with the main iconography being a powerful figure of a chief or deified ancestor holding two Hundred-Pacer Snakes. There is another set of three human figures holding hands as when dancing in traditional ceremonies.
The carving is very deep giving it a real three-dimensional look more like an ancestor figure than an object in the round. There are traces of ochre and an encrusted patina from whatever was being crushed along the rim & inside of the mortar.
The Hundred-Pacer Snakes (Agkistrodon acutus) which is one of the most important characters in Paiwan mythology, and it is generally considered to be the pro-creator of the Chief’s and nobles.
The Paiwan is one of most well-known of the several indigenous peoples living the mountainous interior of Taiwan. Paiwan society is hierarchical, divided into high nobles, minor nobility, and commoners. In former times, only the high nobility was entitled to create or commission certain forms of human images, which portrayed important ancestors (tsmas). The ancestors, whose supernatural influence was controlled by the nobility, had the power to either help or harm the community, depending on whether their spirits received proper respect through ritual observances and offerings. The houses of Paiwan nobles were both the physical and artistic centres of ancestral power and imagery. The remains of noble ancestors were buried within the houses of their descendants, and their images adorned the doorways, house posts, and other architectural elements and ritual objects like this mortar.
I have been collecting Oceanic Art for 40 years and have always been fascinated with Paiwan & other Taiwan Indigenous tribes art as they are the known ancestors of the ancient Polynesians. The Taiwan Indigenous tribe’s art styles have connections & influences on not only Polynesian Art but all throughout Southeast Asia and Indonesia into the island of New Guinea.
Provenance: Collected in the 1930’s by Lin Tien Wang
The Todd Barlin Collection of Oceanic and Asian Art
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