Painting on silk of an offering scene to the Horse Spirit or King of horses 'Ma Shen'.
The veneration of the Horse Spirit was limited to the northern part of China were most horses were bred and most popular in the Ming period.
The military importance of horses for controlling the borders is stressed here by the presence of two deified generals.
Further there's Shou lao on the left and a Daoist deity on the right, possibly the Jade Emperor, who according to the myth, played a role in the creation of the Horse Spirit.
At the lower end two young horses are carried on plates to the altar to be offered. The presence of the wolf and tiger at both ends of the altar is not clear. Are they perhaps the representatives of Ma Shen standing ready to devour the foals on the plates?
At the lower left there are two buffalos with a young unidentified spirit. The lower end with the livestock and the human figures represents the earthly world.
Beside the military importance of horses as stressed by the presence of the two generals they were also of great value in daily life, as were the buffalos standing next to the two horses in front of what appear to be large throughs.
This daily life section gives us a view on an agricultural community.
The actual offering would take place on the 22nd day of the 2nd lunar month.
Note that the horses are adorned with a pompon for this special occasion.
101.5 by 149 cm. (excluding rim)
Private collection, The Netherlands
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