Taoist Shaman Rites Painting – Hoi Fan
A Taoist painting by the Red Yao of Northern Vietnam, representing ‘Hoi Fan of the Sovereign of the Seas’ from the Taoist pantheon. Dating approximately to the mid-19th century (1800s).
Diego M. Santos, “Possibly, 海幡帥 hai fan shuai ‘commander-in-chief of the Sea Banner’.”
Central to the Yao religion are these ceremonial paintings. These finely painted icons are regarded by the Yao quite literally as the abode of the gods. This particular example is exquisitely painted, probably by a Chinese master.
They are essential for presiding over rituals of purification and the righting of wrongs. During the time it takes to complete a set of these paintings, the artist must work in an atmosphere of religious devotion and ceremonial purity. When the work is finished, the painter himself ‘opens the eyes’ of each character according to the traditional custom for consecrating Taoist icons. Shamans then display the set of paintings in a certain order to play a part in ceremonies. They are not common at all. These paintings that have been preserved like this only become available when the family no longer practices the religion.