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Pillow with Confucian Scholar, Buddhist Monk, and Daoist Priest

Artist/maker unknown, Chinese

Made in Xiawu, Henan Province, China, Asia

Dading Period (1161-89)


Stoneware with underglaze slip decoration (Cizhou ware)

3 7/8 × 10 15/16 × 7 11/16 inches (9.8 × 27.8 × 19.5 cm)

Curatorial Department:
East Asian Art

* Gallery 223, Asian Art, second floor

Accession Number:

Credit Line:
Gift of Mrs. Carroll S. Tyson, 1957

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This remarkable design is unique among known examples of Cizhou pillows. Even before the tenth century, the great belief systems of Chinese civilization, Confusianism, Buddhism, and Daoism— represented here by these figures playing Chinese chess—were viewed as mutually complementary and inextricably linked to the same goal. The so-called Three Teachings was a popular theme in tenth- to thirteenth-century paintings.

Additional information:
  • PublicationPhiladelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections

    This type of pottery, called Cizhou ware after the place in China where it was made, was a popular type of ceramic made in large quantities. However, the remarkable scene painted on this pillow--the three great philosophies of Chinese civilization as represented by a Confucian scholar, a Buddhist monk, and a Taoist priest seated at a chessboard--is unique among known pillows; this is also one of the few ceramic works of the period that bears a precise date, in this case one that corresponds to 1178. The freely brushed figures are enclosed in a thick brown outline that follows the crescent shape of the pillow, which would have been placed with the deceased in the tomb. Felice Fischer, from Philadelphia Museum of Art: Handbook of the Collections (1995), p. 28.

* Works in the collection are moved off view for many different reasons. Although gallery locations on the website are updated regularly, there is no guarantee that this object will be on display on the day of your visit.

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