17th Century; Northern Elm and miscellaneous secondary wood; Shanxi
This shrine is red-lacquered, gilded, and decorated with paintings and magnificent carvings. It has a pagoda roof with gilded ornaments across the top. Two side walls of the shrine is composed of poles with spear heads at the top, with spear-headed poles in front too but open in the middle for entrance. The back has a panel painted with a lively dragon. Above the entrance and beneath the roof in front is a column of four protruding finely carved gilded dragon heads. Below this is an apron on which is an openwork carving of a phoenix, with four gilded dragon heads on the sides sticking out from four round posts, guarding the entrance to the shrine. Each corner of the shrine in front is supported by a sturdy post which tenons through a deck on which the shrine sits. The deck has a narrow walkway with balustrades on four sides, with an opening in the middle of the front one to access the entrance.
The deck on which the shrine sits becomes the top of a four-sided table with a waist from which painted aprons arch out and naturally curved into cabriole legs gracefully tapered into scrolled feet. This table is suspended on another structure with straight legs which are the continuation of the corner posts of the shrine above, tenoned through the deck to become legs supporting the table with cabriole legs. Each cabriole leg suspends itself a little way above the straight leg. The inside legs support a walled shelf situated a few inches off the ground. This magnificently designed shrine is a rare Ming Dynasty relic which managed to pass down the centuries in excellent condition.