Antique Asian Works of Art from Ancient East
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Carved Chinese Wooden Muyu, 18th C. Qing

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Carved Chinese Wooden Muyu, 18th C. Qing
DESCRIPTION: A very old Chinese wooden muyu, or “wooden fish” drum. A muyu is a rounded, hollow woodblock percussion instrument with a large slit, carved in the shape of a mythical fish (or with fish-type scales) and struck with a wooden stick. It was made in various sizes and was often used by priests to beat a rhythm when chanting scriptures in the temple. In some Zen/Ch'an Buddhist traditions, the wooden fish serves as a signal to start and end a meditation session. This muyu is quite old, dating from the 1700’s, and is well carved with two opposing dragon fish, their heads forming the handle which is held while the muyu is struck with the knobbed stick.

In Buddhism, the fish, which never sleeps, symbolizes wakefulness. Therefore, it is to remind the chanting monks to concentrate on their sutra. The round, bulbous wooden fish was used by Buddhist in China as well as in other Asian nations including Japan (where it is called a mokugyo), Korea (moktak), and Vietnam. The instrument, also referred to as a temple block, is hollowed out through a ventral and struck with a heavy stick. CONDITION: Obvious wear from use gives a deep, aged patina; the muyu is quite solid however. DIMENSIONS: 5 ¼” high (13.4 cm) x 4 ½” wide (11.5 cm) x 3” deep (7.6 cm).



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