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Antique Chinese Rosewood Carving
Cowherd On Ox
Attaining Enlightenment

Origin: Chinese, Circa: late 19th Century
H 3 in.(7.5cm), W 4.5 in.(12cm), D 3 in.(7.5cm)
Tail restoration, o.a very good condition.

Sold To Private Collection



A cowherd riding an ox is a celebrated motif seen in centuries of Chinese paintings and sculptures, although what is not commonly comprehended is the spiritual message in the symbolism. Equally so is this exceedingly well-carved little sculpture, as it is far subtler than at first it appears: here a joyous cowherd climbing on top of an ox, modeled in affable planes of rounded edges, high hand polished to an unctuous mirror surface, which is in direct contrast to the ultra delicate concentric hairworks swirling around the robust creature with head turned to lick the rear hoof, culminating in an accurately observed natural and enlivened juxtaposition, and enveloped in understated minute details that are extended into the underside. The ox is inlaid with glass eyes and a section of its tail was professionally restored. There is no other defect and is in very good condition.

Hence this admirable little gem is depicting a scene in the Zen parable of spiritual evolution, as outlined in Mahayana Sutra and Avatamsake Sutra, and told by the twelfth century Sung Dynasty Buddhist master Kuoan Shihyuan (or Kakuan Shien), who illustrated a series of ten ox-herding pictures, and wrote the accompanying verses to depict the stages of practice leading to the enlightenment at which Buddhism aims. This extraordinary carving depicting the sixth scene in the series: Riding on the ox (Attaining enlightenment). Thus transcending the opposite, and coming to realize the fundamental unity with the ultimate reality that encompasses all phenomena, polarity, and distinctions.

Cowherd on Ox
Cowherd Wood Carving
Zen Cowherd Ox
Cowherd on Ox Wood Carving
1. In search of the ox.
The wandering mind.
2. Discovering Footprints.
Traces mental impressions.
3. Catching the ox.
Initial self-awareness.
4. Turning the ox.
Turning focus inward.
5. Taming the ox.
Disciplining mind and senses.
6. Riding on the ox.
Attaining enlightenment.
7. Non-being.
Transcendental living.
8. Ox and cowherd forgotten.
Mind, self are transcended.
9. Returning to the source.
Attaining self illumination.
10. Non-duality.
Transcendance in worldly life.
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Estimated value: $800

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