Bronze coin-shaped charm
Qing dynasty, 19th century AD
The scene on this coin-shaped charm refers back to a legend of the Song dynasty in the twelfth century. The legend tells how the Emperor Huizong (reigned 1101-25) had a vision of the God of the North standing on the back of a snake and tortoise, holding a sword in his hand.
The God of the North was considered to be the master of evil spirits and therefore able to control them. Along with the symbols of the North, he was thought to be a particularly powerful force for exorcism. The tortoise is a symbol of longevity, strength and endurance. It is also known as the 'Black Warrior', presiding over the North and symbolizing winter. In Daoism the sword is a symbol of victory over evil.
Other symbols of the North often found with the snake, tortoise and sword are the Plough (the constellation) and clouds.
J. Cribb, 'Chinese coin-shaped charms', Europe and China: Information (March-April 1986)
K. Stevens, Chinese gods: the unseen world (London: Collins and Brown, 1997)
Weight: 58.040 g
Gift of H.B. Morse