This is one of a set of paintings created for a consecration ritual performed by the Daoist Yao people of China, Vietnam and Thailand. The dramatic figure riding a dragon and holding bowl of purification water is Xiao Haifan. Believed to be an exorcist, he is one of the deities permitted to invoke ceremonies. His right foot is bare and his boot appears on the end of the dragon’s tail. According to tradition, Xiao Haifan lost his boot while crossing a body of water and the dragon recovered it.
Commissioning paintings such as this is thought to increase a person’s spiritual merit. Its inscription reads:
The disciple Pan Fade, along with his sons Pan Fayuan and Pan Fawang, wholeheartedly commissioned a painting of the four deities. May the whole household be propitious and prosperous. [Inscribed or painted by] Li Zongzhang of Changde county. A kaiguang ceremony was performed on the eleventh moon of the first year of [Emperor] Xianfeng (1851).
Hoi Fan Ton
Ceremonial painting - Xiao Haifan (The Sea Banner)
pigment on paper
124.5 x 51.0 cm
Gift of Dr John Yu and Dr George Soutter 2006