White Old Man

  • Цагаан өвгөн / Cagaan öwgön
  • Čaγan ebügen
  • rGan po dkar po/ lHa chen tshe ring
  • 19th century
  • Wood
  • Height: 11 cm / Width: 13 cm / Depth: not filled
  • Collection: Hans Leder, Inv. Nr.: 75220
  • Weltmuseum Wien
  • © KHM mit MVK und ÖTM
Wood carving figure of the White Old Man (Mong. Čaγaγan/Čaγan Ebügen, Khalkha Cagān Öwgön, also Khal. Cerendüg from Tib. Tshe ring drug), the originally pre-Buddhist deity of nature and fertility – surrounded with a typical scene furnished with numerous symbols and attributes of longevity; it is widespread among the Mongols and known among the Tibetans as well. Before being canonised into the Buddhist pantheon he was the master spirit of nature. This type of scene, however, has its preliminaries in the Chinese depiction of the Shouxin/Shou-Lao, the Daoist god of longevity. Portraying the White Old Man as a wooden statuette is popular among the Mongols. He appears according to the canonical iconography of tsaklis and thangkas with a baldy tall forehead and white long beard, moustache, eyebrows. The figure wears a typical Mongolian or rather Buriad gown (Mong. degel, Khal. dēl, Bur. degel) with a wide edge (Mong. emǰiyer, Khal. emǰēr, Bur. emžēr) made of checked material decorated also with flower ornaments (Mong. čečeg-ün kege, Khal. cecgīn xē). The gown is bound with a belt in the Mongolian way and differently from the way hermits’ robes are fastened. His footwear cannot be identified (but he probably wears Mongolian or Buriad boots). Similar representations are furnished with a rosary in his right and the dragon-headed pilgrim staff in his left hand, but these details are missing from the present statuette. The figure is surrounded with the trees from among the set of longevity symbols. This type of depiction is more “Mongolian” than the thangka or tsakli representations and was probably kept on the house altars (in the yurts). Similar representations: Budapest 55903 and Budapest 59759. (Birtalan Ágnes)
© Ágnes Birtalan
White Old Man
/ Mongolia / 19th century / Weltmuseum Wien / © KHM mit MVK und ÖTM