White Old Man

  • Цагаан өвгөн / Cagaan öwgön
  • Čaγan ebügen
  • rGan po dkar po/ lHa chen tshe ring
  • 19th century
  • Wood
  • Height: not filled / Width: not filled / Depth: not filled
  • Collection: Hans Leder, Inv. Nr.: 75221
  • Weltmuseum Wien
  • © KHM mit MVK und ÖTM
Wood carving scene 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. The White Old Man as a figure or part of a scene carved in wood is popular among the Mongols. Here the White Old Man appears in a whole scene surrounded with a number of symbols of longevity. The central figure sits under the branches of fruit-laden (?) trees. But the symbolic fauna of longevity is different from the usual representations. On the right side of the White Old Man a crow (Mong. keriye, Khal. xerē), the popular bird in shamanic texts, is depicted. In front of the White Old Man there are a pair tigers and a rat (nakula?). The longevity fauna is represented with an only crane in the composition. The White Old Man appears according to the widespread iconography with a baldy head, long forehead and long white beard, moustache and eyebrows. The figure wears a typical Mongolian gown (Mong. degel, Khal. dēl) and Mongolian boots. In his right hand he holds the praying beads (Mong. erike, Khal. erx), in his left he carries the dragon-headed hermit staff furnished with a drinking gourd. A vessel (Skr. kalaśa, Mong. bumba, Khal. bumb) probably full of longevity drink and a pair of cymbals are on his right side. Other wood carving representations: Budapest 55903, Budapest 59759, Wien 075220. (Birtalan Ágnes)
© Ágnes Birtalan
White Old Man
/ Mongolia / 19th century / Weltmuseum Wien / © KHM mit MVK und ÖTM