Figure of Tanzi

Historical period(s)
Ming dynasty, 14th-17th centuries
H x W x D: 10.1 x 4.8 x 2.5 cm (4 x 1 7/8 x 1 in)
Credit Line
Gift of Arthur M. Sackler
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery
Accession Number
On View Location
Currently not on view
Jade, Sculpture


China, Ming dynasty (1368 - 1644), Tanzi

From at least 1957 to 1968
Desmond Gure (1905-1970), London, from at least August 1954 [1]

From 1968 to 1987
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler (1913-1987), New York, purchased from Desmond Gure on January 10, 1968 [2]

From 1987
Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC, gift of Arthur M. Sackler on September 11, 1987 [3]


[1] Gure lent the object to the exhibition The Art of the Ming Dynasty, organized by Oriental Ceramic Society in London in 1957, see S. Howard Hansford, “The Arts of the Ming Dynasty: Carvings in Jade, Ivory, Rhinoceros Horn and Bamboo,” Transactions of the Oriental Ceramic Society 1955-56 1956-57 (London, 1958), p. 55, no. 356, pl. 95. See also an undated typed inventory of Desmond Gure’s collection, “List 1 – Objects Not Exhibited at Stockholm 1963,” no. 32: “A pale green jade figure of Yen T’zu with russet markings, one of the examples of filial piety, holding a milk bucket and clothed in the deerskin which he wore in order to mingle with the herd and obtain goats-milk as a cure for his parents’ eye disease – 4 in. high – Ming Dynasty – Fitted Box,” copy in object file.

[2] According to information provided by Arthur M. Sackler Foundation in October 2009, Arthur M. Sackler purchased the jade as part of Desmond Gure’s jade collection on January 10, 1968. See “Arthur M. Sackler Gift: Chinese Jades: Summary,” where the object is listed under Sackler Collection no. J-1375 and identified as S1987.759.

[3] Pursuant to the agreement between Arthur M. Sackler and the Smithsonian Institution, dated July 28, 1982, legal title of the donated objects was transferred to the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery on September 11, 1987.

Previous Owner(s) and Custodian(s)

Desmond Gure 1905-1970
Dr. Arthur M. Sackler 1913-1987


The boy Tanzi is wearing a deerskin disguise to approach a doe for milk with which to cure his blind parents. Tanzi became one of the twenty-four examples of Confucian filial piety for undertaking this difficult mission for his parents. The reverse of the jade pebble is carved with the deer's antlers.

Published References
  • The Arts of the Ming Dynasty. no. 30 London. cat. 356.
Collection Area(s)
Chinese Art
Web Resources
Google Cultural Institute
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