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The Touching Female Servant Sculptures in the Jin Temple

At the foot of the xuanweng Mountain to the south west of Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, lies the famous Jin Temple with its great cypress tree dating from the Zhou Dynasty, the Never Old Spring that has run for thousands of years, the Goddess Hall built in the Northern Song Dynasty and the Xian Temple constructed in the Jin Dynasty. But it is the colored sculptures in the Goddess Temple that brought great fame to the Jin Temple.

There are now 43 colored sculptures in the Goddess Hall. Except the small ones on each side of the Goddess, which were added later, the sculptures were all created in the Song Dynasty The statue of the Goddess sits in the middle of the hall inside a canopy. Wearing a phoenix crown on her head, she sits cross-legged on a square wooden seat. One hand is held in front of her chest, the other one on her leg. Her fingers are hidden inside the sleeves of her long gown, which drape down to the seat. The expression on her face is quiet and kind, and the entire statue looks poised and dignified.

Other figures in the temple include four eunuchs and a few female servants in men's clothes. The rest are all women servants wearing clothes of the late Tang Dynasty and the following Five Dynasties; some are in long robes, some in short shirts and long skirts. Their hair is combed into coils of different shapes and colorful scarves cover their heads. Each of them holds tools or writing materials, and they are either dressing for their masters, serving their dinners, singing and dancing to amuse them or preparing their beds. Their expressions and gestures are natural and, peaceful.

The female servant sculptures in the Jin Temple represent women of different temperament and personality. Some are smiling and greeting each other, some are whispering with each other; all, however, have fine features and calm expressions. These sculptures were carved so vividly that one can almost feel their breath and their pulse and hear their whispered words. They reflect women's lives and feelings in the Song Dynasty. From them we see that Song Dynasty sculptors paid great attention to revealing the inner world of their figures.

The Superb skills of Song Dynasty sculptors can also be seen in the sculptures' drapery The Goddess' robe appears to have a soft and delicatequality and it falls in harmony with her body structure. The designs on the servants' skirts are beautifully patterned; and jade pendants attached to some of the scarves and belts symbolize the wearers' different status and to make the figures appear more diversified. The colored sculpture group in the Jin Temple reveals a harmonious relationship between masters and servants. The Goddess must be a very kind and lovely lady and all her clever and virtuous servants were loyal to her; together they present a very touching scene.(Fig.3-18)(Fig.3-19)

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