Lao Jun

Tang Dynasty
Shanghai Museum

Lao Jun is the celestial form of Lao Zi (older spelling Lao Tzu), a sage and contemporary of Confucius1 who is said to have founded Daoism and to have written the Dao De Jing. In religious Daoism, Lao Jun has been "promoted" to the highest position in heaven as senior member of the Daoist trinity. The formidable but imaginary portrait, seen here, presents him as a stern and bearded immortal who seems to be above all human concerns: "Heaven and Earth are not humane; they treat all creatures as straw dogs."2

1According to Sima Qian, the Han-dynasty historian.
2Dao De Jing, verse V. The straw dog was an effigy discarded and burned after use.