The Heavenly Court

Daoist Temple Painting in China, 1200-1400


One of the most magnificent and enduring themes in Chinese painting history can be found depicted in Daoist temples from the local village up to the very capital, viz., the paintings of the Heavenly Court (chaoyuan tu). Surprisingly, its images have remained largely unstudied in Western scholarship. Drawing on a comparative study of four complete sets of wall paintings dating back to the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries (the oldest examples), and their related images, painting criticism, stele inscriptions, and Daoist ritual manuals, the author offers the first comprehensive study of the historical development, iconography, ritual context, methods of mural design, and the personalisations made by patrons of the four Heavenly Court paintings.

Restricted Access


EUR €160.00USD $215.00

Biographical Note

Lennert Gesterkamp, Ph.D. (2008) in Chinese Art and Material Culture, Leiden University, completed a Postdoc (2010) at the Academia Sinica, Institute of History and Philogy, Taipei, and is currently a Postdoc at Zhejiang University, Hangzhou, doing research on Chinese landscape painting.

Review Quotes

'Gesterkamp’s dense and intensively researched book is a thoroughgoing study of paintings of the Heavenly Court
(chaoyuan tu) in thirteenth- and fourteenth-century China. (...)This book is a rich study of the complex relationship between image making and Daoist ritual.'
Kate A. Lingley, University of Hawai’i at Manoa, Religious Studies Review, 38,2


Highly recommended to anyone interested in Chinese art and religion.


Collection Information