October Auction Preview: The Keith Stevens Collection of Chinese Gods and Goddesses


We can confirm that the third day of our October Three Day Sale of Fine Art, Antiques and Oriental Porcelain will include The Keith Stevens Collection of Chinese Gods and Goddesses. 

The collection will be sold on Thursday the 6th of October and will include approximately 1000 deities, amounting to approximately 250 lots of mainly carved wood and brightly painted and gilded Gods and Goddesses from China. 

The late Keith Stevens Collection of Chinese Gods and Goddesses will be offered alongside his important extensive library, a small collection of jades, Chinese paintings and other ephemera on October 6, the third day of the saleroom’s three-day series of Autumn auctions on October 4-6. Ironically, October 6 would have been Mr Stevens’ 90th birthday.

The collection was previously housed in the family home, known to Chinese visitors as the ‘Cave of the Thousand Buddhas’. It comprises door gods, hungry ghosts, the heavenly dog who eats the moon, the wealth god who rides a tiger, the 1,000-armed sex-change goddess, and gods of creation, prehistory, Taoism, Confucianism, Buddhism, fate, destiny, health, medicine, matrimony, childbirth, wealth, and business.

Here are just a few examples from the collection which will be for sale in October:

S616 72

A Chinese carved polychrome and giltwood standing figure of an angel, his hands joined in prayer, 10.5ins (26.8cm) high (late 19th Century) 

Estimate £200-300 

S616 1

A Chinese carved and lacquered giltwood figure of a Mandarin seated in a horse-shoe shaped chair with tiger rug below, wearing Mandarin robes with a rank badge depicting a Kingfisher and flanked by two attendants, on shaped base, 12.75ins (32cm) high (Qing Dynasty - second half of 19th Century - minor damage to attendants)

Note : Purchased in Taipei in 1998. An unidentified ancestral image but a typical Hokkien Clan Temple or Household altar ancestral figure, believed by the Antique Dealer to be that of Lin Zexu

Estimate £3000-5000

S616 4

A large Chinese carved and painted giltwood standing figure of Marshall Kang Yuanshuai, with red bearded face holding a weapon in his right hand, on red and black plinth base, 26.5ins (67.8cm) high
Note : Purchased in London in 1992. Chaozhou School, Guangdong Province

Estimate £500-700

S616 6

A large Chinese carved and painted giltwood seated figure of a bearded deity on a rocky base, his robe decorated with tri-grams and mirrored Ying & Yang tablet, 27.5ins (69.8cm) high, complete with three removable objects 

Estimate £800-1200 

S616 13

A Chinese carved, painted and lacquered giltwood seated figure of Zao Jun, the Kitchen God, his right hand raised wielding a spiked club, 20.125ins (51cm) high
Note : See Keith Stevens "Chinese Gods: The Unseen World of Spirits and Demons", page 175 

Estimate £400-600

S616 22


A Chinese carved polychrome seated figure of Fu Zhu Gong - A bearded demon king, with right arm raised and holding a sword, a finger of his left hand raised, with jewelled inlay to robes and two small attendants below his feet, on rocky base, 16.5ins (42cm) high (early 20th Century)
Note : Purchased in Taipei in 1984. Fu Zhu Gong, the Lord Ritual Master. See Keith Stevens "Chinese Gods: The Unseen World of Spirits and Demons", page 75

Estimate £400-600

S616 51

Four Chinese carved polychrome and giltwood seated figures of Guandi, one holding a dragon and pearl, one a sword, one playing a lute and one holding a palanquin, each on stepped wooden bases, three 14.25ins (36cm) high and one and 19.25ins (48.6cm) high (late 19th Century - some rubbing) 

Estimate £2000-3000

S616 56

A pair of Chinese carved polychrome and giltwood standing figures, each of a lady carrying a child, on shaped bases, each 8ins (20.3cm) high (late 19th Century - some flaking to paint on face of one)

Estimate £300-400

S616 238

A Chinese carved polychrome seated figure of Yi Shoupeng - An Ancestral Portrait wearing peaked hat, 11.5ins (29.4cm) high
Note : Purchased in Hong Kong in 1978. According to Keith Stevens' notes originally with consecration slip dated 1776. The consecration made by a Daoist priest Yi Zengbing for his grandfather, Yi Shoupeng

Estimate £200-300

Here is a short history on the Keith Stevens collection of Chinese gods and goddesses. 

Born in 1926, growing up in the port city of Liverpool he was exposed to the influence of the British empire and the exotic cultures and goods which he would have seen passing through the city's streets as a school boy.  These early influences lead to his ambition of wanting to learn Chinese. He was an Indian and British army officer and served with the famous 5th Royal Gurkhas Rifles regiment during WWII who recruited their soldiers from Nepal. It was this early connection with trade, Empire and Asia, that was to have a profound affect on his later working life.

Post war he returned to Britain to study Chinese at SOAS and then later at HKU. He rejoined the Army and worked with the Intelligence Corps, spending time in Malaysia and Singapore. Using his language skills, he then took up a post with the British foreign and commonwealth office in their research dept. He joined the Royal Asiatic Society in 1963 and published 36 articles relating to Chinese religious iconography. Which subsequently lead to the publication of his life's time work & passion: Chinese Gods, The Unseen World of Spirits and Demons, London, Collins & Brown 1997.

His family recount many tales of dad going off "Godding" exploring temples in southern China and across Asia recording his visits meticulously with notes on each temple and further supported with over 30,000 photographs. In all he visited over 3,500 temples in China, Taiwan, Macau and across SE Asia, documenting the temple lay out, altars, gods and legends and folklore surrounding more than 2,500 gods.

His collection today contains approximately 1000 deities, the majority carved wood, brightly painted and gilded from Southern China.

Some still retain the dedication slips in the back of the figures. He records when and where he purchased them, mostly in the Hong Kong antique shops in Hollywood Road between the 1960's and 1980’s.

Book Cover

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