Figure from the top of a funerary post (jihe)
- Bahau Saa' or Bahau-Busang peoples
- 18th–19th century
This figure is Panlih, a protective spirit distinguished by a heart-shaped face and vice-like hands with enormous thumbs and multiple fingers. He crouches with arms and legs flexed, poised for attack and projecting aggressive vigilance.
The figure was originally the upper part of a funerary post that aristocrats erected to glorify the memory and hold the remains of their ancestors and honored dead. The three prongs protruding from the figure’s head once held a ceramic jar made in China or elsewhere in Southeast Asia that contained the carefully prepared bones of an illustrious chief or high-ranking aristocrat. The human figure carved in relief on the central prong represents the deceased individual.
Panlih’s ever-watchful stance reminded the living of the exalted status of the deceased while his superhuman strength assured a safe journey for the aristocratic class to the land of the departed souls.
Roslyn A. Walker, Label text, 2013.