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Zhong Kui, the Chinese ghost buster.

Here is the story of Zhong Kui; the Tang dynasty emperor fell gravely ill on an out of court trip, the court doctors tried varies ways of treating him but in vain.  One night the emperor dreamed of a small man in red stealing his jewels, when he looked closely he realized it is not a man but a ghost.  The emperor was taken aback and right then a large figure wearing a torn hat appeared, the large man grabbed the tiny ghost and put it in his mouth and swallowed him in whole.  The emperor was relieved and ask who he was, the large man replied that he was a top scholar but he was found too ugly to be taken up as a court official.  He was so upset that he killed himself at the court and since then he had concentrated on catching evil spirits.  When the emperor woke up, all the illness has disappeared, he had someone painted Zhong Kui’s figure from the memory of his dream and an officially assigned the task as a ghost buster and the judge of the underworld.

Come to see the actual print and many others at the
New Year Print Exhibition



W130xH170mm, China

 This is a new year print of  Zhong Kui, the saint who can defeat all ghosts and evils, keeping the household safe.  Zhong Kui has a fierceful  stern face covered with a thick beard, despite having such a strange appearance he was a bold character who is a well learnt scholar.  Legend has it that in Tang dynasty 730AD, the emperor was gravely ill, one night he dreamt that a ghost came to steal his jade pipe and his favorite concubine’s fragrance sachet.  The emperor was upset and was about to send in his warriors to chase off the ghost and saw a larger ghost appear.  The larger ghost has messy hair, horns on his head and worn a green robe, he reached out and caught the thief, dug out his eyes and swallowed them.  The emperor was horrified by the act and asked who he was, the larger ghost paid his respect and said he is Zhong Kui and that he tried hard in the scholar exam but failed.  Ashamed for his failure, he met his death by the steps after reading the results at the courts, feeling sorry for him the earlier Tang emperor award him a green robe for his funeral.  Moved by the emperor he oath to remove all the ghost and evils for the Tang dynasty.  When the emperor woke up from his dream, his sickness was gone, he ordered the making of Zhong Kui’s print to spread the news.  Later on it became a new year tradition for the Tang emperor to award his officials prints of Zhong Kui.

In certain part of China, Zhong Kui is worshiped at every occasion from Chinese new year to opening of  a temple to a shop, the start of a work for the year to the start of construction, relocation to birthday and weddings.  The ceremony will include the offering to the print of Zhong Kui and for a grander gesture the performance of masked dance or a puppet show of the Zhong Kui theme.

Here is a masked dance performance for a temple ceremony in Taiwan.

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