Although this subject has little to do with our Japanese garden I think it is appropriate to place this article here. We both fell in love with the painting right from the beginning. We first saw this painting during our Grand China tour back in 1992, where we met the son of the artist Xi Ding, who had a whole collection of paintings by his father, to choice from. We found out however that very few people, who see it hanging on our wall, recognize what it is and what it represents. They “see” the strangest things in it. Although nobody tells I think very few people like it. To us even after these many years it is still a beauty that we treasure.
In China this historical figure is named Zhong Kui 钟馗, also spelled Zhong Kui, Zhong Kwei or Chung Kuei. In Japan his name is Shōki 鍾馗.
Shoki, otherwise known as the Demon Queller, is regarded as the god of the afterlife and of exorcism. On paintings he can often be seen with a small companion named Oni.
Oni refers to a whole host of particularly nasty demons.According to legend, the Oni fear Shoki and so he is able to easily scare them away from their hapless human victims. Japanese families with male children used to hang images of Shoki outside their houses to ward off evil spirits during Tango no Sekku (Boys’ Day Festival), which is held annually in May. These days, the festival is for boys and girls.
Shōki’s popularity peaked in Japan during the Edo period, when people began to hang images of Shōki outside their houses to ward off evil spirits. In China this is still custom to date.
The Chinese text (from right to left) reads as follows:
Portrait painting of Zhong Kui 钟馗图.
After the death of the first emperor of the T’ang dynasty (618 – 907), the roaming spirit of the deceased emperor caused the second emperor Xuan Zhong 玄宗 (Le Long Ji; 685-762) to have nightmares with many demons in them. Determined to get rid of this, Xuan Zhong summoned, after he had awaked from a bad dream, the then famous painter Wu Daozhi and ordered him, based on the appearances in his dreams, to make a painting of Zhong Kui, the guardian against evil demons. Thereafter and into the Song dynasty, representations of Zhong Kui became much beloved by the people. During the “Duanwu” festival (5 May) the portrait of Zhong Kui is hung on doors to keep demons out.
This painting was made by Xi Ding 西丁, famous artist of the Xian department of the Shaanxi provincial fine arts association.
Translation by Mr.Wang, our National guide during our round-trip in China and your author.
The above translation of the text on the painting is an interesting story.
During our China trip (one month) at the time I manually copied the text onto paper. It was then translated into English, with help of Mr. Wang, our National guide during the trip. So none of us being native, this was the outcome. Mr.Wang found it difficult because the calligraphy was “artist writing”, beautiful but hard to read.
Related: The single most complete and best informed source on the Internet regarding this subject, Xi Ding 西丁: contemporary Chinese artist, our painting including a close-op of the head on onmarkproductions.com.
西丁,Xi Ding is a celebrated painter in China having had his work in the collections of national galleries in China and abroad. He is a well-respected commentator of art and an influential member of Chinese national art advisory panels. He was born in Qiong Lai Canton in Sichuan province, China, in 1933. Following an interest in art, he later went to study fine arts at Chengdu Art College (now Sichuan Institute of Fine Art) in 1953, where after graduating he was named a First-Class artist by the Chinese government.
Mr. Xi Ding’s specialty lies in ink painting, calligraphy and cartoons. He uses traditional painting process to depict cultural history and his drawing method is very distinctive as he uses modern techniques and materials. Each painting tells a very unique tale underlining pure thought and expressing his in-depth understanding of Chinese philosophy and history.
Xi Ding’s career continues to be illustrious; he has been recognised for his achievements when invited by the Chinese Ministry of Culture and the Chinese Art Association to become a member of the Sixth and Seventh Chinese National Fine Art Exhibition Committees. He also was the Assistant-Chairman and Secretariat of the Chinese Artists Association of the Shanxi province (currently, he practices as a professional painter for the association). He is a member of the Chinese Artists’ Association, Chinese Calligraphers’ Association, Chinese Scientific Artists’ Association, Chinese Artists’ Association’s Cartoon Art Committee. In addition, he is a professor at the journalism department of Zhengzhou University and Senior Editor of ‘The Grand Dictionary of Fine Arts’ for the Shanxi People’s Art Publishing House.
Mr Xi Ding’s career spans many years and his work has been displayed at various exhibitions including the China Youth Art Exhibition 1957, the China Scientific Art Exhibition 1979, the Sixth China National Fine Art Exhibition 1984, the Seventh China National Fine Art Exhibition 1989, the China Scientific Art Exhibition 1990, the Eighth China National Fine Art Exhibition 1994, the China Cartoon Art Exhibition 1957, 1981, 1982, 1987.
He has also exhibited in Japan in 1982 and 1986, Hong Kong in 1987, and Singapore in 1988.
Xi Ding’s paintings are among the collections of the China Yuan Huang Emperor Gallery and galleries in the US, Japan, the UK, France, Korea, Holland, Belgium, Singapore, Yugoslavia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and elsewhere.
He has had countless samples of his work published in newspapers and publications in China such as People’s Daily, Labourers’ Daily, Chinese Youth Daily, New Observation, Chinese Cartoons, to name but a few.
As well as his paintings and publications commissions, he has also had over fifty articles published in leading Chinese journals. Additionally, he has served as an art editor for artist publications including ‘The Grand
Dictionary of Fine Arts’, ‘Xian Fine Arts’ and ‘A Collection of Advertisements’.