The representation of figure in Zhong Kui culture
For thousands of years since Tang Dynasty the figure of Zhong Kui has seen significant evolution and constitutes an essential culture symbol in Chinese spirit system. Besides seizing demons and dispelling evils, the figure is also endowed with many new functions to be a superstar in the folk deities. Then how is the figure of Zhong Kui represented in Zhong Kui culture?
1） The adjudicator: According to the folk tales, the supreme governor in heaven Jade Emperor was moved by the unjust case of Zhong Kui. Instead of being sent to the netherworld to suffer torment and governed by the King of Hell like others, Zhong Kui received sympathy and benediction from Jade Emperor after his death. The Jade Emperor highly appreciated his righteousness and intended to commission him with important post. On his road to the netherworld Zhong Kui was engaged by the Jade Emperor as the Adjudicator of this world and afterworld in charge of the life and death book.
2） The ghost catcher: Since Tang Dynasty Zhong Kui is deemed as the deity of dispelling ghost and evil in the folk and his figure is carried on till today.
3）The door god: The door god is the god in charge of door worshiped by Taoism following the folk custom. People’s worship for door god is dated back to long time ago. Since the creation of Shen Tu and Yu Lei, the Chinese door gods has been expanded and Zhong Kui becomes the god of devils exorcising in festivals following Shen Tu and Yu Lei. People hang Zhong Kui paintings to dispel evils and stabilize their houses because of his justice image of praising virtue and punishing vice.
4） God of blessing: Since the Ming and Qing Dynasty, the image of Zhong Kui is accredited with more functions of praying for fortune. The ghost beside Zhong Kui in the painting is changed to bat, indicating good luck and people’s wishes for avoiding disaster and inviting fortune. Spider has another name of “Xi zi”, “Xi zi” and “Xi” (means happiness) are homophones. So people believe spider would bring happiness. This custom belief is traced back to Han Dynasty. The happiness carrying spiders drop from high in Zhong Kui painting means happiness falls from heaven, which demonstrate people’s wish for good fortune.
5）The god of wealth: Zhong Kui is the “warrior god of wealth” in traditional Chinese culture. People address Zhong Kui respectfully as “the benedictory and stabilizing-house sage”. Hanging a Zhong Kui painting throughout the year in the household will bring us more fortune.
6） The baby-sending god: Zhong Kui is the pomegranate flower god. As pomegranate fruit has numerous seeds in it, the image of Zhong Kui represents blessings for more children.
7）The scholar Zhong Kui: It is said Zhong Kui originally appeared as a literate, who was called Chin-shih Zhong and was a person with scholar’s qualities.
8） Zhong Kui arranges his sister’s marriage: The folk tale of Zhong Kui arranging his sister’s marriage is very popular. It is said that Zhong Kui has a hometown friend named Du Ping who was very generous. He sponsored Zhong Kui to go for the imperial examination. Zhong Kui passed the examination and was granted the tile of Chin-shih but the title was then revoked because of his ugly face. Zhong Kui then committed suicide in the emperor’s audience hall. Du Ping collected his corpse and made a magnificent burial ceremony for him. After death Zhong Kui was conferred with the title of devils exorcising god by Jade Emperor. In return for the kindness of Du Ping, Zhong Kui returned home at the eve of new year and arranged his sister’s marriage with Du Ping. This story is abstracted from the Tian Xia Le compiled by Zhang Xinqi and was spread broadly to every household. It is also an important theme for ancient painting and gain great popularity among people.
9）Zhong Kui executes the fairy fox: The fairy fox is also called “the fox spirit”, it is a spirit described in ancient Chinese mythology. It is said the fox can cultivate its vital energy and turn into a spirit in human shape with magical powers. The story is depicted in the Puxian Opera of Zhong Kui Executes the Fairy Fox and the Painting of Chin-Shih Zhong Executes the Fox etc..
10）Zhong Kui holds a sword and a scepter：
Zhong Kui holds a sword: The most commonly used weapon by Zhong Kui is sword. In ancient times most officials, whatever civil or military, will bear such a sword. Why would people endow Zhong Kui with such a sword that looks so ordinary? because it is a Dipper Sword that is specially used by Taoist. The seven dots on the sword represent the image of Dipper. The Dipper has a supreme place in Taoism and is the most important constellation worshiped by Taoist in the religious rites. Since Ming and Qing dynasties there were so many Taoists whose profession is to perform the religious rites. They alleged that they had the ability of summoning the Dipper God by saying prays to eliminate diseases, disasters and demons for people. Those Taoists were active everywhere and interfered in everything. They frequently invited Zhong Kui to seize ghosts and vested him with new functions. A brand new Zhong Kui with Taoist supernatural power was then created. The artists since as of Ming and Qing Dynasties still prefer the figure of Zhong Kui holding a sword.
Zhong Kui holds a scepter: The scepter is a hand plate held by the ancient emperor or patriots for recording purpose. The scepter is made of different materials as per the official rank of holder. Zhong Kui usually sticks the scepter in his large belt, and still the image of Zhong Kui holding scepter in both hands is also created.
11) The drunk Zhong Kui: Zhong Kui got drunk and have fun with ghosts. It is said the image of drunk Zhong Kui is created for two reasons: One is that in the peaceful world Zhong Kui has no ghosts to seize and he has nothing to do but drinking alcohol. Another is that the drunk Zhong Kui neglect his duty and lead to the evils being rampant in the world. The drunk Zhong Kui is the most interesting representation of Zhong Kui image.
12) The pomegranate flower god: According to legend, the lunar twelfth of February is the birthday of flower, which is called celebration of flower country. With the shift of seasons, diversified flowers make the world more colorful. Among all those legends about flowers, the story of flower representing each of the twelve months and the follower gods in charge of the twelve months are most fascinating. The flower of each month and each flower god might differ in different regions and because of different preference of people. The most prevalent one is the Painting of Twelve Flower Gods. Liu Mengmei stands for the plum blossom god of January, Yang Yuhuan the apricot blossom god of February, Yang Yanzhao the peach blossom god of March, Zhang Lihua the roes god of April, Zhong Kui the pomegranate flower god of May, Xi Shi the lotus god of June, Shi Chong the jewelweed god of July, Lv Zhu the sweet-scented osmanthus of August, Tao Yuanming the chrysanthemum god of September, Xie Suqiu the hibiscus god of October, Bai Letian the camellia god of November and Lao Lingpo the wintersweet god of December. The flower representing May is pomegranate and the pomegranate god is Zhong Kui. Why is such a manly Zhong Kui envisaged by people as a flower god? Because the pomegranate flower is an extremely heliophilous plant and it blooms in every May as the flower of May. The blown flowers are so delicate and charming. The lunar May is also called month of pomegranate. The most widely spread legend about pomegranate god of May is that of Zhong Kui. It is very hot in May and many epidemics are prevailing. People believe the diseases are brought by devils so they paste Zhong Kui paintings on their doors to dispel evils. Zhong Kui is called “King of Ghosts” in folk tales as the idol people believe in. When he is alive Zhong Kui has violent temper and is upright in disposition. After death he swears to eradicate all ghosts and demons and safeguard people’s safety and health and wins people’s respect. His determined hatred of evils and his fiery temper are just like the unyielding pomegranate, furthermore the pomegranate flower blooms during the Dragon Boat Festival, so people respectfully address Zhong Kui as the pomegranate flower god of May.