Eastern Art Online, Yousef Jameel Centre for Islamic and Asian Art

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Zhong Kui the demon queller with sword

  • Description

    Xu Beihong is an important figure in the history of modern Chinese painting. Between 1919 and 1927, he studied Western painting in Paris and travelled around Europe. On returning to teach in China, Xu began to promote ‘the reformation of modern Chinese art’ through a combination of Western realistic style and Chinese freehand brushwork. This idea had a strong impact on the style of ‘national painting’ between the 1950s and 1970s.

    Between 1938 and 1941, Xu toured India, Malaya, and Singapore with his solo exhibitions, and he painted this portrait of Zhong Kui during this time. Compared to the depiction of Zhong Kui as an official, who holds a jade sceptre [EA2000.119], Xu’s Zhong Kui is a muscular warrior with a sword. His appearance is especially suited to the wartime, as he angrily rolls up his sleeves as if about to draw his sword to fight with demons. The painting technique used for Zhong’s robe is Chinese, while the realistic details of his face and arms are in Western style. It was also on that tour that Xu painted one of his best known figure paintings, The Foolish Old Man Moves a Mountain, which attempted to raise the morale of the nation in the event of invasion by depicting legendary heroes.

  • Details

    Associated place
    AsiaSouth-east Asia Singapore (place of creation)
    Xu Beihong (1895 - 1953) (artist)
    Xu Beihong (1895 - 1953) (calligrapher)
    Associated people
    Jiancang (active c. 1941) (recipient)
    Material and technique
    ink and colour on paper
    104 x 44 cm (height x width)
    Material index
    Technique index
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    No. of items
    Credit line
    Presented in honour of the forthcoming 70th birthdays of Jose Mauricio and Angelita Trinidad Reyes, 1995.
    Accession no.
  • Further reading

    Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 24 September-1 December 1996, Modern Chinese Paintings: The Reyes Collection in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford, Vainker, Shelagh (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 1996), no. 101 on p. 77, pp. 12 & 30, illus. p. 76 fig. 101


Zhong Kui

  • Zhong Kui

    Zhong Kui, or Shōki in Japanese, is a figure from Chinese folklore who appeared to the ailing 8th century Chinese Emperor Xuanzong in a dream and dispatched the demons that were haunting him. Shōki promised the Emperor that he would rid the world of demons.

Past Exhibition

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    • currently in research collection

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