Wen Chang (also referred to as Wen Quxing or simply Wen) is the patron deity of literature whose heavenly task, assigned by the Jade Emperor (Yudi), was to keep a record of all the meritorious men of letters. He was also believed to have power over the destinies of scholars and officials and was venerated by those in need of help with their examinations, particularly for obtaining the jinshi degree which was an essential requirement for any position in the official bureaucracy. In this carving he is shown pictured with his assistant, Kui Xing, who is responsible for issuing official testimonials.
A boxwood carving of Wen Chang and Kui Xing was included in the exhibition Series of Exceptional Carvings. Selected Ming and Qing Wood Carvings, National Museum of History, Taipei, 2005, cat. no. 78; and another was offered at Christie's New York, 17th September 2008, lot 110.
For an ivory carving of Kui Xing attributed to the late Ming dynasty, see one illustrated in The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum. Bamboo, Wood, Ivory and Rhinoceros Horn Carvings, Hong Kong, 2002, pl. 107; and another published in S.E. Lucas, The Catalogue of Sassoon Chinese Ivories, vol. 1, London, 1950, pl. 166, where the author notes that the scholar Kui leapt into a river in humiliation after he was denied first place in the jinshi examinations by the emperor due to his repulsive features. After being saved by the mythical monster Ao, he was later deified to become the stellar patron of the literati.
Please call 1-800-555-5555 to order a print catalog for this sale.