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

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Zhong Kui out on an excursion with his sister

  • loan
  • Description

    Cheng Shifa (1921-2007), was born in the Jiangsu province in 1921. He came from a family of traditional doctors. After studying painting on his own, he entered the traditional painting department of the Shanghai Academy. He once earned a living by doing serial illustrations, known as lianhuanhua, calendars, and New Year pictures. After 1949, he joined the East China People’s Publishing House in Shanghai and began to acquire a reputation as an accomplished book illustrator. Today, Cheng Shifa is best known as a guohua ink painter and his strength is figure painting. One of his favourite subjects is the demon-queller Zhong Kui riding with his sister or marrying her off, as depicted in this painting. Zhong Kui was a 7th century scholar who failed the national exam. In Chinese folklore, a legend developed around him as a demon queller. Cheng’s brushwork is lively and sensitive, often with a pleasingly staccato rhythm. This painting was inscribed by the artist to Khoan (1919-2003) and Michael Sullivan (1916-2013) in 1980, when they visited his home in Shanghai. The inscription on the painting reads “The Excursion of the Jinshi Scholar of the Zhongnan Mountain. [Painted] On an autumn day of a gengshen year [1980]. A casual brushwork by Shifa. For Madam Khoan and Professor Sullivan to appreciate.” The couple visited China and many Chinese artists in 1980 at the invitation of the Chinese Artists’ Association.

  • Details

    Associated place
    AsiaChina Shanghai province (place of creation)
    Cheng Shifa (1921 - 2007) (artist)
    Cheng Shifa (1921 - 2007) (calligrapher)
    Associated people
    Khoan Sullivan (1919 - 2003) (recipient)
    Michael Sullivan (1916 - 2013) (recipient)
    Material and technique
    ink and colour on paper
    mount 118 x 59.4 cm (height x width)
    painting 70 x 48.5 cm (height x width)
    along roller 69.7 cm (length)
    Material index
    Technique index
    Object type index
    No. of items
    Credit line
    On loan from the Khoan and Michael Sullivan Collection.
    Accession no.
  • Further reading

    Sullivan, Michael, Modern Chinese Art: The Khoan and Michael Sullivan Collection, revised edn (Oxford: Ashmolean Museum, 2009), no. 14 on p. 62, illus. p. 62 fig. II.14


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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