male figure seated on a chair placed on a small podium; man has PL hand on thigh and PR hand on belt; glazed in green, blue, brown and yellow; dragon on front of man's garment

Figure of Wenchang, Deity of Literature, 12th-13th century

Unknown artist, expand_more

Wenchang is the combination of two deified personages. The first is a local deity called Zitong who was worshiped in Sichuan during the Tang dynasty. The second is the deity of the constellation Ursa Major known by the Chinese as Kui. The reason why and how they became to be merged remains unclear, however, after the Tang dynasty the two became a single deity under the name of Wenchang and was venerated as the Deity of Literature. Wenchang is represented as a handsome man in the sitting posture. Sometimes he is also shown standing upon a fish, because the carp of the Yellow River is believed to make an ascent of the stream in the spring of each year, and those who succeed in passing the rapids of Longmen in Henan, become changed into dragons. This supposed transformation of fish to dragon has become an example and synonym for the literary success of the industrious student. The relatively large size and unusual palette of green, blue, and aubergine enamels distinguish this Cizhou ceramic. It is a fine example of early, overglaze enamel decoration.

Details
Title
Figure of Wenchang, Deity of Literature
Role
Artist
Accession Number
2000.158.1
Curator Approved

This record has been reviewed by our curatorial staff but may be incomplete. These records are frequently revised and enhanced. If you notice a mistake or have additional information about this object, please email collectionsdata@artsmia.org.

Does something look wrong with this image? Let us know

In consideration of the health and safety of visitors, volunteers, and staff, Mia is temporarily closed to the public. Learn more here.

male figure seated on a chair placed on a small podium; man has PL hand on thigh and PR hand on belt; glazed in green, blue, brown and yellow; dragon on front of man's garment