K'uei Hsing

▪ Chinese deity
Pinyin  Kui Xing,  

      in Chinese mythology, a brilliant but ugly dwarf who as the god of examinations became the deity of scholars who took imperial examinations.

      K'uei Hsing, whose name before deification was Chung K'uei, is said to have passed his own examination with remarkable success but was denied the usual honours when the emperor beheld his ugly features. Brokenhearted, K'uei attempted suicide. He would have died, according to one account, had not an ao fish (or an ao turtle) borne him to safety. Another account says that K'uei actually died.

      As depicted in art, K'uei bends forward like a runner, his left leg raised behind, the other sometimes balanced on the head of a fish (or giant sea turtle). Sometimes he sits astride the animal. In his right hand K'uei holds a writing brush to check off the most outstanding scholar candidates whose names are listed on a paper belonging to Yü Ti, the great Jade Emperor. In his left hand K'uei holds an official seal (some say a bushel basket to measure the talents of examinees).

      Before the imperial examinations were discontinued early in the 1900s, virtually every Chinese scholar gave K'uei a place of honour in his home, with images and name tablets. Some delightful representations of the god merely stylized the Chinese character of his name (k'uei) in such a way that a man in motion was clearly visible. The arms are extended, the left leg is raised behind, and the right foot is sometimes balanced on the Chinese character for ao (sea turtle).

      K'uei Hsing resides among the stars as the deity in charge of the Ursa Major constellation. He is also one of two assistants assigned to help Wen Ti, the god of literature.

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Universalium. 2010.

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