Ding Yunpeng, The God of Literature, a hanging scroll painting

Ming dynasty, dated AD 1596

Ding Yunpeng (active about 1584-1638) was from Xiuning, Anhui province. He was a professional landscape and figure painter who worked in a variety of different styles, though best-known for his paintings of Buddhist and Daoist subjects. His designs for inkcakes were printed in two famous catalogues, Fangshi mopu and Chengshi moyuan.

The two figures in the painting are deities associated with literary success, a popular theme at the time. Wen Chang ('Literary Glory') at the top left-hand corner is wearing official robes and riding on a white mule. He is accompanied by an elderly gentleman and two servants, Tianlong ('heaven is deaf') and Diya ('earth is dumb') who are said to keep their master's secrets. All three carry objects associated with literati culture: a bundle of scrolls, a cased book and three bronze vessels known as ding. Kui Xing, who accompanies them, stands on a dragon carp. He represents the stars belonging to the Northern Dipper and is regarded as the distributor of literary degrees. He stands with one hand held up and one leg kicking out in a pictorial pun on the character kui. He also holds together a writing brush and rice measure (bisheng) making a pun for literary success.

This painting is in the fine linear style (baimiao) of Gu Kaizhi (about 344-405).

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Ding Yunpeng, The God of Literature, a hanging scroll painting

Ink painting on paper


More information


A. Farrer, The brush dances and the ink s (Hayward Gallery, London, 1990)

J. Rawson (ed.), The British Museum book of Chi (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)

K. Suzuki (ed.), Comprehensive illustrated cata (University of Tokyo Press, 1982)


Height: 117.500 cm
Width: 46.400 cm

Museum number

Asia OA 1936.10-9.0129 (Chinese Painting Add.170)


Gift of F.E. Wilkinson


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