Chung K’uei, the demon-queller, rides in a sedan chair carried by three demons and protected from the sun by an umbrella, which also serves to make manifest his high status and extraordinary powers. On either side of the stream he is crossing rise tall stands of pines silhouetted against clouds that separate the foreground scene from the tall mountains in the distance.
Ch i ang H sun, called H siao-ch ’uan, w as born in Sung-chiang, Jiangsu province. Little is known about his life but he must have had some education, since he served as secretary to the Manchu Governor-general T’ieh-pao (1752-1824). As a painter Chiang Hsun seems to have specialized in figure painting, especially those of beautiful ladies. His earliest known painting is dated to 1800 and then there is a continuing sequence of dated works until the year 1816, the next being dated to 1835. Chiang is said to have died in 1821, but a painting in the Tientsin Art Museum is inscribed at age eighty-three, which, if genuine, would indicate that Chiang lived at least until 1847.
Another problem is posed by a work virtually identical to the present painting in the Tientsin Art Museum (fig. 1). The only significant, visible difference lies in the positioning of the artist’s seals in relation to the inscription, following the inscription here, or placed to the left in the other painting. It is of course possible that both are genuine, and that Chiang Hsun was requested to repeat the very attractive composition, since paintings of Chung K’uei were always in demand by those who were unwilling to share their homes with demons.
Fig. 1. Chiang Hsun: “Chung K’uei Travelling” 1802, after Chung-kuo Ku-tai Shu-hua T’u-mu, Beijing, 1993, vol. 10, no. 7-1699, p. 231.