Kui Xing (魁星), God of Examinations

According to the story, Kui Xing started out as a more-or-less regular person who was a brilliant scholar.







He wrote the national examination to become an official scholar and civil servant, and he performed . . . brilliantly.







Unfortunately, he was so ugly that the Emperor declined to award him passing marks on the exam.







Kui Xing (or whatever his name was before he became Kui Xing) was understandably disappointed.







Actually he was more than disappointed.

Filled with despair, he threw himself into the ocean and drowned.




Of course, this is not the end of his story.

Some god (the Jade Emperor, perhaps?) took pity on this poor fellow, who was lifted into the heavens and became a Daoist deity: Kui Xing, “Star Lord,” God of Examinations.

Kui Xing is usually depicted holding a calligraphy brush in one hand and an ink pot in the other.

Sometimes, however, he is balancing the ink pot on an uplifted foot, which is a trick you should not attempt.






He usually stands on a single leg, on top of a turtle or fish or dragon-fish.

According to Wikipedia, this is “in reference to a traditional saying, 獨佔鰲頭, ‘to stand lonely on the [turtle]s head”, meaning coming in first in examinations.”




My favourite image of Kui Xing is a statue in one of the temples behind Guan Qian Jie in the old city centre of Suzhou, Jiangsu.

It might be my favourite because I saw it in person and took the photo, but I think it’s also because he looks more than a little crazy. (Studying for the imperial exams, from what I’ve read, would be enough to drive anyone crazy.)

In the temple he stands next to the God of Literature, and how cool is that? A religion with a God of Literature! (By other accounts there are five gods of literature, and Kui Xing is one of the five.)

Makes you want to be a Daoist, don’t it?

Anyhow, if you ever need to sit an examination, you might try a little prayer to Kui Xing.

Couldn’t hurt.