Searching the Mountains for Demons

Zheng Zhong Chinese

Not on view

Zheng Zhong, a professional painter from Anhui, practiced his art in the cosmopolitan city of Nanjing. Zheng was skilled in the blue-and-green style of landscape and in Buddhist subjects that he could paint in either an intricate or an expressive manner, much like his more famous contemporaries specializing in Buddhist subjects, Wu Bin (act. ca. 1583–1626) and Din Yunpeng (1547–ca. 1621).

Searching the Mountain for Demons illustrates the popular legend of the god Erlang, who was credited with defeating a vicious flood-arousing dragon and other demonic creatures on Mount Guankou in Sichuan. The god represents a metamorphosis of Li Bing, who helped control flooding and established a system of irrigation when he served as governor of Chengdu in the third century B.C., and of a regional hunting deity known for his control over mountain animals. The cult of Erlang became popular in Sichuan under the patronage of the later Shu emperor Meng Chang (r. 934–65). In 965, when the Song dynasty conquered the kingdom, it adopted the cult, erecting temples to the god in the capital and throughout China. The first illustration of Searching the Mountain appeared in the tenth century; today, two Southern Song and six Ming versions—including this one—are known.

#7636. Searching the Mountains for Demons

Searching the Mountains for Demons, Zheng Zhong (Chinese, active ca. 1612–48), Handscroll; ink and color on paper, China

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