The Fascinating Story of Chung Kwei, The Ultimate Catcher and Vanquisher of Hugnry Ghosts, Demons and Evil Spirits

Published July 21, 2012 by jptan2012


But if there’s one thing that can totally ensure your safety and protect you from the harms of the hungry ghosts and any ghosts especially during the hungry ghost month, that would be Chung Kwei (also spelled as Chong Kwei, Chung Kui, Chong Kui, Zhong Kwei, Zhong Kui, Zhung Kwei, and Zhung Kui).

Chung Kwei is the ultimate catcher and vanquisher of not only hungry ghosts but also of evil spirits and demons!

But who is Chung Kwei?

Chung Kwei (in Foo Kien) or Zhong Kui (as pronounced in Mandarin) 鍾馗 is a historical figure but unfortunately is largely considered as a mythological figure by westerners because of the lack of historical data about him.

Chung Kwei was born during the Tang Dynasty at Zhongnan Mountain in Shensi Province. According to legend, Chung Kwei is actually the fourth son, however, all of his older brother died at a very young age. Because of the old age of Chung Kwei’s mother and the number of times she has given birth, she didn’t conceive for a very long time. Knowing that the absence of a son has caused great sadness to her husband, she encouraged him to get a concubine, something that is totally acceptable during that time. However, because he loves his wife so much, getting a concubine was out of the question for him.

It is said that out of desperation, he went to consult a famous powerful sorcerer that is rumored to be a demon. His wife was against his decision but he persisted and won over his wife’s protest.

Soon after visiting the sorcerer, his wife conceived again, but at about the same time they notice that a big black scary mountain panther was visiting them. They knew that this is a sign from the devil. Because of this Chung Kwei’s mom asked the help of a brother to go and visit a Kuan Yin temple to pray for them. The brother traveled for a month to visit this temple, and on his way back, he brought with him an image of Kuan Yin. Her brother gave this to her and told her that the Buddhist monk in the Kuan Yin temple did a divination and told her that she’s conceiving a child that is part demon. The only way to save the baby is if she and her husband will earnestly ask for Kuan Yin’s help and make sure that they dedicate the baby’s life to public service, which at that time is really servicing the emperor.

The husband realizing his folly earnestly prayed to Kuan Yin, and they would offer incense, recite mantras and sutras, write sutras for Kuan Yin every single day until the time she went into labor.

While giving birth to Chung Kwei, she went into trance and saw Kuan Yin riding on a Piyao, vanquishing the big black scary mountain panther. She knew then that her baby is going to be saved.

Chung Kwei was born as an ugly boy. It is said that he has a face of a black panther. However, no matter how ugly he is, he is a very nice and kindhearted boy. The only thing that he seem to have gotten from the big black scary mountain panther is the color of the skin, the looks, his size (because he is also a big boy) and the bravery, but other than that he seems to be a boy with a very unusual kindness.

Chung Kwei or Zhong Kui is also a very intelligent boy. His father hired the best tutor for him, but both his parents always ensure that he has a devotion to both Buddhism and Taoism and they instilled in him the importance of being in service to the public/emperor.

As a man, he has integrity, talented and profoundly learned. There was just one problem; the people who don’t know him ridicule him because of his looks.

Because of his intelligence and because he is a learned person, he was able to pass the exam to be of service to his emperor. This was in the time of Emperor Kao Tzu. However, because of his looks the judgmental and corrupt officials, in particular a treacherous minister name Lu Qi, refuse him entry to the imperial court.

Out of desperation to be of service to the public and to the emperor, Chung Kwei decided to commit suicide at the imperial entrance, not because he was depressed but because he believes that if he cannot be of service to the sovereign as a human, he’ll be of service to the emperor/sovereign in spirit. He committed suicide because he wants to fulfill his mortal wish to be of service to any reigning sovereign, which is equal to serving the public.

However, since he was a mere mortal at that time and has not achieved special skills in Taoism his spirit was captured by a Taoist priest so that he can be put to rest by sending the spirit to heaven through various prayers. That’s the last time they have heard of Chung Kwei.

If you have read my post entitled – GETTING TO KNOW ‘THE GREAT SAGE, EQUAL OF HEAVEN’, THE MONKEY GOD SUN WUKONG – you may remember the story of the Buddhist Monk Xuan Zang who went to get for the emperor some sutras and Buddhist texts in India for China. It is because of that journey or expedition that led to Sun Wukong’s Buddhahood. The emperor who tasked Xuan Zong to get the religious texts in India is Emperor Ming Huang (AD 712 – 742).

Anyway, Emperor Ming Huang during his reign, which was years after the suicide of Chung Kwei, succumbed to an illness that he has to be confined in his room. Even after consulting top doctors, he remained to be ill, worst, he soon started to get delusional and would always complain that he is unable get sleep in the evening because of unwanted supernatural visitors, which according to historical texts were described by Emperor Ming Huang as little devils. Thing soon got worse because they would hear his voice shouting out of fear and anger, and they thought that he was getting mad.

His top ministers then decided that they should see Emperor Ming Huang themselves so that they can decide whether they should appoint an interim ruler while Emperor Ming Huang’s son is not yet of age. This proved to be a fortunate matter for Emperor Ming Huang because his top ministers also saw the ‘little devils’ and they now know that he is not mad and is actually telling the truth.

They all decided to call some Taoist priest and Buddhist monks to exorcise the ‘little devils’. However, for quite sometime nothing worked. Out of desperation, one of the top minister called all palace guards and staff to offer the best vegetarian food and fruits to the Jade Emperor and Kuan Yin, for them to help exorcise the palace.

What follows is the most controversial, of what is already a controversial story, because it is said that this part came directly from Chung Kwei who conveyed it through a spirit medium.

The Jade Emperor having received the offerings and the ‘hu’ (a Taoist prayer tool), decided to intervene with the matter by sending another immortal to vanquish the little devils. However, Kuan Yin knowing of Chung Kwei’s desire to be of service to the sovereign, and also knowing about Chung Kwei’s fate (Chung Kwei at that time was in ‘heaven’ waiting samsara) decided to request the Jade Emperor to grant Chung Kwei special power so that Chung Kwei can be a deity and vanquish the little devil and be of service to the sovereign.

The Jade Emperor agreed to Kuan Yin’s suggestion, however, he clarified that while he can grant special deity power to Chung Kwei, the true test of Chung Kwei as a deity lies on his bravery, and good heart when he was still a mortal. Kuan Yin knowing of Chung Kwei’s character assured the Jade Emperor that Chung Kwei will succeed.

Meanwhile, Emperor Ming Huang is still being bothered by the ‘little devils’, and things has gotten worst because now the whole palace is affected by the ‘little devils’. The emperor is seriously considering relocating the palace, but for some reason the manifestations of the ‘little devils’ seemed to have simply and suddenly stop. Taking caution not to be optimistic about the sudden silence of the ‘little devils’, Emperor Ming Huang and the ministers decided to wait for a few days before they conclude that the haunting has stopped. Furthermore, Emperor Ming Huang was also miraculously cured of his illness.

When it was confirmed by everybody that the haunting has stopped, Emperor Ming Huang asked the imperial guardian deity (by praying to his image) to reveal to him as to who vanquished the ‘little devils’. That same evening, Emperor Ming Huang dreamt of a scary creature who look like a demon himself visited the palace, captured the little devils and vanquished them by devouring them.

Still in his dream, Emperor Ming Huang approached the vanquisher and asked for his name. Chung Kwei then introduced himself and told Emperor Ming Huang his story.

When he woke up, Emperor Ming Huang instructed his ministers for more information about Chung Kwei. He then was told of what happened to Chung Kwei, which is basically a confirmation of what was told to him by Chung Kwei through a dream.

Emperor Ming Huang then commissioned Tzu Wu Tao (also spelled as Tzu Wu Dao), a then well known and one of the most celebrated artists of his time, to paint Chung Kwei. Also through Emperor Ming Huang’s intervention and persistence, Chung Kwei was canonized by Taoists priest with the title – GREAT SPIRITUAL DEMON VANQUISHER!

Soon, Taoist priests would call on Chung Kwei to help them vanquish or exorcise a person or a place. They would also found out that a blessed image of Chung Kwei acts as an extension of Chung Kwei’s power.

So to this day, Chung Kwei remains to be the most powerful deity to protect us from any evil spirits, especially during hungry ghost month!




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