This framed portrait of Zhong Kui, the Chinese ghost catcher, is made of cow hide, hand cut and painted. The ghost catcher holds a sword in his right hand; his left hand pointing to a bat (which represents luck in Chinese culture). A dragon is carved on his gown.
According to folklore, Zhong Kui travelled with Du Ping, a friend from his hometown, to take part in the imperial examinations at the capital. Though Zhong achieved top honours in the exams, his title of "zhuangyuan" was stripped by the emperor because of his disfigured appearance. In anger, Zhong Kui committed suicide upon the palace steps. Du Ping buried him. After Zhong became king of ghosts in Hell, he returned to his hometown on the Chinese New Year's Eve. To repay Du Ping's kindness, Zhong Kui gave his younger sister in marriage to Du.
Zhong Kui's popularity in folklore can be traced to the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang China (A.D. 712 ~ A.D. 756). According to Song Dynasty sources, once the Emperor Xuanzong was gravely ill. He had a dream in which he saw two ghosts. The smaller of the ghosts stole a purse from imperial consort Yang Guifei and a flute belonging to the emperor. The bigger ghost, wearing the hat of an official, captured the smaller ghost, tore out his eye and ate it. The bigger ghost then introduced himself as Zhong Kui. He said that he had sworn to rid the empire of evil. When the emperor awoke, he had recovered from his illness.