Pictorial Charm

About this object

History of use

The charm was probably given to and worn by boys, parents, or grandparents to express wishes for their families in the future.

Iconographic meaning

On the reverse of the coin is a representation of the patron deity of the imperial civil servant examination and literary performance, known as Kuixing (Kui-star). Portrayed as a red-haired, blue-faced ghost, the deity holds a grain bucket on one hand and a brush in the other, for marking names of successful examinees, while standing on the head of a dragon-headed turtle. Kui-star was a 16 star constellation in Chinese cosmology. Since its lay-out resembles Chinese characters in form, Kuixing was attributed with the power of determining literary talent and with the ability to decide the performance of candidates on civil service examinations in medieval China. Ideally, the examination selects candidates for official posts from examinees on the basis of their comprehension of Confucian classics and strategies for dealing with social circumstances. Gaining the favour and blessing of the deity, Kuixing, entitles a learned commoner to advance into officialdom. Items bearing this iconography, therefore, were highly popular among scholars preparing for the examination and among the keen parents of boys.

Physical description

Round, round centre hole, inner and outer rims on both sides, eight characters and design on obverse, design on reverse; eight characters, dots inside and outside, in a circular design on obverse; pictorial design including waves, stars, and figure on reverse.