Subject:Re: Painting with a god and catfish? Ornate
Posted By: Bill H Sun, Sep 09, 2018
This likely is a pith painting of the Chinese God of Literature, being borne across frothy ocean waves by a carp, which has barbels in common with catfish, though the latter are not as chummy with deities and other immortals as far as I know.
In Chinese mythology, some carp of great stamina and persistence can transform into dragons by leaping up and over the "dragongate" (waterfall) encountered on journeys upriver to spawn. These "dragon carp" traditionally were compared to young scholars who had the "right stuff" to pass upward and through the Hanlin Academy, whereupon they entered into the service of their emperor. The God of literature is the patron saint of such scholars.
Here's the same deity in less formal attire, as seen on a small tazza or pedestal dish. Instead of a sword, he is holding the hat and brush of a scholar, while the carp beneath his feet is well along in transformation to a dragon-scholar. In the sky behind him at left is the kind of scepter used by scholars (and the emperor), and at the right, a diagram the big dipper, an important feature of Chinese astrology and related divination.