A Zhong Kui painting work by Zhao Ji, an artist from Lingbi county, Anhui province, on display. (Provided to China Daily)
An ancient industry dedicated to the painting of a mythical figure thought of as a "ghost-catcher" in China has been revived in rural Lingbi county, Anhui province.
Spring Festival is the busiest period for the painters of Zhong Kui, who has been regarded as a vanquisher of ghosts and evil beings since the early Tang Dynasty (618-907).
His image is often painted on household gates as a guardian spirit, as well as in businesses that contain valuable goods.
"Nearly 2,000 people from the county make a living painting the mythical figure nowadays", said Cui Hua, head of the county's tourism bureau.
Zhao Ji, who has been making paintings of Zhong Kui since 1985, said it was a tradition, dating back centuries, to give images depicting the "ghost-catcher" as a mark of respect.
Records from the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) show that Lingbi used to be renowned for its paintings of the mythical figure, selling "tens of thousands" every year, with "workshops to produce them everywhere". Since the 1980s, the industry has been undergoing a revival.
"The artists of Lingbi county inherited the techniques of court painter Wu Daozi, who is thought to have created the first image of Zhong Kui", said Liang Chao, chairman of Lingbi Federation of Literary and Art Circles.
"Nowadays, it is impossible to know how many works all the county's artists sell annually", Liang said.