Chinese God

Wenchang Wang

Wenchang Wang (文昌王) is the kindly Chinese god of literature and culture. Based on a real war hero, he is invoked for inspiration by writers and students, especially during finals week.

Top Questions

  • How did Wenchang Wang save his mother?

    Wenchang Wang became a model for filial behavior after curing his mother’s illness when he was an infant by cutting off a piece of his own thigh for her to eat.

  • How did a warrior become the god of scholarship?

    While Wenchang Wang was a warrior in his first life, his subsequent reincarnations were all as scholar bureaucrats in the Emperor’s court, where he was fair and just.

Overview

In Chinese mythology, Wenchang Wang (文昌王) is the god of literature and culture. When authors are facing writer’s block or students are cramming for exams, they look to Wenchang Wang for guidance, assistance, and inspiration. Images of him show him as a kindly, professor-like older man who is accompanied by two scholarly assistants.

Etymology

Wénchāng Wáng’s name is comprised of the character for “literature and culture,” wén, (文), “flourishing,” chāng, (昌) and “king,” wáng (王). His name literally translates as “King of Flourishing Culture.” Wenchang Wang is thought to have been a real war hero named Zhāng Yàzi (張亞子) who lived under the rule of Emperor Fu Jian in Zitong county.

Mythology

Wenchang Wang demonstrated that he was a remarkable human being ever since he was an infant. When his mother gave birth to him, she was very sick and malnourished. Wenchang Wang sliced off a piece of his own thigh and gave it to her, which immediately cured her illness.

During a rebellion against Emperor Fu Jian in 374 CE, Wenchang Wang died a noble, heroic death protecting the emperor. Because of his kind and just nature, Wenchang Wang was sent back to Earth a total of 73 times as a benevolent official in the Chinese government. Wenchang was officially canonized as a god by Emperor Yu of the Yuan Dynasty in 1314 CE.

Pop Culture

Two significant temples are dedicated to Wenchang Wang. They are located in the Nantun district and the Beitun district, both in Taichung. Wenchang Wang’s birthday is celebrated on the third day of the second moon of the Chinese lunar calendar. College students still evoke his name, especially when big papers or projects are due or during finals week.