|Honey Roasted | Oil on canvas | 30 by 24 inches|
"The man with one leg.
There was a man named Zhang Lang, who had married a virtuous woman, but ended up falling in love with a younger woman. When he left his wife to be with his new young lover, the heavens afflicted him with ill-fortune as a punishment for his adulterous act. Zhang became blind, and his young lover soon abandoned him, and left him to resort to begging to support himself.
One day, while begging for alms, he happened across the house of his former wife. Being blind, he did not recognize her. Despite his shoddy treatment of her, she took pity on him, and invited him in. She cooked him a fabulous meal and tended to him lovingly; he then related his story to her. As he shared his story, Zhang became overwhelmed with self-pity, and the pain of his wrongdoings.
Upon hearing him weep and apologize, Zhang's former wife told him to open his eyes, and miraculously, his vision was restored. Recognizing that it was his wife whom he he had abandoned, Zhang felt so much shame that he threw himself into the kitchen hearth, not realizing that it was lit. His wife attempted to save him, but all she managed to salvage was one of his legs. The devoted wife then created a shrine above the fireplace to honor her former husband. The heavens take pity on Zhang's tragic story, and made him the god of the Kitchen. Zhang was later reunited with his wife.
This much celebrated Kitchen God is also known as Zao Jun. His association is with the stoves in Chinese homes. To this day, a fire poker is sometimes referred to as "Zhang Lang's Leg".
It is believed that on the twenty third day of the twelfth lunar month, just before Chinese New Year, Zao Jun returns to Heaven. His duty is to report the activities of every household over the past year to the Jade Emperor, who in return, either rewards or punishes a family based on the report.
On this day, the lips of Zao Jun's paper effigy are often smeared with honey to either sweeten his words to the Jade Emperor, or to keep his lips stuck together."