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Interesting findings & case studies on commonly misunderstood and mystery images

One day during Su Shi (苏轼, 1037-1101)’s exile in Huangzhou, Hubei province, his friend, Fo Yin (佛印, 1032-98) invited him and Huang Tingjian (黄庭坚, 1045-1105) to taste the ‘Peach-Blossom-Flavoured Vinegar’, made with a famous recipe inherited from the Tang dynasty (618-907). Su Shi, Huang Tingjian, and Fo Yin gathered around the vinegar pot and all scooped a sample and had a taste of it. Since the vinegar was exceptionally potent and sour, the three gentlemen all pulled a funny face as a result of a surprising experience.

This scene (三酸图) depicts an important historical anecdote, which symbolises the advocated belief of the three great teachings of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism harmonious as one (三教合一) in traditional China.

Read more interesting discussion on this topic in our blog section.

image identification and story scene description by Dr Yibin Ni 

Pun Design: Persimmons + Apples + Quails

Punning Details

The Chinese character ‘shi 柿’ in ‘shi zi 柿子’ for ‘persimmon’ can pun on ‘shi 事’ for ‘things’. The repetition of ‘shi’ as ‘shi shi 事事’ means ‘everything’. The word ‘ping 苹’ in ‘ping guo 苹果’ for ‘apple’ can make a pun on ‘ping 平’ for ‘peace’. The word ‘an 鹌’ in ‘an chun 鹌鹑’ for ‘quail’ puns on ‘an 安’, another Chinese word for ‘peace’.

 

画面要素: 柿子 + 苹果 + 鹌鹑

谐音详情: ‘柿子’ 中 ‘柿’ 与 ‘事’ 谐音, 叠字则为 ‘事事’, ‘苹果’ 中 ‘苹’ 谐音 ‘平’, ‘鹌鹑’ 中 ‘鹌’ 与 ‘安’ 谐音。

 

Related Pun Rebus:

May you enjoy peace and harmony 安和

Pun Design: Long-tailed Pheasant + Quail

Punning Details:

The combination of the first and third words in ‘chang wei zhi 长尾雉’ for ‘long-tailed pheasant’ is ‘chang zhi’ and it puns on the phrase ‘chang zhi 长治’ for ‘long-term good order (in a country)’. The word ‘an 鹌’ in ‘an chun 鹌鹑’ for ‘quail’ makes a pun on ‘an 安’ for ‘peace’. Some images would even depict nine quails to make a pun on the number ‘nine (jiu 九)’ for ‘jiu 久’ meaning ‘for a long time’. Thus, these natural motifs form a pun rebus to convey the intended auspicious message to wish for a country to be in good order and a peaceful status for a long time.

Also named as ‘Jiu An Chang Zhi 久安长治

 

画面要素: 长尾雉 + 鹌鹑

谐音详情: ‘长尾雉’中首尾二字与‘长治’谐音; ‘鹌鹑’中‘鹌’与‘安’谐音。以画面祝国家得以长期治理,民生平安。

Pun Design: Quail + Long-tailed Pheasant

Punning Details:

The word ‘an 鹌’ in ‘an chun 鹌鹑’ for ‘quail’ makes a pun on ‘an 安’ for ‘peace’. The combination of the first and third words in ‘chang wei zhi 长尾雉’ for ‘long-tailed pheasant’ is ‘chang zhi’ and it puns on the phrase ‘chang zhi’ for ‘long-term good order (in a country)’. Thus, these natural motifs form a pun rebus to convey the intended auspicious message.

Some images will depict nine quails to make a pun on the number ‘nine (jiu 九)’ for ‘jiu 久’ meaning ‘for a long time’.

Also named as Chang Zhi Jiu An 长治久安.

 

画面要素: 鹌鹑 + 长尾雉

谐音详情: ‘鹌鹑’中‘鹌’与‘安’谐音; ‘长尾雉’中首尾二字与‘长治’谐音, 寓意祝长期国泰民安

Pun Design: Quails + Cereal Plant

Punning Details

The word ‘an 鹌’ in ‘an chun 鹌鹑’ for ‘quail’ makes a pun on ‘an 安’ for ‘peace’. The word ‘he 禾’ for ‘cereal plant’ makes a pun on ‘he 和’ for ‘harmony’. Thus, the combination of quails and cereal plant can be used to convey the auspicious message of ‘May you enjoy peace and harmony’.

 

画面要素: 鹌鹑 + 禾

谐音详情: 取 ‘鹌鹑’ 中 ‘鹌’ 与 ‘安’谐音、 ‘禾’ 与 ‘和’ 谐音, 意为: 平安和谐。

 

Related Pun Picture:

May you enjoy a peaceful life year after year 岁岁平安

Pun Design: Quails + Chrysanthemum

Punning Details:

The word ‘an 鹌’ in ‘an chun 鹌鹑’ for ‘quail’ makes a pun on ‘an 安’ for ‘peace’. The word ‘ju 菊’ in ‘ju hua 菊花’ for ‘chrysanthemum’ puns on the word ‘ju 居’ for ‘to live’. Thus, the composition forms a pictorial pun that conveys the auspicious message of ‘May you live in peace and leisure’.

 

画面要素:鹌鹑 + 菊花

谐音详情:‘鹌鹑’ 中 ‘鹌’ 与 ‘安’ 谐音, ‘菊花’ 中 ‘菊’ 与 ‘居’ 谐音

 

Related Pun Pictures:

May you enjoy peace and happiness 安喜

May the country be in peace and order forever 久安长治

Zhang Chang (张敞, ?- 48 BCE) and his wife grew up in the same village. When they were both children, Zhang Chang once threw a pebble at his future wife and, unfortunately, the scratch left a scar on one of her eyebrows. Later, Zhang became a civil servant and learned that the girl he once hit with a pebble was unmarried because of her marred face. He went to propose to her. After they got married, Zhang made a practice of painting his wife’s eyebrows every morning to cover up the scar. When Zhang Chang served as the Mayor of the capital, Emperor Xuan of Han dynasty (汉宣帝, reigned 74-48 BCE) rallied him on the point. He replied, ‘There were more intimate things that a husband would do to his wife in the bedchamber. (闺房之乐, 有甚于画眉者)’ The story remained a famous example of harmonious marriage in imperial China.

literary summary: by Yibin Ni