Chen Ping Dividing Meat


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Young Chen Ping (陈平, ?–178 BCE), later a minister of Western Han dynasty, as being an exemplar of fairness in his everyday work. According to Sima Qian’s (司马迁, 145BCE – ?) famous work Historical Records – Prime Minister Chen’s Family (史记 – 陈丞相世家 ), one day, Chen Ping’s village held a ceremony to offer sacrifice to the Earth God. He was entrusted as the arbitrator to divide the meat offerings among attending villagers after the ceremony. As he divided the meat offerings in very even quantities, a village elder remarked that Chen was very impartial, to which he replied ‘Should I one day take rule of the land, I would rule it as impartially as I split the meat offerings.’

The story scene depicted in the centre of the Kangxi plate in the collection of the British Museum was first unveiled by Dr Yibin Ni. His article with historical pictorial and literary evidence is published here.


Fig 1-2: famille verte dish, Kangxi period (1662-1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of The Trustees of the British Museum

Fig 3: covered jar, Kangxi (1662-1722), The Complete Collection of Treasures of the Palace Museum, Vol. 38, Hong Kong: The Commercial Press, 1999, plate 128

Fig 4: woodblock print, “Antiquarian Playing Cards”, Chen Hongshou (1588-1652), drawn in 1651 and published in 1653, Wanggo H. C. Weng Collection, published in James Cahill, The Distant Mountains: Chinese Painting of the Late Ming Dynasty, 1570-1644, New York: Weatherhill, 1982, p. 258

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