Li Yuan Shooting the Eye of the Peacocks on the Screen

李渊射屏中眼 (雀屏中选)

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Li Yuan 李渊 (566-635 CE) excelled at horse-riding, archery, and calligraphy as a young man. He was to be the future founder (reigned 618-626 CE) of the Tang dynasty (618-907 CE). Miss Dou was exceptionally smart and her father Dou Yi 窦毅, the governor of Dingzhou, was very particular about the quality of his future son-in-law. The family decided to erect a screen with two peacocks painted on it and announced whoever could shoot two arrows on each of the peacock’s eye would be qualified to win Miss Dou’s hand. Dozens of young men entered for the competition but left with disappointment because of failure in achieving the full score. Li Yuan as a later comer managed to hit the eye of each peacock with the two arrows and thus captured Miss Dou’s hand.


Fig 1: lacquer box lid, late Ming dynasty (16th – early 17th century), courtesy of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York

Fig 2-3: porcelain square vase with overglaze enamelled decoration (detail of a side), Shunzhi period (1644-61), courtesy of the Sir Michael Butler Collection

Fig 4-5: carved black lacquer box cover, Ming dynasty (ca. 1600-40), courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Fig 6: porcelain brush holder, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of the Guimet Museum, Paris

Fig 7-8: lacquer box lid, late Ming dynasty (ca. 1600), courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

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