Picture of Three Sours


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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 


Fig 1-2: porcelain vase, c.1850 – in or before 1878, courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Holland

Fig 3: snuff-bottle, 18th c – 19th c (early), courtesy of the British Museum, London

Fig 4-5: carved lacquer ware, Qing dynasty (1644–1911), previous collection of Mr Nicholas Downs

Fig 6: carved red lacquer lobed baluster vase, 19th century, courtesy of Christie’s Auction House, 14 Sep 2012

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