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.
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 3-4: snuff-bottle, 18th c – 19th c (early), courtesy of the British Museum, London
Fig 5-6: carved lacquer ware, Qing dynasty (1644-1911), previous collection of Mr Nicholas Downs