Qiuhu trying to seduce his own wife

秋胡戏妻 (鲁洁妇)

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Qiuhu (秋胡), a native of the state of Lu during the Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BCE), was ordered to take up an official post in the state of Chen a scant five days after his marriage to Jiefu (洁妇), the ‘Loyal Wife’. Five years later, on his way back home, he encountered a woman by the roadside picking mulberry leaves, used as food for silkworms.

Qiuhu approached the woman and told her that toiling among mulberry leaves was certainly not as fun as yielding to a high-ranking minister’s offer who took a fancy to her. Qiuhu baited the woman with some gold ingots. The woman retorted, ‘I work hard to support my parents-in-law and the son left behind by my husband. I wish that you did not take fancy of women outside your family. I have no intention of fooling around. Take your gold back.’

On arriving home, Qiuhu sent for his wife and, to his great embarrassment, discovered that she was none other than the woman he had solicited.

There are two endings to this story. One version relates that after condemning Qiuhu for being lecherous and for not exercising virtues of filial piety to his parents, as was customary, the wife felt so disheartened that she threw herself into the river. The other ending, suggested by the Yuan dynasty literatus Zhao Mengfu (赵孟頫, 1254–1322), is a happy one. In his version, Qiuhu was merely testing his wife. Since she proved to be chaste and not materialistic, he reunited with her and they lived happily ever after.


Jeffrey P. Stamen and Cynthia Volk with Yibin Ni (2017), A Culture Revealed: Kangxi-Era Chinese Porcelain from the Jie Rui Tang Collection 文采卓然:潔蕊堂藏康熙盛世瓷, Jieruitang Publishing, Bruges, pp. 28-29.


Fig 1-2: famille verte dish, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of The Stamen Collection

Fig 3: blue-and-white porcelain jar, Zhengtong – Tianshun period (1436-1464), Ming dynasty, courtesy of Tianjin Museum

Fig 4: hexagonal bowl, Kangxi period (1662-1722), courtesy of Rijksmuseum, Holland

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