Wang Xiang Lay on Ice to Catch Carp


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Wang Xiang (王祥 185-269) served as the Grand Protector (taibao 太保) in the Western Jin court (西晋 265-316 CE) and, as a significant politician, has his biography in the Book of Jin (jinshu 晋书), an official historical text covering the dynasty’s history. When Wang Xiang was a boy, his mother passed away. His stepmother was not kind to him, often speaking ill of him before his father. One bitterly cold wintry day, his stepmother had a craving for the carp. Wang Xiang went to the frozen lake, took his clothes off, and lay on the icy surface trying to melt the ice in order to catch some fish. Suddenly, the ice cracked and out jumped two carp, which Wang Xiang could take back to please his parents. It was Wang’s devout filial piety that moved the dragon king residing in the lake, who sent him the carp as a reward.

Research on this story scene:

Is this man really dancing with carp: a revelation of a traditional Chinese story on filial piety

Related Pun Rebus:

May you remain pure, clean, and incorruptible 清白廉洁


Fig 1: porcelain incense burner, dated 1695, Kangxi period (1662 – 1722), Fine Chinese Ceramics and Works of Art including Export Porcelain, Sotheby’s London, 12 Nov. 2003, lot 167

Fig 2: copper jar, Liao / Khitan dynasty (916 -1125), burial from China

Fig 3: porcelain dish with enamelled decoration, Yongzheng period (1722-35), Fine Chinese Ceramics, Bronzes, Jades, Works of Art and Paintings, Christie’s London, 10 June, 1996, Lot 100

Fig 4: tomb mural (detail), Jin dynasty (1115-1234), Shanghaolao Village, Huguan county, Shanxi province

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