White-backed tortoise repaying gratitude
When Prefect Mao Bao 毛宝 was stationed in the city of Wuchang 武昌, Hebei province, during the Jin dynasty (晋 265-420), there was a story about a white tortoise who repays its benefactor by saving his life.
One day, one of Mao Bao’s soldiers went to market for groceries and returned to the camp with an extra white tortoise. The tortoise was about four or five inches long and still young and vulnerable. So the soldier took the responsibility to feed it. When the tortoise grew to be too large to be living in a tub, the soldier set it free to the Yangtze River. Later, the army that the soldier belonged to was defeated in a battle. In despair, the soldier put on his full armour and threw himself into the river with his cleaver in the hand. Curiously, he found himself landed on a rock unhurt. To his amazement, it was none other than the very white-backed tortoise he had raised! Now it turned out to be a giant fellow, 6 to 7 feet long. The tortoise carried the solider to the east shore and he survived the enemy’s slaughter.
Fig 1-2: porcelain bottle with underglaze blue and overglaze enamelled decoration (details), 17th century, courtesy of the Butler Collection
Fig 3: porcelain lidded jar with underglaze blue decoration, Kangxi period (1662-1722), private collection
Fig 4-5: blue-and-white rolwagen vase with underglaze blue decoration, Chongzhen period (1627-44), courtesy of Mr Anthony Lovett
Fig 6: woodblock print (surimono), ink and colour on paper, Totoya Hokkei (Japanese, 1780-1850), courtesy of the Museum of Fine Art, Boston