Zhang Liang Fetching Shoe on Yi Bridge

张良圯桥纳履 (圯桥三进履)

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After Zhang Liang (张良, d. 189 BCE) failed to assassinate the first emperor of China, he changed his name and went into hiding. One day, he ran into Lord Yellowstone 黄石公, a guru strategist by the Yi Bridge 圯桥. The old man could see Zhang’s great potential but he wanted to put him through a series of tests before taking him as his pupil.

Lord Yellowstone deliberately dropped his shoe down the embankment and asked Zhang to fetch it and put it back onto his foot. Stomaching his resentment, Zhang meekly did what he was told to do. And then, Lord Yellowstone twice made early-morning appointments with him but cancelled them because Zhang arrived later than he did. The third time Zhang arrived at midnight way ahead of the designated time and his humility and perseverance impressed the old man, who then passed on to him the ancient wisdoms and art of war. Later, Zhang helped the founder of the Han dynasty, Liu Bang (刘邦, d. 195 BCE), with the invincible strategies and became one of Liu’s top three lieutenants.


images on porcelain: first deciphered by Yibin Ni


More stories about Zhang Liang:

Why is the scene of a man holding a shoe popular in Chinese antique artworks?


Fig 1: hanging scroll, ink and colour on paper, Jiang Song (蒋嵩, ?–? active in Chenghua to Jiajing period, Ming dynasty), courtesy of Nanjing Museum, Jiangsu, China

Fig 2: porcelain dish with underglaze blue decoration, Late Ming dynasty, courtesy of the Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, Stockholm

Fig 3: porcelain dish with underglaze blue decoration, 1650–1680, Qing dynasty, courtesy of Princessehof Museum, Leeuwarden, The Netherlands

Fig 4-5: famille verte porcelain bowl, Kangxi period (1662–1722), Qing dynasty, courtesy of Philadelphia Museum of Art

Fig 6: fresco, Republic period (1911–49), the Long Corridor of the Summer Palace, Beijing

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