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    General Guo Ziyi deterring the mighty enemy has been a famous event in ancient China around mid-8th century. Deciphering this story scene on Chinese porcelain plates and tiles, however, has not been straightforward and has taken iconography specia...

    Congratulations on art historian Dr Yibin Ni’s new research into a rare story scene in Chinese pictorial art, which may have puzzled contemporary museum curators and porcelain collectors. Dr Ni has traced the art historical context in which this r...

    The following article is a discussion of the substitution of a mythical beast for a horse as Grand Duke Jiang’s mount on three classic porcelain vases adorned with the same story scene of ‘Bo Yi and Shu Qi Trying to Stop the Mighty Zhou Army’. It ...

    Through analysing a famous theme that depicts Bo Yi and Shu Qi Stopping the Zhou Army, Dr Yibin Ni has compared a number of porcelain vessels from Ming and Qing dynasties, and demonstrated his unique insight which can facilitate the correct dating...

    Xiahou Dun, a heroic soldier in ancient China, was famous for his one-eyed appearance. Let’s appreciate how Dr Yibin Ni analyses the artistic presentation of this character on Chinese antique porcelain, woodblock print and other art forms, in asso...

    Do you wonder why two warriors are waving swords over a rock that looks like a cross bun? Let Dr Yibin Ni demystify this enigmatic scene for you, which illustrates the old Chinese saying ‘bedfellows dream different dreams’!

    Story scenes painted on Chinese porcelains are sometimes mysterious and challenging to understand. Dr Yibin Ni, whose specialised research is to demystify figures and story scenes, and decode motifs, symbols and pun rebuses in Chinese art, is here...

    General Meng Tian, died in 210BC, was a prominent general in the army of the first emperor of China of the Qin Dynasty. He led a series of successful campaigns against the nomad threat in the north, and orchestrated the ingenious projects such as the road system in the new empire and what is later known as the Great Wall...

    This scene was from a popular play ‘The Story of the White Hare’ (Bai Tu Ji 白兔记) and was much admired during the Ming dynasty.

    Liu Zhiyuan 刘知远, the hero of the play set during the turbulent Five Dynasties (907–960), became an orphan when he was a teenager. His affluent neighbour looked after him and later...

    Guo Ziyi (郭子仪 697–781), posthumously bestowed the title Prince Zhongwu of Fenyang (汾阳忠武王) because of his birth place and his contribution to the court, was the greatest Tang-dynasty general. He played the key role in military campaigns against the Uyghur Khaganate and Tibetan Empire, enemies constantly threatening China ...

    Dong Zhuo (董卓 d. 192), a tyrannic warlord rising to power at the end of the Han dynasty, caused great concern among courtiers and officials. Wang Yun (王允), the Minister Over the Masses (司徒 Situ), was entrusted to figure out a plan to bring him down. Dong Zhuo was particularly powerful because he managed to ally ...

    One day during the Tang dynasty (618-907), Li Keyong (李克用, 856-908), the Prince of Jin (晋王), went out hunting with an entourage of dozens of soldiers, when he encountered a woodcutter in a quiet valley. The woodcutter told Li that The Flying Tiger Hill nearby was an ideal hunting ground. The prince told him that he had d...

    This is a story of a brave woman who boldly exercised her rhetorical competence, managed to correct the erring ruler and saved her husband from execution. The story of The Wife of the Bow Maker in the State of Jin (晋弓工妻) is recorded in Chapter 6 Convincing and Perceptive (辩通传), Biographies of Exemplary Women (列女...

    The main figure in the scene is a dignitary, often gripping a hu (笏) tablet in his hands, which an official uses to take notes when he has audience with the emperor in court. He is usually sheltered by page boys erecting some fans or a parasol or guarded by a soldier holding a weapon with an iron melon on the to...

    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...

    This scene is an episode from the Ming drama ‘The Story of the Girl Holding a Red Fly Whisk

    Bo Yi (or Boyi, 伯夷) and Shu Qi (or Shuqi, 叔齐) were sons of the ruler of Guzhu (孤竹), a vassal state of the Shang dynasty (商朝, 16th-11th cent. BCE). As the king was getting old, he wanted Shu Qi, his youngest son, to inherit his throne. However, when the father died, Shu Qi asked Bo Yi to take over th...

    Lv Bu (吕布 Lü Bu, died 199 CE) is known as an almost unchallenged fighter in the period of the Three Kingdoms (三国, 220-280 CE) in Chinese history. The scene on the vase depicts a crucial moment when Lv Bu’s exceptional archery stunt astounded all the generals and soldiers present and then successfully quelled an ...

    Xiahou Dun (夏侯惇, died 13 June 220) was one of Cao Cao’s (曹操, 155-220) most valued generals in the late Eastern Han dynasty (东汉, 25-220) of China. Xiahou showed his strong temperament even when he was in his early teens. Once his mentor was insulted, and he went straight to the insulter and killed him. During the 190s in ...

    When the old duke of Jin (晋) passed away, his heir was still in the cradle. It was with the powerful minister Zhao Dun (赵盾)’s support that he succeeded in ascending the throne. Unfortunately, the young duke, who was posthumously given the title Duke Ling of Jin, Jìn Líng Gōng (晋灵公, ? – 607 BCE), became increasingly the o...

    The young duke of the State of Jin (晋) who was posthumously given the title Duke Ling of Jin, Jìn Líng Gōng (晋灵公, ? – 607 BCE), has been known as a ‘ruler who does not deserve his title (bu jun 不君)’. His despotic behaviour was enumerated in the records by historiographers. For example, he levied heavy taxes to b...

    When the Baron of the Zhou vassal state (周西伯) did a divination with oracle bones for his imminent hunting trip, the message came: ‘You will not catch a small bear or a large bear, but a teacher will be presented to you by the divine power.’ After bathing and fasting for three days, the baron arrived at the River Wei, he ...

    This is a story of a righteous woman. As the army of the state of Qi (齐国) launched an invasion against the state of Lu (鲁国), soldiers approaching a Lu suburb saw a woman struggling along the road with two children. When the army got closer, she abandoned one of the children and grabbed the other, moving toward the mounta...

    In the 14th-century historical novel, Romance of the Three Kingdoms (三国演义 – 甘露寺招亲), the generals in the Dongwu (东吴) kingdom conspired to murder Liu Bei (刘备), head of the Shu Han (蜀汉) kingdom, by inviting him to their territory with the promise of their king Sun Quan (孙权)’s sister for his wife. When Liu Bei...

    According to Confucian ethics, a man’s ambition and pride need to be balanced by humility.

    General Lian Po (廉颇, active 298–236 BC) and Minister Lin Xiangru (蔺相如, active ca. 279 BC) were colleagues in the government of the state of Zhao. When Lin Xiangru received a higher appointment than Lian Po’s, Lian Po felt it...