"The Vinegar Tasters" （嘗醋翁, vinegar tasting old-men; 嘗醋圖, 尝醋图), vinegar tasting picture is an allegorical image representing
Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism(Daoism), and generally favourable to Taoism and critical of the other two. It depicts three men dipping their fingers in a vat of vinegarand tasting it; one man reacts with a sour expression, one reacts with a bitter expression, and one reacts with a sweet expression.
The three men are depictions of
Confucius, Buddha, and Laozi, and represent the three major philosophical traditions of China— Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. Each man's expression represents the predominant attitude of the religion: Confucianism saw life as sour, in need of rules to correct the degeneration of people, and the present was out of step of the past and that the government had no understanding of the way of the universe—the right response was to live in the past, and worship the ancestors [Smith, Gilly. "Asian Secrets of Sexual Ecstasy: Discover the Power of Bliss". Citadel Press. 1996. p. 8. ISBN 0806518049] ; Buddhism saw life as bitter, dominated by pain and suffering; and Taoism saw life as fundamentally good in its natural state. Some Taoists have described it as the expression of the "comedy of life". [Kakuzo. "The Book of Tea (EasyRead Edition)". ReadHowYouWant.com. 2006. p.23. ISBN 1425000266.]
Another interpretation of the
paintingis that, since the three men are gathered around one vat of vinegar, "the three teachings are one".
It may also be interpreted with Confucianism being concerned with the outside world, and viewing the vinegar as "polluted wine"; Buddhism being concerned with the
self, and viewing the vinegar as a polluter of the body and soul of the taster; and Taoism being concerned with a holistic view, viewing the vinegar as perfectly in order, because vinegar is supposed to have a sour and bitter taste.
References and notes
* [http://www.taoism.net/sanctuary/books/vintaste.htm An excerpt from "The Tao of Pooh" by Benjamin Hoff]
* [http://home.hawaii.rr.com/chungd001/Vinegar%20Tasters.htm An interpretation of The Vinegar Tasters]
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