The vinegar tasters

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Traditional painting of «The vinegar tasters» (配图古诗精选, ca. 1880)

The Vinegar tasters (三酸圖, three sips; 嘗醋翁 or old men tasting vinegar; 嘗醋圖, 尝醋图), is an alegoric picture that represents to the confucianism, the buddhism and the taoism, favorably with the last one and critically with the other two.

In the picture it can be seen three men dipping a finger in a vinegar pot and tasting it. One of the men reacts with a sour expression, other reacts with a bitter expression and the last one reacts with a sweet expression. The three men are representations of Confucius, Gautama Buddha and Laozi and represent the three greatest Chinese philosophical traditions and the predominant attitude towards the life of each one of them.

The confucianism sees the life like somthing sour that needs rules to correct the degeneration of the people's attitudes. The buddhism sees the life like a bitter experience, filled of fear and pain. The taoism, nevertheless, don't waste time valuing the life, it simply sees the things as they are in their natural state and accept them as they are.

Other interpretation of the painting is one called "three teachings in one".

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