The Vinegar Tasters

There is a traditional Taoist parable called the Vinegar Tasters.  It has been repeated and retold hundreds of times as well as being the basis for numerous paining.  The parable (see below) details the philosophical differences between the three big religions of China; Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism. 

“Three wise men were travelling across the country, going from town to town to teach wisdom. At one town in particular, they were welcomed warmly by the townspeople, and offered gifts of the town’s produce. One of the gifts was a large pot of vinegar. The first of the wise men dipped his finger into the vinegar, tasted it, and a sour expression came across his face. “This vinegar is too sour,” he said, “take it away.” The second of the wise men dipped his finger into the vinegar, tasted it, and a scowl came across his face. “This vinegar tastes terrible. It is far  too bitter, take it away.” Then the third man dipped his finger into the vinegar, tasted it, and smiled. “Mmm!” The other two looked at him confused. “Now this tastes like vinegar!””

From an era that there was significant competition between the three religions, this attempts to show to adherents the fundamental superiority of Taoism.  Both other religions are either bitter or sour in their outlook of the world around them, while Taoists accept things for what they are.  Please realize, this is a Taoist parable and puts it (Taoism) into the best light possible.

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