Three laughs at Tiger Brook

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Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are one, a litang style painting portraying three men laughing by a river stream, 12th century, Song Dynasty.

Three laughs at Tiger Brook (Chinese: 虎溪三笑 ; Pinyin: hǔ xī sān xiào ; Gan: fû ki sam siēu) is a Chinese proverb which refers to the image that the three men, Huiyuan, Tao Yuanming and Lu Xiujing laugh together when arriving at Fuki (虎溪, Tiger Brook) of Mount Lu. This concept represents the ideal harmonious relations of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism in ancient China.[1][2]


The proverb came from the story of the reclusive Buddhist monk Huiyuan(334–416) who never used to go farther than Fuki, even for a walk or a friend's visit. Moreover, the tiger hiding in the forest would roar to warn him once he crossed the brook. One day, on the visit of the poet Tao Yuanming (365–427) and Taoist Lu Xiujing (406–477), Huiyuan had a congenial talk with them. As a result, they only realized they had crossed the brook and walked through the tiger infested region when they heard the roar of the tiger. They laughed wisely together, which represents the desired relationship among the three main religions/philosophies of that time, namely the harmony among Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism.

This story began as early as the Tang Dynasty and became popular during the Song Dynasty.


  1. [ Tao Yuanming Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia

    "The Three Laughers of Tiger Ravine, Soga Shohaku (1730-1781)khuy. Depicts Huiyuan (Chinese 慧遠; Hui-Yuan, Hui-Yüan in Mandarin or Fi-Yon in Gan) (334–416 AD); Tao Qian (simplified Chinese: 陶潜; traditional Chinese: 陶潛; pinyin: Táo Qián; Wade–Giles: T'ao Ch'ien) (365–427); and Lu Xiujing (chin. 陸修靜, W.-G. Liu Hsiu-ching; born 406; died 477).

  2. Three Laughing Men by Tiger Stream Description for another painting of the same scene by Gao Qipei (Chinese, 1672 - 1734), hanging scroll - The Avery Brundage Collection

    "By the tenth century, Tao Yuanming emerged in literary and artistic references as one of three men celebrated for their reclusive natures and buoyant spirits. Joining Tao were Lu Xiujing (406–477), a Daoist monk based in Jiankang (Nanjing), and Hui Yuan (334–416), a Buddhist monk from a temple in Mt. Lu in southeastern China. For many years Hui had never ventured beyond Tiger Stream—the other side of which was the haunt of tigers—even when walking with his two friends. One day the three, immersed in conversation, unintentionally crossed the stream and heard tigers roaring in warning. Laughing by the water, the three departed. They became known as “the three laughing men.”

    In this painting by Gao Qipei, Hui, flanked by Tao and Lu, stand on a hill in front of the gushing waterfall just after crossing a bridge. Tao’s long hair, covered with a winged hat, identifies him as a mountain man in seclusion."

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