The Enchanted Otters of Luo River

During the reign of Emperor Ming of Wei, while he was strolling along the banks of Luo River, he noticed several white otters in the water, exquisite and pitiable, swiftly disappearing at the sight of people. The Emperor, intrigued, desired to see them up close but repeatedly failed in his attempts. Grand Preceptor Xu Jingshan (徐景山) suggested, “Otters are fond of loach, even at the risk of death.” He then painted two lifelike loaches on a board and hung it by the riverbank. Instantly, a group of otters competed to catch them, and within moments, one was captured. The Emperor was greatly pleased and exclaimed, “I’ve heard of your skill in painting. How marvelous this is!” Xu Jingshan humbly replied, “I have never wielded a brush before, but what captivates the eyes of others can be achieved with a bit of effort.” The Emperor praised, “Indeed, you have utilized your talents wisely.” As stated in Yan Gong’s “Imperial Decree,” “Xu Jingshan’s painting of otters was truly exceptional.”

Original story in 《齊諧記》

魏明帝游洛水,水中有白獺數頭,美靜可憐,見人輒去。帝欲見之,終莫能遂。侍中徐景山曰:「獺嗜鯔魚,乃不避死。」畫板作兩生鯔魚,懸置岸上。於是群獺競逐,一時執得,帝甚佳之。曰:「聞卿善畫,何其妙也!」答曰:「臣亦未嘗執筆,然人之所目,可庶幾耳。」帝曰:「是善用所長。」顏公《庭誥》云:「徐景山之畫獺是也。」

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