"The Chinese Girl and the Slave" from Saʻdi's "Gulistan"


This fragment and its verso include the text of the 40th story from Gulistan (The rose garden) by Shaykh Saʻdi Shirazi (circa 1213–92). This story describes a king’s giving away of a Chinese servant girl to his slave after she refused the king’s drunken advances. The text on the recto describes the slave in an unflattering manner. On the verso, the text continues by describing the king’s passing the servant girl to the slave, since she was already “consumed.” The terminal verses conclude: “The thirsty heart does not wish for limpid water / Half of which was consumed by a fetid mouth. / How can a king’s hand again touch / An orange after it has fallen into dung?” The text is written in black nastaʻliq script on a blue paper framed by several borders and pasted to a beige paper decorated by flower-and-leaf motifs painted in gold. The prose part of the text is executed in continuous horizontal lines, while the poetical verses interspersed throughout the narrative are outlined by rectangular frames provided with central gutters. This layout is found in manuscripts of Saʻdi’s Gulistan produced during the Timurid and Safavid periods in Persia (Iran), i.e., during the 15th and 16th centuries.

Last updated: September 30, 2016