(1) Cai Shun (Later Han Dynasty)
Cai Shun of the Later Han dynasty (c. A.D. 23-220 A.D.) was from Ancheng (now Ru'an County, Henan Province).
When Cai Shun was very young, his father died. Cai Shun then served his mother as a very filial son.
Around the year 17, the nation was in turmoil. The brief rule of the Xin Dynasty (9-23 A.D.) had interrupted the Han; the Chimei rebels roamed the countryside; and there was famine everywhere.
Young Cai Shun had to go off into the backwoods to pick mulberries so that his mother and he wouldn't starve. Whenever he went off to get food, he always took two sacks--one for red mulberries and one for black mulberries.
One day on a road in the forest, Cai Shun came face-to-face with a pair of Chimei bandits. They had their swords out, barring his path.
"What's in those two bags of yours?" one of them asked.
"One bag contains red mulberries," he answered. "The other, black."
"And why do you need both kinds?" the other bandit asked.
"The black ones are sweet; they're for my mother. The sour red ones are for me."
The two fearsome bandits were moved by Cai's filial devotion to his mother. They let him pass but not before giving him three big cups of rice and a whole ox leg to take home.
from Sanshiliuxiao, p. 28 This is story #9 in the Wu edition.
The Chimei ("Red Eyebrows") were insurrectionists who opposed the Xin with their own Han candidate for emperor. They helped end the Xin dynasty of Wang Mang and went on to war with armies that supported other Han emperors. In the end, the Chimei lost out in the power struggle. Their name derived from their painting their eyebrows red as a way of recognizing each other in battles.
(2) Huang Xiang (Later Han Dynasty)
Huang Xiang of the Later Han Dynasty (c. 23-220 A.D.) came from Anlong, Jiangsha (now, Anlong County, Hubei Province). He lived during the reign of Emperor Yongping and died during the reign of Emperor Yanguang (58-124 A.D.).
At the age of nine, Huang Xiang lost his mother. From then on, he continually served his father as a devoted filial son, never missing an opportunity to work for or to help his father.
Of the many things he did for his father, we can note one special thing in particular.
In each evening of the summer, he would fan his father's mat and pillow to cool them off for his father, before the older man turned in for the evening. In each evening of the winter, he would lie down first on his father bed to warm up the mat and pillow for his father.
He also heeded his father's call to study diligently. As he grew older, he became famous for his erudition. In the era when Loyang was the national capital, a proverb circulated through the city: "Under heaven there is no one else like Huang Xiang."
During the reign of Emperor He, Huang Xiang became an official. In his later years, during the reign of Emperor An, Yanguang, he served as a prefect in Wei.
from Sanshiliuxiao, p. 36; Xiaodao, p. 58. The story is #13 in the Wu edition.
This and #4 below are particularly famous stories.
(3) Xun Guan (Jin Dynasty)
Xun Guan of the Jin Dynasty came from Yingchuan, Linyan (now, Linyan County, Henan Province).
In the year 315 A.D., while her father, Xun Song, served as prefect of the city-fortress Xiangyang, Hubei Province, the fortress was surrounded by the rebel troops of General Du Zeng.
The defending garrison was short of men and supplies.
The situation was very grim!
There were reinforcements under the command of Prefect Xun's old subordinate General Shi Lan, over in Pingnan; however, without anyone's being able to get word to General Shi of the garrison's plight, those reinforcements would never come to help. All those men under loyal General Shi might as well not exist!
Filial daughter Xun Guan saw the grave concern on her beloved father's face. Now Xun Guan was no ordinary, pampered thirteen year old daughter of a high official. She had learned martial arts from her father and was an accomplished rider. So she did something very bold. Without her father's knowledge, in the darkness of the night, she led a suicide team of eighteen veteran riders out from one of the fortress's passages. She and her riders streamed past a gauntlet of enemy troops, breaking through General Du's circle and onto the road for Pingnan!
As soon as she arrived in Pingnan, she immediately reported the situation to old family friend General Shi. As General Shi was concerned he didn't have enough men to attack General Du's force, he contacted nearby General Zhou Fang for support. With General Zhou's troops, General Shi now had over 3,ooo men. This force set out for Xiangyang. Once General Shi and his men arrived within site of the rebel camp, the besiegers instantly lost heart. The entire rebel force of General Du's army dissolved before the walls of Xiangyang, with the rebels fleeing in all directions.
The siege was finally over!
The enemy was defeated and peace came to Xiangyang--all thanks to a gallant thirteen year old girl named Xun Guan.
from Sanshiliuxiao, p. 44., #17 in Wu edition.
This is a very rare story of a daughter; the vast majority of the stories deal with boys.
(4) Fan Xuan (Jin Dynasty)
Fan Xuan of the Jin dynasty was originally from Chen Liu County (Henan Province). He was well known as a scholar during the reign of Emperor Cheng (circa 335 A.D.).
When he was small, he showed much filial devotion to his parents.
Once, when he was eight, he was in his family's garden, pulling up vegetables when suddenly he scraped his finger. He stood in the garden, crying.
"Are you in pain?" one of his parents asked him.
"No." He continued to cry. "I'm not crying because I am in pain. It is because the Classic of Filial Piety teaches us that our bodies, hair and skin all come from our parents and that we cannot harm them. I've hurt you, my parents. That's why I cry."
Fan Xuan believed he had injured his own beloved parents when he had hurt his finger and was thus not filial. Contrast him with all the belligerent, morally confused, wine-swilling, gambling, hedonistic ruffians around today! Their conduct is anything but filial, and they need to get on the correct path.
from Sanshiliuxiao, p. 46. This is story #18 in the Wu edition.
True filial, thus, entails having one take care of one's body as one's flesh and blood come from parents. The very last two sentences have been translated and adapted from the very end of the story and represent no extraneous moralizing or editorializing on my part!
The Classic of Filial Piety dates back to 400 B.C. and contains a series of conversations between Confucius and his disciple Zeng Zi.
(5) Xie Dingzhu (Ming Dynasty)
Xie Dingzhu of Guangchang, Datong (now Laiyuan County, Hebei Province) was born in 1401 A.D., during the reign of the Yongle Emperor of the Ming (1360-1424).
One day when Dingzhu was twelve, his mother grabbed Dingzhu's infant brother and went after an oxen that had wandered away. Dingzhu followed along, carrying a club.
While the three were out on the road, a tiger suddenly appeared and attacked the mother. It clamped its jaws onto her ankle and began to drag her away. The woman tossed her infant son onto the road and cried for Dingzhu to help her.
Dingzhu rushed the tiger and hit it repeatedly with his club. Finally, the tiger let go of the mother and retreated back from where it had come. Dingzhu then went to the assistance of his mother. He picked his brother up and let his mother lean her weight against him as the three headed back home.
Halfway home, the tiger reappeared! Again it tried to bite the mother, and, again, Dingzhu fought it off with his club.
The tiger then ran off. The three continued home.
Yet again the tiger returned, this time very stealthily, and attacked the mother from behind, biting her ankle. Dingzhu picked up a large rock and flung it at the tiger. This time the tiger left for good.
With Dingzhu's help, everyone made it home safely.
News of Dingzhu's heroism traveled to the court of the Yongle Emperor. The emperor ordered the young man to Beijing, where Dingzhu was granted a personal audience with the imperial monarch, who commended him for his bravery. Xie Dingzhu was also given a reward of silver and rice. Finally a stela proclaiming Dingzhu's filial piety and courage was erected outside his home.
from Shanshiliuxiao, p. 70, #30 in the Wu edition.
Xiaodao also has a very similar story from the earlier Jin dynasty (265-420 A.D.). A fourteen year old boy named Yang Xiang was helping his father in the fields with the harvest when a tiger suddenly appeared and menaced his father, holding onto the older man with its jaws. Without any concern for his own safety, Yang Xiang threw himself upon the tiger and grabbed its hide with all his strength. The tiger let go of Xiang's father and fled. (Xiaodao, p. 53).