Sunday, January 31, 2010

Stories of Filial Children -- Series Three

(1) Meng Zong (Three Kingdoms)

During the period of the Three Kingdoms (220-265 A.D.), there lived a filial young man named Meng Zong. When he was very young, he lost his father. Later, his mother came down with a serious, debilitating illness. Zong's mother now had to depend upon him.

Winter came. With winter came, of course, fewer vegetables. Bamboo shoots, Mrs. Meng's favorite vegetable, were very difficult to find, and, in her weakened state, she began to long desperately for bamboo shoots again in her porridge.

Meng Zong didn't know what to do, where to go to find bamboo shoots. The markets wouldn't have them. He went to the cold, arid bamboo grove and, in desperation, knelt down in the grove, clutched a stalk of bamboo and cried.

Heaven and earth took pity on this young man's frustration, and instantly the earth split open to reveal fresh bamboo shoots for him to pull up and take home, which he did. He then, in the dead of winter, made his mother's porridge with the bamboo shoots she loved so much. He did so again and again. Eventually she made a full recovery.


from Xiaodao, p. 62. (See the posting for 4/17/09 for the full citation.)

Unlike most stories of filial children, this one has obvious supernatural elements.

(2) Tan Zi (Zhou Dynasty)

Tan Zi of the Zhou Dynasty (1045-221 B.C.) was a very filial son. He took care of his parents, both of whom had become blind from age and illness. His parents loved milk from deer, and, in order to get deer milk, Tan Zi had to wear the hide of a deer, with his head covered by the deer scalp and antlers. Then, he would approach a herd of the fleet-footed animals, enter into their midst, and then be able to obtain milk.

One day he was out searching for some deer on behalf of his parents, wearing his disguise, when from not far away, a hunter in the tall grass spotted him and assumed Tan Zi was a deer. The hunter deftly took an arrow out and and was about to shoot it at Tan Zi.

"Wait! Wait! Don't shoot!" cried Tan Zi. The startled hunter put his bow and arrow down. "I'm only dressed this way to get deer milk for my parents!"

The astounded hunter then praised Tan Zi for being such a filial son as to don animal skins and antlers and to go out to obtain deer milk.


from Xiaodao, p. 46.

(3) Wu Meng (Jin Dynasty)

Wu Meng of the Jin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.) came from a poor family, one so poor that they could not afford a mosquito net. Thus, on hot summer nights, he would study and sleep with his upper torso bared so that the mosquitoes would come and bite him instead of his fully covered father sleeping nearby.


from Xiaodao, p. 50.

(4) Pan Zong (Northern & Southern Dynasties)

Pan Zong of Wuxing Wucheng (now Wuxing County, Zhejiang Province) lived during the turbulent Northern and Southern Dynasties (420-589 A.D.). Around the year 422, when the leader of the Wudoumi bandits Sun En had already launched his revolt, Pan Zong and his father Pan Piao were among the refugees fleeing the fighting and carnage.

The two, father and son, were on the road pursued on foot by bandits. Pan Piao could not move any longer and turned to his son. "I'm old!" he said. "I can't move fast enough. You're young and strong. Hurry up and leave me behind! Leave this place! Escape while you can!"

Pan Piao just sat down on the ground and waited for what he believed to be the inevitable. His son, Pan Zong, however, refused to leave his father.

Then, moments later, a pair of bandits caught up with them.

"My father is old!" the boy cried to the bandits. "Please don't kill him!"

One of the bandits stepped forward and deliberately slashed the father with his sword, causing the older man to bleed. Pan Zong immediately shielded his father from the bandit, placing himself in the middle.

The bandit was about to kill them both when his comrade said to him, "What are you doing? That's a filial son protecting his father! How can you kill him? You know killing a filial son invites the wrath of heaven!"

The bandit put then put his sword down and allowed the pair to escape.

Thus did Pan Zong save his father. Both made it to safety and survived.

Centuries later the Song emperor Yuanjia in the fourth year of his reign changed the name of the village Pan Zong had come from to Chunxiaoli, "Pure Filial Hamlet," and exempted its residents from land taxes for three generations.


from Sanshiliuxiao, p. 48. (Full citation can be found at 4/17/09).
This is story #19 in the Wu Yanhuan edition.

(5) Yan Yingyou (Late Yuan Dynasty)

Yan Yingyou of Xianju Hamlet, Jinmen County, Fujian Province, lived in the waning years of the Mongol Yuan dynasty (c. 1350-1368 A.D.), during the rebellions of the Great Sword Society. The upheavals forced young Yan and his mother to flee as refugees. Eventually he and his mother were separated. He then spent the next twenty six years traveling all over China to search for his mother. He ended up finding her in Qingling Ling (in what is now Yao'an County), Yunnan Province. Mother and son were both overjoyed to be reunited. Shortly after, Yan Yingyou took his mother back home to Jinmen, were he continued to treat her with the utmost filial love and respect.

In time, the two-and-a half-decade journey of Yan Yingyou to find his mother inspired many poems throughout the centuries, including this one by Shangguan Minwang:

Yunnan and Fujian
One in the West and one in the East,
Both provinces far apart,
Separated by ten thousand li and a bit more.
The waters of the Wu Gorge in Sichuan,
Surging like arrows,
Guansuo Ridge in Yunnan,
Impassable to horse and wagons.
But look at Yan Yingyou,
Who had many narrow escapes
But shrugged them off,
As he journeyed to rescue his aged mother,
His heart and mind tranquil.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
Plunging ahead on a filial path,
While darkness lies before him,
Serving his parent with the utmost dedication,
He is the scholar Yingyou of Jinmen.


Sanshiliuxiao, p. 68. This is story #29 in the Wu Yanhuan edition.

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