Min Ziqian’s Filial Piety Touches Contemptuous Step-Mother
“Dizi Gui” (Standards for Being a Good Student and Child) is a traditional Chinese textbook for children that teaches children morals and proper etiquette. Regarding filial piety, “Dizi Gui” states: “If my parents love me, is it so difficult to take care of them? If my parents dislike me, I should still have filial respect, because that is how a noble person should be.” A moral exemplar of filial piety is Min Ziqian from the Spring-Autumn period.
Min Ziqian lived in the country of Lu during the Spring-Autumn period (770 B.C – 476 B.C). When he was young, he lost his birth mother but his father remarried and had two children with his step-mother. Min Ziqian respected and cared about both his father and step-mother but his step-mother disliked him. One winter, she made warm winter jackets for her two sons but made Min Ziqian a jacket using the flocculent part from reed which appears cotton-like but doesn’t maintain heat. It was a severe winter and one day Min Ziqian’s father asked him to drive the carriage, but Min Ziqian could barely hold the halter because he was freezing cold. His dad became very upset with him but Min Ziqian didn’t say a word.
Min Ziqian’s father later noticed that his son looked really pale. He touched him and noticed that Min Ziqian was only wearing a thin jacket. He took off Min Ziqian’s jacket and saw that the jacket was only made of reed, but his other two sons were wearing warm cotton jackets. His father was displeased and decided to divorce his wife for her cruelty. But Min Ziqian burst into tears crying, “With mother in the family, only one child suffers coldness. Should she be gone, all three of your sons would freeze.”
Hearing what Min Ziqian had said, Min Ziqian’s step-mother was deeply touched and started to care for all three sons fairly.
The story of Min Ziqian’s filial piety has been spread widely since.