It has been said, “Filial piety is the most important of all virtues.” As the essence of Chinese culture, filial piety maintains the relationships between family members and between social groups.
Apart from the filial piety of children, filial daughters-in-law are also respected by heaven, earth, and man. Below is a collection of stories from ancient China about the filial piety of daughters-in-law.
Daughter-in-law does not forget filial piety despite being wronged
Jiang Shi lived in the Eastern Han dynasty and took Pang Sanchun as his wife, according to the Biographies of Exemplary Women. Jiang and his wife were very filial to his mother. Since Pang’s mother-in-law liked to drink river water, Pang would travel to the Tuojiang River, which was seven miles away, to fetch water.
Jiang’s aunt sowed misunderstanding between the couple. Under his mother’s arrangement, Jiang divorced his wife. However, Pang was not resentful. She lived in a nunnery and did spinning around the clock. After that, she had someone sell the textiles and use the money to buy food for her mother-in-law.
Later, the mother-in-law realised that she had wronged Pang, and she took Pang home. On the day Pang returned home, spring water started spewing from the courtyard, and its taste was no different from the river water. Two carp jumped from the water every day. Thereafter, Pang used these to serve her mother-in-law, and she did not need to travel all the way to the Tuojiang River anymore.
Grandmother breast-fed her mother-in-law
Here is the 22nd story from The Twenty-four Examples of Filial Piety.
Cui Shannan lived in the Tang dynasty. Cui’s great-grandmother, Madam Zhangsun, was getting old and had lost all her teeth. Cui’s grandmother, Madam Tang, took care of her mother-in-law and breastfed her for years.
When Madam Zhangsun was critically ill, she summoned all her family members and said, “I can never repay my daughter-in-law’s kindness. I just hope that all of you will treat her as well as she treated me.”
Cui Shannan’s treated his grandmother was very caring with respect and later he was rewarded by rising to become a high level official.
God rewards Wu Xiaofu
Wu Xiaofu lived in the Song dynasty. Her husband died early, and she had no sons, according to Ways of Accumulating Blessings and Mitigating Disasters. Her mother-in-law was elderly and had eye problems. She thought Wu was too lonely, and she wanted to adopt a son for her daughter-in-law to marry.
Wu said to her mother-in-law in tears, “Since ancient times, an exemplary woman does not have a second husband. I should be doing my best to serve my mother-in-law, so please don’t worry.”
Wu did manual work for her neighbours so she could earn some money to support her mother-in-law. On one occasion, Wu was in the middle of cooking rice when her neighbour called her out for help. Her mother-in-law, who was afraid the rice would burn, took the rice out and put it in a box. However, due to her poor eyesight, she put the food into a trash box.
When Wu came back, she immediately borrowed some rice from her neighbour to let her mother-in-law eat first. Then she cleaned the dirty rice and steamed it for herself.
One day Wu had a dream that two boys clad in blue clothes rode the clouds and came before her. They said, “We are under the instruction of God to bring you to see Him.”
When Wu saw God, He said, “You are just a village woman, yet you are able to serve your mother-in-law with all your heart. As a reward, you can bring home 1,000 pennies to support your mother-in-law. From now on, you no longer have to do manual work.”
Then the two boys sent Wu back.
When Wu woke up, she found 1,000 pennies at her bedside. After the money was used, 1,000 more pennies would appear, and the cycle would repeat itself.
Translated by Benjamin Ng. Edited by Sally Appert.