Good Stories from China: Zengzi and Parenting

September 28, 2006 12:00 am Last Updated: September 28, 2006 12:00 am

Zengzi was one of the most accomplished disciples of Confucius. The following story reflects his high moral standards and his belief in truthfulness in parenting.

Once Zengzi's wife wanted to go to the market, but their young son cried to follow her. To appease him, she said, “If you stay at home, I will kill a pig to make a good meal for you when I return.”

When his wife returned from the market, Zengzi tied up a pig and was ready to kill it. His wife stopped him and said, “I am only playing with the child.”

Zengzi replied in a serious tone, “Children should not be played with like that. They are too young to know any principles; they rely on parents to teach them and will learn from their parents. If you lie to him today, you will teach him to lie. If a mother lies to her son, the son would not believe in the mother and could not be educated.”

After saying these words, Zengzi killed the pig.

Source: “Han Fei Tzu” by Han Fei (circa 281—233 BC), a prince and a philosopher in the State of Han.