With sports and embroidered garments Lao Lâi-dze amused his parents

In the Chow dynasty, in the country of Tsoo lived the venerable Lâi-dze (Lao Lâi-dze老莱子), who was very obedient and reverential towards his parents, manifesting his dutifulness by exerting himself to provide them with every delicacy.

When Lao Lâi-dze overheard his parents lamenting one day, “Look at our son, he’s already in his dotage! Surely our own days must be drawing to a close!” His heart could not endure the helpless feelings that arose. Although upwards of severty of years of age, he was so old that he had lost nearly all his teeth, he declared that he was not yet old, even never mentioned the word “old” in their hearing, and usually dressed himself in partycoloured embroidered garments, and like a child would playfully stand by the side of his parents.

One day he accidentally tripped and fell when he carried two buckets of water into the house, he saw the concerned looks on his parents’ faces, he started wailing and crying like a child, and wriggling on the wet floor and soaking his foolish looking wig, this ridiculous show sent the old folks into gales of laughter. From this incident he would often trip up on purpose, sending water showering over the floor, feigning to slip, falling to the ground, wailing and crying like a child, and all these things he did to divert his parents from their melancholy feelings.

Whenever the venerable Lao Lâi-dze acted like a playful child, his mother was delighted, and manifested her joy in her countenance, thus did they forget her old age.

Clad in a single garment he was obedient to his mother

During the Chow dynasty lived Min Sun (also known by his courtesy name Tzu-ch’ien 闵子骞), whose mother died early so his father subsequently married another wife, who bore him two other sons, but dislike Min Sun.

Min Sun was ill-treated by his stepmother but he never bore any grudges against her. During winter, his stepmother prepared a coat made of reed catkins for him, but prepared coats made of cotton for his stepbrothers.

One day, Min followed his father out and was instructed to drive the carriage. However, as the coat was too thin, Min was unable to withstand the cold so he shivered and was unable to focus on the task at hand. He accidentally caused the carriage to get stuck in a ditch. Min’s father was furious and started beating him until his clothes tore and the reed catkins came out. It was then when Min’s father realised that his son was being mistreated. He was so angry that he wanted to expel Min’s stepmother from the family. However, Min pleaded with his father to spare his stepmother, saying, “If she stays, only I suffer. But if you send her away, me and my stepbrothers will suffer.” Min’s stepmother was so touched that she regretted her actions and never mistreated Min again.

闵子骞
Min Tzu-ch’ien

Tseng Shen

Tseng Shen (550-435BCE), courtesy name Tzu yü, was a Chinese philosopher, and a disciple of Confucius. He was the teacher of Tzu Ssu (483-402 BCE), the Grandson of Confucius. He is credited as the transmitter of the Great Learning, an important work that was incorporated in the Book of Rites.  He is also with having authored the Book of Fillial Piety.

Tseng Shen was a fillial son. When he was young, Tseng Shen was very poor, he had to cut wood for fuel from the mountain. Once when he was away on the hill, a visitor came to his home. His mother didn’t not know how to treat the visitor, so she bit her finger. Tseng Shen suddenly felt pain in his heart. He immediately realized that his mother was calling! No later his action than his thought, and he quickly returned home, found that he had a visitor at home, and his mother was in distress.

Tseng Shen was honest and strictly keep his promise even to his child. One day, when Tseng Shen’s wife was going to the market, their son cried and wanted to go with her. His wife tried to quiet her son by promising to kill the sucking pig when she came back home. Upon her return, Tseng Shen grabed a knife to kill the sucking pig. His wife tried to stop him, and explained that she didn’t mean it, she just said so to keep the boy quite, but Tseng Shen said, “How can you decieve a child like that? Children learn from their parents. When you cheat the boy, you are teaching him to lie.”

The Emperor Shun of Yu


Shun of Yu was named Chonghua (double splendour); Chonghua’s father was Gusou; Gusou’s father was Qiaoniu (bridge cow); Qiaoniu’s father was Juwang; Juwang’s father was Jingkang; Jingkang’s father was Qiongchan; Qiongchan’s father was Emperor Zhuanxu; Zhuanxu’s father was Changyi. From him to Shun we have seven generations. From Qiongchan to Emperor Shun they were all insignificant common people.

Shun’s father, Gusou, was blind, and his mother having died, Gusou married again and had a son, Xiang, who was arrogant.

Gusou loved his second wife, and frequently tried to kill Shun, who avoided him; when he made slight mistakes he was punished, yet he obediently served his father, stepmother, and brother, and was day by day generous, careful, and never negligent.

Shun was a native of Jizhou, ploughed on Li mountain, fished in Thunder lake, made pots on the bank of the river, fashioned various articles at Shouqiu, and went now and then to Fuxia.

Shun’s father, Gusou, was unprincipled, his mother insincere, and his brother, Xiang arrogant. They all tried to kill Shun, who was obedient, and never by chance failed in his duty as a son, or his fraternal love. Though they tried to kill him they did not succeed, and when they sought him he got out of the way.

When Shun was twenty years old he was noted for his filial piety, and when he was thirty the Emperor Yao asked if he was fit to reign. The presidents united in bringing Shun of Yu forward as an able man, so Yao gave him his two daughters in marriage in order to observe his conduct at home, and bade his nine sons put him in charge of a post so as to note his behaviour abroad.

Shun lived within the bend of Kuei River, and was especially careful. Yao’s two daughters did not dare, on account of their rank, to be proud, but waited on Shun’s relations, and were constant in their wifely duties, while Yao’s nine sons became more and more generous.

When Shun ploughed on Li mountain, the inhabitants yielded the boundaries; when he fished in Thunder lake, the men on the lake yielded to him the best place; and when he made pots on the bank of the river, his vessells had no holes or flaws in them. If he dwelt in a place for a year he formed a metropolis.

Yao gave Shun clothes made of fine grasscloth, and a lute, and built him a granary and shed for his oxen and sheep.

Gusou again tried to kill Shun by making him go up and plaster the roof of the granary, while he set fire to it from below, but Shun, protecting himself from the fire wit a couple bamboo hats, came down and escaped with his life.

Gusou after this told Shun to dig a well, which he did, making a secret tunnel at the side to get out at. When Shun had gone right in, Gusou and Xiang filled up the well with earth, but Shun came out by the secret passage. Gusou and Xiang rejoiced, thinking that Shun was dead, and Xiang said, ‘The plot was mine, but I will go shares with my father and mother; I will take Shun’s wives, Yao’s two daughters, and the lute as my share, while the oxen, sheep, granary and shed shall belong to my parents.’ He remained, however, in Shun’s house playing on the lute, and when Shun went thither Xiang, startled and not well-pleased to see him, said, ‘I was just thinking of you, and getting very anxious.’ ‘quite so,’ said Shun, ‘and so you possessed yourself of all these things.’ Shun again served Gusou, loved his brother, and was still more careful in his conduct.

Yao thereupon tested Shun as to the five cardinal rules, and the various officers were under control.

In former days the emperor Kaoyang had eight talented sons; the world benefited by them, and they were called the eight benevolent ones. The Emperor Kaoxin had also eight talented sons, and men called them eight virtuous ones. Of these sixteen men after ages have acknowledged the excellence, and not let their names fall to the ground. In the time of Yao he was not able to raise them to office, but Shun raised the eight benevolent ones to office, and made them superintend the land department and direct all matters,arranging them according to their seasons. He also raised the right virtuous ones to office, employing them to spread throughout the country a knowledge of the duties pertaining to the five social relationships, for fathers became just, mothers loving, elder brothers sociable, younger ones respectful, and children dutiful; within the empire there was peace, and beyond it submission.

In ancient days the Emperor Hong (Huangdi) had a son devoid of ability, who shut himself off from duty, and was a vallain in secret, delighting in the practice of the worst vices, and all men called him Chaos. (The Emperor) Shaohao had a descendant devoid of ability, who overthrew good faith, hated loyalty, extolled specious and evil talk, and all the people called him Monter. Zhuanxu had a son devoid of ability, who would receive no instruction and acknowledge no good words, and all people called him Block. There three men everyone was distressed about until the time of Yao, but yao could not send them away. Jinyun had a son devoid of ability, who was greedy in eating and driking, and pursued wealth blindly. All the people called him Glutton, hated and compared him to the three other wicked men. Shun received visitors at the four gates, but banished these four wicked ones to the four borders of the empire to manage hobgolins; and those at the four gates rightly said “there were no wicked men among them.”

Shun went to the great plains at the foot of the mountains, and amid violent wind, thunder, and rain, did not go astray. Yao then knew that Shun was fit to accept the empire, and being old, caused Shun to be associated with him in the government, and when he went on a tour of inspection Shun was promoted and employed in the administration of affairs for twenty years; and Yao having drected that he should be associated in the government, he was so associated for eight years.

Yao died, and when the three years mourning was over, Shun yielded to Danzhu, but the people of the empire turned to Shun. Now Yu, Gaoyao, Xie, Houji, Poyi, Kuei, Long, Qiu, Yi, and Pengzu were all from the time of Yao promoted to office, but had not separate appointments.

Shun having then proceeded to the tmeple of the accomplished ancestor, deliberated with the president of the four mountains, threw open the four gates, and was in direct communication with officers in all four quarters of the empire, who were eyes and ears to him.

He ordered the twelve governors to talk of the Emperor’s virture, to be kind to the virtuous, and keep the artful at a distance, so that the barbarians of the south might lead on one another to be submissive.

He said to the president of the four mountains, Is there anyone who can vigorously display his merits, and beautify Yao’s undertakings, and whom I can make prime minister? They all said, ‘There is a Baron Yu, the superintendent of works,’ He can beautify the Emperor’s labours.

Shun said, ‘Ah, yes, Yu, you have put in order the water and the land, but in this matter you must exert yourself.’

Yu did obeisance with his head to the ground, while declining in favour of Millet, Xie, or Gaoyao.

Shun said, ‘Yes; but do you go and set about it.’

Shun said, ‘Qi, the black-haired people begin to be famished. Do you, Prince of Millet, sow in their seasons the various kinds of grain.’

He also said, ‘Xie, the people do not love on another, and the five orders of relationship are not observed. You, as minister of instruction, must carefully diffuse abroad those five lessons of duty, but do so with gentleness.’

He also said, ‘Gaoao, the southern babarians are disturbing the Xia region, while robbers, murderers, villains, and traitors abound. Do you, as minister of crime, exercise repression by use of the five kins of punishment – for the infliction of which there are three appointed places – and the five banishments with their several places of detention, and three degrees of distance. Be intelligent and you will inspire confidence.’

Shun said, ‘Who can direct the workmen?’ They all said ‘Chui can do it;’ so he made Chui minister of works.

Shun said, ‘Who can superintend my uplands and lowlands, pastures and woods, birds and beasts?’ They all said, ‘Yi is the man’; so Yi was made imperial forester. Yi did obeisance with his head to the ground, and declined in favour of the officials Fir, Tiger, Black Bear, and Grizzly Bear. Shun said, ‘Go and act harmoniously.’ Fir, Tiger, Black Bear, and Grizzly Bear were accordingly his assistants.

Shun said, ‘Ah! president of the four mountains, is there anyone who can superintend the three ceremonies?’ They all said, ‘Baron Yi is the man.’ Shun said, ‘Ah! Baron Yi, I will make you arranger of the ancestral Temple. Day and night be careful, be upright, be pure.’ Baron Yi declined in favour of Kuei or Long, but Shun said, ‘Let it be so,’ and made Kuei director of music and teacher of youth. ‘Be straigtforward’ (he added) ‘and yet mild; lenient and yet stern; firm, yet not tyrannical; impetuous, yet not arrogant. Poetry gives expression to the thought, and singing is the prolonged utterance of that expression. Notes accompany that utterance, and are harmonized themselves by the pitch-pipes. The eight kinds of instruments can be adjusted, so that one shall not take from or interfere with another, and spirits and men are thereby brought into harmony.’ Kuei said, ‘Oh! smite the stone; I tap the stone, and the various animals lead on one another to dance.’

Shun said, ‘Long, I dread slanderous speakers and injurious deceivers, who agitate and alarm my people. I appoint you minister of communication. Day and night you will issue and receive my orders, but be truthful.’

Shun said, ‘Ah! you twenty and two men, be reverent, and you will aid in their proper seasons the undertakings of heaven.’

Every three years there was an examination of merits, and after three examinations there were degradations and promotions both far and near.

The people’s labours generally prospered, while the people of the three Miao tribes were divided and defeated. These twenty-two all completed their labours.

Gaoyao was chief minister of crime, and the people were all subservient and obtained his genuine services. Boyi was director of ceremonies, and both upper and lower classes were retiring. Chui was head workman, and the various kinds of work were successfully accomplished. Yi was head forester, and hills and swamps were brought under cultivation. Ji was director of agriculture, and the various crops ripened in their seasons. Xie was minister of instruction, and the people were friendly together. Long superintended the foreign department, and men from afar arrived. The twelve governors did their duty, and the people of the nine provinces did not dare to rebel. But Yu’s labours consisted in making great cuttings through the nine hills, making thoroughfares through nine swamps, deepening the nine rivers, and regulating the nine provinces, each of which by their officials sent tribute, and did not lose their rightful dues. In a square of 5000li he reached the wild domain. to the south he governed Annam, Beifa; On the western the Rong tribes, Xizhi, Qushou, Di, qiang, On the north Hill Rong, Fa, Xishen, On the east the tall island barbarians(Chang, Niaoyi). All within the four seas were grateful for Emperor Shun’s labours; and Yu then performed the nine tunes, and the result was that strange creatures and pheonixes flew to and fro. Men of illustrious virtue in the empire began from the days of Empoeror Shun of Yu.

When Shun was twenty years of age he was noted for his filial piety, at thirty Yao raised him to office, at fifty he assisted in the administration of Imperial affairs, when he was fifty-eight Yao died, and when he was sixty-one he sat on the Imperial throne in Yao’s stead. After he had occupied the Imperial throne thirty-nine years, he went on hunting expedition to the south, died in the desert of Cangwu, and was buried at a place called Lingling (Broken hillocks) in the Jiuyi range in Jiangnan Province.

After Shun had come to the throne, and was flying the Imperial flag, he went to pay a visit to his father, Gusou, and addressed him in a grave and respectful manner, as a son should do. He raised his brother Xiang to the rank of prince.
shun’s son Shangjun was also degenerate, so that Shun, being prepared, recommended Yu to the notice of Heaven, and seventeen years later he died. When the three years’ mourning was over, Yu also yielded to Shun’s son just as Shun had yielded to Yao’s son, but the princes gave their allegiance to Yu, and he thereupon came to the Imperial throne. Yao’s son Danzhu, and Shun’s son Shangjun, both held territory so that they might be enabled to perform sacrifices to their ancestors; they paid the due observances, such as religious ceremonies and music, and they went to the audiences as the Emperor’s guests. The emperor did not dare, without due notification from his ministers, to act on his own responsibility.