Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety (5): Zi Lu Carried Loads of Rice to Feed His Parents

PureInsight | April 11, 2005

[] Stories about exemplary filial conduct abound in Chinese history. The Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety were chosen and compiled by Guo Jujing from the Fujian Province during the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368 CE) while he was mourning the death of his father. He recounted the feats of filial children towards their parents from the age of the primordial Emperor Shun down to his own era. Even today, these stories form an important part of orthodox Chinese virtue.

* * * * *

Zi Lu Carried Loads of Rice to Feed His Parents
Confucius's disciple, Zi Lu, was born during the Zhou Dynasty. He was a most respectful and devoted son. His family was poor, so the boy had to dig wild greens and roots from the fields in order to feed himself. Because he wanted to make sure his parents get adequate, suitable food, he often traveled a long way looking for wage-paying jobs.

Zi Lu would get up long before dawn and make a lengthy, dangerous trip into the neighboring states, seeking work. He would often travel over one hundred miles, earning what money he could, in order to buy rice and staples for his household. Then shouldering the sack of provisions, he would run back the many miles, arriving in time to cook up a nourishing meal for his parents. When the bag was empty, he would tie on his leggings and set off once again looking for work. While his parents remained on earth, Zi Lu would spare no effort to treat them with proper filial respect. Everyone considered him an unusually good-hearted example of true filial service.

After his parents died, the young man left his native land for the country of Zhou in the south. The king of Chu was impressed with Zi Lu's learning and his moral character, so he offered him a post in the civil service. Zi Lu accepted, and rose to become a high-ranking official. He was given a handsome salary and rich side-benefits for his able leadership in state affairs. Whenever he went riding in his silk-lined carriage, a retinue of one hundred chariots flanked the noble coach on four sides. His personal storehouses of grains, cloth, books, and silver covered an acre of land. Woolen blankets and thick rugs adorned his personal quarters in luxury. His dinner table was set with fine and rare delicacies.

Despite the life of affluent comfort, Zi Lu in his heart constantly pined for the days of his youth, when he was able to serve his mother and father. He would often sigh, "This wealth and honor is flavorless and depressing. How I wish I could return to the old days, when I ate field greens and carried rice on my back for Mom and Dad. How happy I was in those days! Now that my parents have left this world I can no longer fulfill my duty as a filial son...."

A verse in his honor says,
The rice bag on his back holds a rare treat for his parents;
Without a murmur of fatigue he ran those many miles.
Glory, wealth, and honor, once his parents had passed on,
Meant nothing: he only thought of the happy days gone by.

Translated from:

Add new comment