Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety (8): Jiang Ge Labored to Provide for His Mother

PureInsight | April 18, 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.

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Jiang Ge Labored to Provide for His Mother

During the Later Han Dynasty, there was a filial son named Jiang Ge. Both his father and grandfather were government officials. He was very bright. When he was six years old, he could already read and understand difficult essays. When he was nine years old, his family ran into serious financial problems. His father passed away when Jiang Ge was 16 years old, and the family became very poor.

Jiang Ge worked hard to provide for his mother. A civil war broke out, and bandit gangs roamed the countryside nearby. Jiang Ge resolved to take his mother to safety, far from the chaos and trouble of his hometown. Having no cart or horse, the young man simply carried his mother on his back along the back mountain road, hoping to escape unnoticed by the bandits. As luck would have it, they promptly ran into first one, then another group of bandits. Each time the young filial son knelt down and pleaded for mercy, crying, "If you kill me my elderly mother will starve to death. She needs me to take care of her. Please let us travel on in peace." Touched by his sincere plea, the bandits would always let them go. Traveling in this way, the two eventually reached the county of Xia Bi in Jiangsu Province.

By that time, they had spent all their money, and their clothing had grown tattered and torn beyond repair. The mother and the son built a grass hut and camped out with the other refugees from the civil war to the North. Each morning Jiang Ge would go out in search of odd jobs. Whatever bits of cash he earned would go to supporting his mother in the style she was accustomed to before her husband had passed on. Jiang Ge wore ragged clothes and went barefooted, he ate wild greens and broken rice, but the clothing and food he provided for his mother was the finest he could afford. He was extremely attentive to his mother. Their neighbors praised his selflessness in service to his mother, and urged him to relax the severe hardship he had imposed upon himself. Jiang Ge would only smile and say, "A son's duty is to care for his parents."

At long last he found a secure, salary-paying job in Jiangsu Province that promised a comfortable living for his mother. Meanwhile, peace had returned to the country. Because his mother wished to return to their hometown, Jiang Ge passed over the good job that could have brought him a good life. Moreover, the ride in a horse-drawn cart would have proved too strenuous for her. So Jiang Ge found a sturdy cart, settled his mother comfortably within, and pulled it himself all the way back home. Good people all along the way praised his devotion as a genuine model of filial compliance.

A verse in his praise says,
Bearing mother on his back, he fled the troubled land.
Evil bandits caught them on the road.
A plea for mercy saved their lives, as always,
He labored hard to treat his mother well.

During the reign of Emperor Zhang, Jiang Ge was recommended to the emperor for his outstanding moral characters and became an official in the royal court.

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