Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety (15): Zhu Shouchang Resigning Office to Search for His Mother

PureInsight | May 2, 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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During the Song Dynasty, there was a man named Zhu Shouchang. His mother was a concubine. His father's first wife, consumed by jealousy over the concubine's being favored by her husband, drove his mother out of the house when he was seven, thereby cutting off contact between Shouchang and his mother.

Zhu Shouchang grew up and served the Song Dynasty's Emperor Shenzong as a government official. Suddenly one day he felt an overwhelming impulse to find his real mother and take care of her. This impulse continued to grow, until he decided to quit his post in the civil service and set off in search of her. His filial quest led him through torrenticcccal rains and gale winds, as he traveled on, asking everybody he met for news of his mother. Although he found no trace of her, he never gave up hope. His desire to find his mother only deepened.

One day a man told him that his mother was living in the nearby Shan Prefecture in today's Shaanxi province. Delighted with the news, Shouchang hurried to Shan Prefecture, and arrived after enduring great toil and suffering. Having traveled so fast, he fainted by the roadside near the outskirts of town. A crowd soon gathered, and someone gave him a cup of ginger tea to revive him. The townspeople asked, "Where are you from?" "What is your business that you overexerted this way?"

He told the whole story to the crowd, and related all that he had experienced in search of his mother. From the midst of the throng stepped an old woman.

"You are my son! I haven't seen you for fifty years!" cried the lady, her voice choked with tears of joy. The weary traveler, having realized his heart's desire, happily embraced his mother and shortly thereafter took her home to care for her properly.

A verse in his honor says,

He said good-bye to his mother at age seven,
He served the land with skill for fifty years.
One day he wished to see his long-lost mother,
His journey done, they both wept joyful tears.

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