Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety (14): Yang Xiang Wrestling with a Tiger to Save His Father

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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In the time of the Jin Dynasty, a 14-year-old boy named Yang Xiang went with his father to work in the fields each day. One morning as they climbed down to the paddies to harvest rice, from out of nowhere a large, striped tiger appeared before them. The tiger scooped up Yang Xiang's father in its mouth and headed back to the forest.

"Help! Help!" cried the boy's father.

Hearing his father's wails, Yang Xiang anxiously looked for his father. He saw the large tiger carrying the old man away. With no thought but to rescue his father from mortal danger, and completely forgetting about his own safety, the boy ran headlong after the tiger. He leapt up on the tiger's back and using every ounce of strength he choked the animal tightly by the throat. Throttled in a death-grip by Yang Xiang, the tiger fought for its breath. He had to drop the man he carried in his fangs. Frightened by the ferocity of the young boy's attack, the tiger put its tail between its legs and ran for its life.

Saved from death's door, Yang Xiang's father was in shock, but otherwise unhurt. Yang Xiang watched the tiger disappear into the forest, and then carried his father back home to recover. When news of the incident reached the neighbors, they heaped praise on the boy, calling him a heroic, filial child.

A verse in his praise says,

In the wilds they met the fierce white jaws.
Yang Xiang punched hard, and choked the smelly beast.
Delivered to safety were father and devoted son:
Snatched back alive from the tiger's mouth.

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