Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety (24): Huang Tingjian Scrubbed His Mother's Chamber Pot Daily

PureInsight | May 16, 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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Huang Tingjian was a well-known calligrapher, poet, and filial son who lived during the Song Dynasty. As a man of literature, his fame was well-established during his time. No matter the style of poetry, essays, or calligraphy, his work met with popular acclaim. Su Dongpo was his contemporary, and the two men were known as "The Poets Su and Huang."

During the Huangyou reign period of Emperor Song Renzong, Huang Tingjian served China as "Chief Historian." His duty was to chronicle the astronomical events of the period, and to regulate the calendars of the Empire. Despite his high status, he was not arrogant or haughty. His nature, on the contrary, was respectful and compliant, especially in his filial regard for his mother. Although he had a houseful of servants, when it came to serving his mother, regardless of the chore, he insisted on performing it himself. He never required a servant or family staff person to wait on his mother. Every evening he would personally scrub the toilet bucket his mother had used during the previous day.

His reason for seeing to this business himself was that since parents raise children to adulthood, sparing no efforts in accomplishing this difficult and often troublesome task, the children in turn, by rights should personally see to the care of their parents. They should not pass the job on to others.

A verse in his honor says;
His noble virtue; known both far and near;
His life-long joy: service to his kin.
He never asked the hired staff to share
The jobs that rightly, filial sons should bear.

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