Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety (20): Carp Leapt Out of a Bubbling Spring

PureInsight | May 23, 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 Shi was a filial son who lived during China's Han Dynasty. Mr. and Mrs. Jiang were both devoted to serving Mr. Jiang's elderly mother. The elder woman had a curious habit in that she didn't like to drink water from the well. She preferred river water, because the rapid current of the river produced cleaner water, and she found the flavor was much better than the well water.

The nearest river was over six miles from the family home, but Mrs. Jiang volunteered to travel the distance every day with buckets in hand to carry back fresh river water for her mother-in-law. No one ever heard her complain of the trouble involved; she was glad to serve her mother-in-law.

Jiang Shi's mother also enjoyed eating fresh fish. In order to comply with her wishes, Mr. and Mrs. Jiang Shi would bring back fresh fish from the river as well, and then prepare it the way she liked it. Further, they would invite all the elderly women from the neighborhood to enjoy the meal with their mother because she enjoyed having company for dinner.

Mr. and Mrs. Jiang Shi went on many years in this way, and they never expressed dislike or resentment over the toil. One day a spring gushed up right behind the house, and its flavor was just like that of running river water. Strange as it may seem, two carp would leap out of the spring each day, as if waiting for Mrs. Jiang Shi to gather them in for the meal. Ever after, the couple did not have to travel so far to serve their mother, and without as much tiring effort, they could still bring her river-water and fresh fish.

A verse in their honor says,
The son delights in his filial regard;
The daughter, too, finds service not too hard;
Every morning carp came leaping out
Of the sweet-dew spring in their back yard.

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