“The Three Character Classic” – Unit 5

Zheng Jian Editing Group for Chinese Culture Teaching Materials

PureInsight | March 29, 2011

Unit 5


香(xiāng) 九(jiǔ) 齡(líng),能(néng) 溫(wēn) 席(xí),
孝(xiào) 於(yú) 親(qīn),所(suǒ) 當(dāng) 執(zhí)。
融(róng) 四(sì) 歲(suì),能(néng) 讓(ràng) 梨(lí),
弟(tì) 於(yú) 長(zhǎng),宜(yí) 先(xiān) 知(zhī)。


(1) 香(xiāng):Huang Xiang, a boy in the Eastern Han Dynasty
(2) 九齡(jiǔ líng):nine years old
(3) 溫(wēn):keep warm
(4) 席(xí):mat, woven with straw
(5) 親(qīn):parents
(6) 當(dāng):should
(7) 執(zhí):do something
(8) 融(róng):Kong Rong, a literary talent in the Eastern Han Dynasty
(9) 讓(ràng):yield to others, give priority out of courtesy
(10) 弟(tì):same as「悌」, brotherly love
(11) 長(zhǎng):brothers, seniors
(12) 宜(yí):should

Text Translation

When Huang Xiang was nine years old, he prepared his father’s sleeping mat and bedding by warming it with his own body during the cold winter nights. It is what children should do to show filial piety to their parents. At the age of four, Kong Rong, the youngest in the family, knew the importance of giving priority to seniors. Because he was the youngest in the family, he was given the first turn to pick a pear to eat. He chose a small one so that his brothers could have a chance to eat the bigger pears. It is what younger brothers and sisters should do to show their affection to elder brothers and sisters.


Discussion Question

1. Why do we have to show filial piety and concern for our parents, brothers, and sisters? Do you practice filial piety yourself? If not, why?
2. Confucius said: “Filial piety and brotherly love are the basics of benevolence.” Do you agree?


Huang Xiang: A Filial Son

Huang Xiang was a boy during the Eastern Han Dynasty. Since childhood, he was recognized for his filial piety toward his parents and was called the “Little Loyal Son.” When he was nine years old, his mother passed away. After that, he was even more filial to his father, everyday shouldering all the tasks requiring the most physical strength so that his father could rest more. He tried every possible way to make his father lead a more comfortable life.

In the summer, the weather was scorching hot and there were many mosquitoes. Huang Xiang knew his father was sensitive to the heat and could not fall asleep because of it, as well as the biting mosquitoes. So, every night before his father went to bed, he fanned his father’s pillow and mat to cool them and to expel the pests. In the cold winter, for fear of his father getting a chill, he warmed the bedding and mat for his father before bedtime.

Soon, stories of his loyalty toward his father spread throughout the entire capital. A common praise for him was, “Huang Xiang, the child in Jiang Xia, unparalleled in the world.” It meant that no one else in the world could be more filial toward their parents than Huang Xiang. The Minister Superintendent then presented a request to the Emperor to praise Huang Xiang’s virtue.

A poem was also composed to praise Huang Xiang’s filial piety. It goes:

“In winter warming the bed,
In summer cooling the mat,
A lad doing filial duties,
’Tis Huang Xiang for centuries.”

Note: 衾(qīn):Quilt, identical in sound with「 親 」.

Kong Rong: Giving Priority to Seniors

Kong Rong was a writer of literary talent in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Since childhood, he knew the virtue of giving priority to seniors. At the age of four, his father let him have the first turn to pick a pear from a fruit gift basket. Kong Rong chose the smallest of the pears. Curious about his decision, his father asked him, “My son, why did you pick such a small pear and not a bigger one?” Kong Rong replied, “I am the youngest, so I should eat the least. My brothers are older than I, so they should get larger pears.” Because of Kong Rong’s considerate deed, the whole family regarded him with special fondness.

Writing Reflection

1. What is your reflection on the above two stories?
2. What is your birth order in the family? How would you cope with conflicts between your brothers and sisters?

Traditional Chinese: http://big5.zhengjian.org/articles/2007/2/2/42073.html
Simplified Chinese: http://search.zhengjian.org/zj/articles/2007/2/2/42073.html



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