To save her father, a young girl courageously wrote a petition to the Emperor 2,000 years ago. Ban Gu (A.D. 32-92), a Chinese historian and politician, wrote a poem in her praise. The brave and kind girl was Chunyu Tiying of the Han Dynasty.
Tiying‘s father, Chunyu Yi, rose from a humble beginning in Shandong Province, China, to become a well-known physician. Although Yi was very skillful and talented in medicine, he had an erratic temper and despised powerful and wealthy people. He was so selective in taking patients that he offended many high-ranking officers and influential people. In 167 B.C., he was falsely accused of corruption and bribery. The local officers arrested him according to laws of the Han Dynasty and escorted him to the capital to stand trial.
Tiying was the youngest of Yi’s five daughters. All his children were in tears seeing their father being taken away. Looking at the weeping girls, Yi sighed: “All girls and not one son. Useless at the crucial moment!” On hearing her father’s complaint, Tiying wiped away her tears and decided to go on the arduous journey with her father.
When they arrived at the capital, Chunyu Yi was imprisoned while awaiting trial. The Han Dynasty had three cruel corporal punishments for crimes: a tattoo on the face, amputation of the nose, or cutting off the toes. Yi was very likely to get one of the three punishments, hence the reason why the whole family was so sad and worried.
Tiying decided on an innovative way to save her father. She wrote a petition to Emperor Wen. In the letter, she wrote: “My father was an officer and a physician. As an official, he was fair and honest so that local people praised him for his integrity. He now will suffer severe corporal punishment due to a false accusation. Once a man is sentenced to death and executed, he cannot come back to life. It’s terribly sad! Once a man is mutilated, he cannot regrow his limbs, meaning there is no chance for him to compensate for his mistakes. As his daughter, I am willing to redeem my father’s sin by being your servant for the rest of my life. I beg you to spare him from the corporal punishment so that he may have an opportunity to change any incorrect behaviors.”
An Emperor facing the huge undertaking that comes with governing a nation as mighty as China is very unlikely to pay attention to a young girl’s petition. Luckily, Emperor Wen was a kind and filial king, and he ruled the Han Dynasty with filial piety. Tiyng’s reasoning was very well presented and Emperor Wen was deeply moved. Not only did he pardon Tiying’s father, he also exempted Tiying from servitude and abolished the cruel corporal punishments. Benign punishments such as hard labor and whipping were implemented instead.
This is the well-known historical story of Tiying who saved her father in China. Tiying’s courageous endeavor not only freed her father, but also helped to abolish the terrible corporal punishments. Her good deed was beneficial to all generations from then on. It prompted Ban Gu to write the poem in her honor in “Yong Shi”. He wrote: “Many sons are useful, but only I have a daughter like Tiying!”
Translated by Jean Chen and edited by Helen Chantry