Yan Ying, also known as Yan Zi (578-500 B.C.), was a famous philosopher and diplomat born in present-day Gaomi County, Shandong Province during the Spring-Autumn Period (771-476 B.C.). He served as the prime minister to Qi Jing Gong, the 26th Lord of the Qi State. Yan Zi was highly respected by Lord Jing Gong.
One afternoon, Lord Jing Gong visited Yang Zi’s home. While there, Jing Gong noticed an old woman at the home. He asked Yang: “Is that your wife?” Yang replied: “Yes, that is!” Jing Gong smiled and said: “She is old and ugly. I have a young and beautiful daughter. Why don’t you marry her?”
Upon hearing this offer, Yang Zi stood up, bowed to Jing Gong, and said: “My Lord, even though my wife is now old and not beautiful anymore, I have lived with her for decades. I have seen her beauty when she was young. Besides, she committed her whole life, from a beautiful young woman to an old lady whose beauty has faded, to our marriage. I married her in her prime through proper procedures and solemn ceremonies. She has made many contributions to me; how can I betray her commitment upon your glorious offer?”
Yang bowed again and again to show his determination. On seeing Yang’s insistence on retaining the husband and wife bond, Jing Gong dropped his idea.
On another occasion, a minister of Qi, Ten Wu Yu, saw Yang’s wife and tried to persuade Yang Zi to drop her and said: “I heard that abandoning an old wife is unlawful, and marrying a young beauty as a concubine is lustful. Sex over justice and wealth over morals are against God’s will. It is not possible for me to be promiscuous, ignorant of morals, and rebellious to traditional disciplines.”
Translated by Jean Chen