A Story of Filial Piety

The rich man's son took over the work of managing the warehouse, and he was very cautious in his style of work. The image is of the granary in Fang Liangcai's work entitled 'Ploughing and Weaving.' (Image:  National Palace Museum  /  CC0 1.0)
The rich man's son took over the work of managing the warehouse, and he was very cautious in his style of work. The image is of the granary in Fang Liangcai's work entitled 'Ploughing and Weaving.' (Image: National Palace Museum / CC0 1.0)

Zhang Xiaoji was a scholar of Xuchang in the Song Dynasty. When he grew up, a rich man in the village acknowledged his talent and offered his daughter in marriage to Zhang. This rich man had only one son, who was spoiled and wandered around wasting money. One day, the rich man saw him do nothing useful all day and behaving very badly. In anger, he drove his son out of the house and broke his father-son relationship with him.

Later, the rich man became seriously ill. Seeing that son-in-law Zhao Xiaoji was kind-hearted, the rich man gave all his property to Zhang before he died. Xiaoji buried his father-in-law like he was the man’s own son. He followed his father-in-law’s will and managed his family well.

Xiaoji followed his father-in-law’s will and managed his family well. The image is part of the work entitled ‘December Order,’ painted during the Qing Dynasty. (Image: National Palace Museum / CC0 1.0)

After the rich boy was driven out of the house, he became a beggar in the village. Since he could not support himself, he had to beg for a living. One day, when he was begging, he happened to run into Zhang Xiaoji. He did not recognize Xiaoji, but Xiaoji recognized him. If it were a normal person, Xiaoji could have pretended not to know him and leave quietly But Xiaoji did not do that.

Seeing the rich man’s son was so desolate, he couldn’t bear it in his heart. He asked: “Can you take care of the garden?” The son of the rich man said: “If I can make a living by taking care of the garden, then it is good.” Xiaoji let him water the vegetables and take care of the garden. The rich man’s son did a good job. Gradually, he was no longer poor and was able to support himself.

Xiaoji gave his father’s property to his own property and returned it to his son. The image is Tang Yin’s painting entitled ‘Tongyin Gaoshi Map.’ (Image: National Palace Museum / CC0 1.0)

When Xiaoji saw the change, he was a little surprised. He asked the rich man’s son again: “Can you manage the warehouse?” The son said: “I am very fortunate that you let me take care of the garden. Now you want me to manage the warehouse — that would be great.” So the son of this rich man took over the work of managing the warehouse, and he was very cautious in his work. He was very disciplined and did not have any faults.

After carefully observing the situation for a period of time, Xiaoji knew that the rich man’s son had been rehabilitated and no longer had the problems of eating, drinking, and playing. He returned his father-in-law’s property to the son.

Although Xiaoji legally inherited his father-in-law’s property, when the father-in-law’s son was poor, Xiaoji wholeheartedly helped him to rehabilitate, so that he could inherit his father’s business. Xiaoji then returned all his father-in-law’s properties to the son instead of keeping them himself.

Translated by Sharon Koumans

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