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The Twenty-four Paragons of Filtal Piety 4

Number Four
Clad In A Threadbare Jacket, He Tolerated His Cruel Stepmother: Min Ziqian

Confucius"s disciple, Min Ziqian was foremost in filial respect. His mother died early, and his father remarried, but to a woman who mistreated her stepson. Because he was not her natural child, she gave him only cruel words and harsh treatment. Min Ziqian often went cold and hungry, and suffered from loneliness, as his stepmother gave all her love and attention to her own two sons.

When the weather turned cold, the second Mrs. Min made her two sons warm coats padded with warm cotton linings. She gave Min Ziqian a coat stuffed only with dry rushes. From the outside the two coats looked alike, but the one stuffed with reeds was not warm at all. It neither blocked the biting wind, nor kept out the stinging cold. His only jacket being so thin, Min Ziqian was always shivering and miserable in the cold.

One icy winter day, Min Ziqian"s father had business in town, and told the boy to fetch the horse and cart from the stable. The evening air was frigid, the wind blew hard, and the young boy was so cold that his entire body trembled. His hands and feet were frozen to the point of immobility. His numb fingers dropped the cart reins, and his father scolded him for his clumsiness.

In his anger the man grabbed Ziqians coat-sleeve and ripped it from the jacket, revealing the dried grass lining. He was shocked at the sight of the flimsy jacket that could not protect his son from the cold. Mr. Min suddenly recognized the pattern of cruel treatment his wife had given his boy. He understood at once the injustice of her harshness, and it infuriated him so that he flew into a rage.

He ran back into the house, yelling at the top of his lungs for his wife. She appeared and cowered before him on her knees. He angrily ordered her to leave the house and never return. Min Ziqian knelt beside his stepmother and begged his father to give her another chance. He pleaded for leniency. "When my mother is here only one boy has to suffer the cold. But if she goes, then three sons will have no one to care for them. Please, Father, let her stay!"

At this, his stepmother cried piteously in deep shame. She was so deeply touched that her attitude totally changed. She turned over a new leaf, and ever after treated Min Ziqian as lovingly as she did her own sons.

A verse in his honor says,

Mr. Min, the widower, has a worthy son;
Who never grudged his second mother"s hateful, wicked ways.
"Keep her here at home!", he begged, while kneeling by the cart.
"Or else three boys will suffer from the biting wind and frost."

 
   
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