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China Perspectives
The Twenty-four Paragons of Filtal Piety 13

Number Thirteen
Burying His Son To Save His Mother: Guo Ju

Guo Ju lived during the Han Dynasty with his wife, his aging mother, and their three-year-old son. The household was extremely poor, and the four of them often found it difficult to make ends meet. There was rarely enough food to go around. The grandmother, being fond of the baby, would often take her scanty portion of food and feed it to her grandson. She never got enough nutrition and frequently went hungry. As the baby grew, the elderly woman"s health deteriorated, and before long, she fell sick.

Since Guo Ju could afford neither nutritious food nor medicine to heal his mother, his heart felt great consternation. He discussed the situation with his wife, saying, "We are unfilial children. We can"t feed our mother properly, and now she is sick! What are we going to do?" His wife had no solution. Guo Ju couldn"t sleep at night, wrestling with his problem. His heart was agitated and upset.

In desperation, finally he resolved to part with his own son, in order to serve his first allegiance, his mother, in proper fashion, during the final days of her life. "Perhaps we can have more children in the future," he told his wife, "but mother in her old age deserves our best offerings and care. Don"t you agree?"

Guo Ju"s wife, although she loved her infant son, was also a devoted filial daughter. Nodding her head and weeping with grief, she agreed to go along with the heart-rending solution to their problem. The two of them carried the infant into the back yard, and with a planter"s hoe, Guo Ju dug a hole in the earth. Before he had dug down three feet, he heard a loud thunk! and felt something solid beneath the hoe-blade. He dug more carefully, and unearthed a sturdy metal chest. Opening the cover, to their astonishment, they discovered a pile of golden coins and silver bars, worth a king"s ransom. "Oh, look!" the husband and wife exclaimed. Written on top of the casket was a sentence: "A gift to the filial son Guo Ju."

The couple took the fortune in gold to the local magistrate, but owing to the inscription on the lid, and the unusual circumstances surrounding its appearance, the government officials returned the money to the husband and wife. Guo Ju promptly found a doctor and medicine for his mother, and was able to keep his son alive. The family ever after had sufficient supply of life"s necessities and enjoyed the blessings due to filial children.

A verse in his honor says,

Guo Ju wished to .serve his aging mother;
He buried his son, so that she might live,
The gods rewarded him with golden coins;
Their brilliant gleam lit up his humble hut.

 
   
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