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China Perspectives
The Twenty-four Paragons of Filtal Piety 24

Number Twenty-four
Personally Scrubbing His Mother"s Chamber-pot: Huang Tingjian.

Huang Tingjian was a well-known calligrapher, poet, and filial son who lived during the Song Dynasty. His pseudonym was Huang Shangu. As a man of letters, his fame was well-established during his lifetime. No matter the style of poetry, essays, or calligraphy, his work met with popular acclaim. Su Dongpo was his colleague, and the two men were known as "The Poets Su and Huang."

During the Yuanyou reign Period of the Song Zhezong Emperor, Huang Tingjian served China as "Chief Historian." His duty was to chronicle the astronomical events of the Period, and to regulate the calendars of the Empire. Despite his high status, he was not arrogant, or haughty. His nature, on the contrary, was respectful and compliant, especially in his filial regard for his mother. Although he had a houseful of servants, when it came to serving his mother, regardless of the chore, he insisted on performing it himself. He never required a servant or family staff person to wait on his mother. Every night he personally scrubbed out the chamber-pot his mother had used during the previous day.

His reason for seeing to this business himself was that since parents raise children to adulthood, sparing no efforts in accomplishing this difficult and often troublesome task, the children in turn, by rights should personally see to the care of their parents. They should not pass the job on to others.

A verse in his honor says;

His noble virtue; known both far and near;
His life-long joy: service to his kin.
He never asked the hired staff to share
The jobs that rightly, filial sons should bear.


 
   
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