Picking Mulberries For His Mother: Cai Shun
During the Han Dynasty, there lived a devoted son named Cai Shun, whose father passed away when the boy was quite young. He and his mother relied on each other to survive the days and years. Wang Mang had just usurped the throne at that time, and the entire country was in great commotion, suffering a famine, a drought, and a civil war in progress all at once. The people suffered from these dire calamities, many families starved, and those who could manage to do so, were forced into the fields to forage wild plants and roots for food. Often, decent men turned to banditry and robbery, just to pass this time of hardship. The roads were infested with gangs of thieves; the forests were havens for the homeless and the desperate.
One day Cai Shun took two wicker baskets out into the woods to gather mulberries for his mother. Beneath the trees he ran into two wicked looking robbers. They were carrying long sharp swords and their faces were cruel and dark.
"Hey kid, don't you want to live? How do you dare invade the big Boss's territory?" shouted the biggest of the bandits. Little Cai Shun was scared speechless. The smaller bandit looked closely at the boy's work, planning to eat anything of value. "Child, why are you tossing that fruit into two baskets?" Cai Shun answered in a trembling voice: "The black mulberries are riper and sweeter. I give those to my mother. The red ones are not ripe, but sour. Those I eat myself, sir. I hope you two gentlemen will not kill me or else my mother won't have anybody to look after her."
The boy's earnest simplicity and honest answer touched the two thugs' heart of compassion. Remembering their own parents' suffering, they decided not to harm Cai Shun. Instead they supplied him with food and drink, and released him back to his mother.
A verse in his praise says:
The black mulberries went to feed his mother,
Whose blouse was stained with tears from hunger's pain;
The red-browed thugs heard his filial thoughts:
Then gave him meat and rice and set him free.