Carrying Loads of Rice to Feed His Parents: Zi Lu
Confucius's disciple, Zi Lu, was born to the Jung family during the Zhou Dynasty. His given name was You, and he was a most filial, devoted son. His family was poor, and the boy had to dig wild greens and roots from the fields in order to feed himself. Because he wished his parents to have adequate, suitable food, he had to travel long miles, out of the poverty-stricken neighborhood, where so many families were forced to forage for their meals, in order to find a wage-paying job.
You would rise long before dawn every week, and lay aside enough dried fruits, roots, and vegetables for his parents' table that week, and then make a lengthy, dangerous trip into the neighboring states, seeking work. He would often travel over one hundred miles, earning what money he could, in order to buy rice and staples for his household. Then shouldering the sack of provisions, he would run back the many miles, arriving in time to cook up a nourishing meal for the Jung elders. When the bag was empty, he would tie up his leggings and set off once more for the market towns. While his parents remained on earth, Zi Lu would spare no effort to treat them with proper filial respect. Everyone considered him an unusually good-hearted example of true filial service.
After his parents died, the young man left his native land for the country of Chu in the south. The king of Chu was impressed with Jung You's learning, and with his righteous character, and offered him a post in the civil service. Zi Lu accepted, and soon grew quite wealthy, drawing a handsome salary and rich side benefits for his able leadership of state affairs. Whenever he went riding in his silk-lined carriage, a retinue of one hundred chariots flanked the royal coach on four sides. His personal storehouses of grains, cloth, books, and silver covered an acre of land. Woolen blankets and thick rugs adorned his personal quarters in luxury. His dinner table was set with fine and rare delicacies.
Despite the life of affluent comfort, Zi Lu in his heart constantly pined for the days of his youth, when he was able to serve his mother and father. He would often sigh, "This wealth and honor is flavorless, and depressing. How I wish I could return to the old days, when I ate field-greens and carried rice on my back for Mom and Dad. How happy I was in those days!. Now that my parents have left this world I can no longer fulfill my duty as a filial son ...."
A verse in his honor says,
The rice bag on his back holds a rare treat for his parents;
Without a murmur of fatigue he ran those many miles.
Glory, wealth, and honor, once his parents had passed on,
Meant nothing: he only thought of the happy days gone by.