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The twenty-four filial exemplars

2013-10-10 13:52:10



Bringing Deer's Milk To His Ailing Parents: Young Master Tan

During China's Spring and Autumn Period, there was a filial son in the Tan family whose name has not been recorded. People simply referred to him as Young Master Tan, or Tanzi. While he was quite young, both his parents came down with an eye disease that the doctors said could only be cured by giving them deer's milk to drink. As the family was very poor, and milk was both rare and expensive, the young lad was upset and worried that he would be unable to provide the medicine that could cure his mother and father. Wandering out in the mountains, he pondered the situation, but couldn't come up with a solution. There in the meadow before him, a herd of deer grazed. The does stood patiently while the spring's crop of young fawns frolicked and ran, then returned to their mothers to nurse on milk.

'That's it!" exclaimed Master Tan. "I'll get my folks deer's milk!" The next morning, dressed in a deer's skin, with head, tail and fur, Tanzi set off for the mountain meadow, bucket in hand. When the young deer ran, Tanzi ran beside them. When they grazed, he stood and grazed. When they came to the does for milk, Tanzi nursed too, only the milk went into his bucket, not into his stomach.

When the day was over, Tanzi carefully walked back down the mountain, carrying a full bucket of milk, delighted with the success of his plan. His parents were overjoyed to have deer's milk to drink, and praised their clever, considerate, and resourceful boy. The next day, Young Master Tan returned to the meadow and again played with the fawns, and again returned home at sunset with a bucket of milk. So it continued for weeks, and his parents began to recover their sight, thanks to their filial son's dutiful sacrifice on the mountainside.

One day as Tanzi was playing amid the young deer, the herd leaders suddenly bleated, picked up their white tails, and ran for the trees. The herd followed in fear, leaving Tan Dz alone in the middle of the meadow. He looked towards the path and saw why the deer had fled. A fierce-looking hunter, bow in hand, stood in the shade, prepared to shoot some venison.

Arrows began to zip past Tanzi's ears, their deadly whistle much too close for comfort. The boy quickly stood up, threw back his deer-skin cloak and loudly shouted, "I'm a person, not a deer. Don't shoot !" The hunter was shocked. "Hey, Boy, what are you doing here in the woods! I nearly killed you! Why are you dressed up like that?"

Tanzi answered, "My parents are sick and need deer's milk to drink in order to recover. I come here to milk the does, disguised as a deer." Deeply impressed, the hunter said softly, "You are certainly a rare child, to go to so much trouble for your parents. But this is dangerous! If you had waited one minute longer to reveal your identity, I would have shot you down. Be more careful in the future!" After this warning, the hunter escorted Young Master Tan safely out of the forest and back home.

A verse in his honor says,

     His parents needed milk, their eyes to cure,
     He robed his body in a suit of fur.
     If he had failed to shout aloud, "Don't shoot!"
     The hunter would have killed him for a deer.

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