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The twenty-four filial exemplars

2013-10-10 13:52:10



Laboring For His Mother: Jiang Ge

During the Later Han Dynasty, a filial son named Jiang Ge supported his widowed mother. As his father had passed on years ago, the son and mother got along as best they could. Bandit gangs roamed the countryside nearby, and Jiang Ge resolved to take his mother to safety, far from the chaos and trouble of his home. Having no cart or horse, the young man simply carried his mother on his back along the highway, escaping the onslaught of the brigands. As luck would have it they promptly ran into first one, then another group of rebels. When the leaders demanded that Jiang Ge join their number, the young filial son knelt down and pleaded for mercy, crying, "If I run off with you, my old mother will starve. She needs me to take care of her; please let us travel on in peace."

Touched by his sincere plea, the bandits would always let them go. Traveling in this way, the two eventually reached the county of Xiabi in Jiangsu province. They had spent all their money, and their clothing had grown tattered and torn beyond repair. Lacking relatives in Jiangsu to support them, mother and son could only fashion a lean-to of grass and camp out with the other refugees from the civil war to the North.

Jiang Ge would go out each morning in search of odd jobs. Whatever bits of cash he earned would go to supporting his mother in the style she was accustomed to before her husband had passed on. Jiang Ge wore ragged clothes and went barefoot, he are wild greens and broken rice himself, but the clothing and food he provided for his mother was the finest he could afford. He was not the least bit remiss in the care of his mother. Their neighbors praised his selflessness in service to his mother, and urged him to relax the ascetic hardship he imposed upon himself. Jiang Ge would only smile, and say, "A son's duty is to care for his parents."

At long last he found a secure, salary-paying job that promised a comfortable living for his mother. Peace had returned to their home-land by this time, and his mother wished to return. The ride in a horse-drawn cart would have proved too strenuous for her, so Jiang Ge passed over the good job that could have brought him a luxurious life. Instead he found a sturdy cart, settled his mother comfortably within, and pulled it himself all the way back home. Good people all along the way praised his devotion as a genuine model of filial compliance.

A verse in his praise says,

     Bearing mother on his back, he fled the troubled land.
     Evil bandits caught them on the road.
     A plea for mercy saved their lives, as always,
     He labored hard to treat his mother well.

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