Examples of Filial Piety: Min Ziqian Freezes in a Grass-Padded Coat Obeying His Stepmother

Stories about exemplary filial conduct abound in Chinese history. The Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety were chosen and compiled by Guo Jujing from the Fujian Province during the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368 CE) while he was mourning the death of his father. He recounted the feats of filial children towards their parents from the age of the primordial Emperor Shun down to his own era. Even today, these stories form an important part of orthodox Chinese virtue.

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Min Ziqian Freezing in a Threadbare Coat in Obedience to His Stepmother

Min Sun was born in the Zhou Dynasty. He was also known as Min Ziqian. His mother died very early, and his father took another wife, who bore two sons. She treated her own sons very well and dressed them in silk robes padded with thick cotton. She resented Min Ziqian and dressed him in a coat padded with dry grass instead of cotton.

One icy winter day, Min Ziqian’s father had business in town. He told Min Ziquan to fetch a cart and drive him to town in the cart. The evening air was frigid, the wind blew hard, and the young boy was so cold that his entire body trembled. His hands and feet were frozen to the point of immobility. His numb fingers dropped the cart reins. His father scolded him for his clumsiness. In his anger, the father grabbed Min Ziqian’s coat-sleeve and ripped it from the jacket, revealing the dried grass lining. The father was shocked at the sight of the flimsy jacket that could not protect his son from the cold. Mr. Min suddenly recognised the pattern of cruel treatment his wife had given to his oldest son. It infuriated him so much that he flew into a rage.

He ran back into the house, yelling at the top of his lungs for his wife. She appeared and cowered before him on her knees. He angrily ordered her to leave the house and never to return. Min Ziqian knelt beside his stepmother and begged his father to give her another chance. He pleaded for leniency. “When Mother is here, only one boy has to suffer the cold. But if she goes, then three sons will suffer from cold. Please, Father, let Mother stay!”

Upon hearing that, his stepmother cried piteously in deep shame. Min Ziqian’s father decided to give her another chance and let her stay for the time being. She was so deeply touched by Min Ziqian’s kindness that her attitude toward Min Ziqian totally changed. She started to treat Min Ziqian as lovingly as she did her own sons.

A verse in honour of Min Ziqian says:

Mr. Min, the widower, has an admirable son,
Who never grudged his second mother’s hateful, wicked ways.
“Keep her here at home!” he begged, while kneeling by the cart.
“Or else three boys will suffer from the biting wind and frost.”

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