Stories form Ancient China: The Value of Marriage in Ancient China

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This is the story of a scholar, Liu Tingshi, of the Qi Prefecture (today's Shandong Province) in China's Northern Song Dynasty (960 - 1279 AD). After Liu passed the provincial level of the civil service examination, he was appointed as a mid-level government official in the Tong Prefecture, a rather distinguished achievement at the time. Su Dongpo (1037 - 1101 AD), one of the most famous Chinese literary giants in Chinese history, was the governor of the Tong Prefecture at the time. Su Dongpo thought highly of Liu Tingshi because of Liu's character and gave him important assignments.

Before Liu Tingshi passed the provincial level of the civil service examination, he met a civilian lady in his town and proposed marriage to her. But the engagement was not official because Liu had not paid her parents the bridal price to make it official.

Later Liu Tingshi won the provincial level of the civil service examination, became a mid-level government official, and was highly regarded by Su Dongpo, the famous literary giant. Everyone knew Liu Tingshi was a promising young man with a lot of prospects in his career. However, the lady became seriously ill and lost her eyesight completely. The lady's parents were poor farmers and so they felt she was unworthy of marrying Liu and didn't dare to bring up the subject of the engagement.

A friend of Liu tried to talk him out of marrying the lady. "She is blind now. Why don't you find someone else to marry for the sake of your career and future family life? If you must marry someone from that family, marry her younger sister."

Liu Tingshi replied, "When I proposed to her, I had already given her my heart. She may be blind, but her heart is intact. If I could break my promise, then my heart must be warped. Besides, everyone will become old one day. When a man's wife becomes old, he shouldn't replace her with a younger one, should he? A man must be true to his word. I must not have a change of heart."

Thus Liu Tingshi married the blind lady. After they got married, Liu Tingshi tried his best to take care of his blind wife. They got along very well and were devoted to one another. Together they raised several children.

After Su Dongpo heard the story, he was deeply touched. He commented, "Liu Tingshi truly has a noble heart!"

Family life is the cornerstone of a nation and a society. To nurture family life is to ensure the stability, robustness, and prosperity of a nation and a society. Marriage, in turn, is the cornerstone of family life. To nurture marriage is to guarantee a harmonious, united, and healthy family. A person's character and morality, in turn, are the cornerstone of a couple's relationship. Both husband and wife should be honest, trustworthy, and kind, and they should respect and love each other in order to have a happy marriage. In short, it is imperative to enhance a person's morality and to have everyone be kind, sincere, honest, and tolerant.

I would like to share the following pearls of wisdom from the East and the West:

It says in The Book of Later Han: "Do not forget the friend you made when you were in trouble or cast aside the wife who shared hard times with you." (Note: The Book of Later Han was compiled by Fan Ye in the 5th century, using a number of earlier histories and documents as sources. It covers the history of the Eastern Han Dynasty from 25 to 220 CE)

Wei Zheng said, "Those who bestow kindness on others will receive kindness in return. Those who are charitable to others will receive charity in time of need." (Note: Wei Zheng was one of the most admired politicians in Chinese history. He was a chancellor in the Tang Dynasty for about 13 years, during the reign of Emperor Taizong.)

Plato wrote in Symposium, "Evil is the vulgar lover who loves the body rather than the soul, inasmuch as he is not even stable, because he loves a thing which is in itself unstable, and therefore when the bloom of youth which he was desiring is over, he takes wing and flies away, in spite of all his words and promises; whereas the love of the noble disposition is life-long, for it becomes one with the everlasting." (Note: The Symposium is a philosophical dialogue written by Plato sometime after 385 BC. It is a discussion on the nature of love, taking the form of a series of speeches, both satirical and serious, given by a group of men at a symposium or drinking party at the house of the tragedian Agathon in Athens.)

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