The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars: Lao Laizi 二十四孝：老莱子
As one of the cores of Chinese culture, "filiality" is not only the moral code for maintaining family relationships in Chinese society for thousands of years, but also the traditional virtue of Chinese Nation. A Yuan-dynasty(元朝Yuáncháo) writer Guo Jujing(郭居敬Guō Jūjìng) compiled the stories of 24 filial exemplars in ancient times and finished the Stories of Filiality. Let me introduce the 17th story to you.
Entertain the Parents with Performances
During the Spring and Autumn Period(春秋时期Chūnqiū shíqī) there lived a filial son named Old Master Lai (老莱子Lǎoláizǐ). From his youth he had always been most respectful and obedient towards his parents. He obeyed their wishes, and even took special care of their innermost thoughts, so concerned was his heart in serving them as a dutiful son. At age seventy he still earnestly made offerings to the elderly couple, who had reached such a lengthy life span due to his filial devotion. He kept them warm in winter, cool in summer, and fed them soft foods, that were easy to digest in their toothless mouths. Old Master Lai, wanting to keep his parents' spirits high, never mentioned the word "old" in their hearing. When he overheard the old friends lamenting one day, "Look at our son, he's already in his dotage! Surely our own days must be drawing to a close!", his heart could not endure the helpless feelings that arose. "I must find a way to lighten their hearts!" he vowed. Determined to keep his parents from lamenting over their increasing years, he hit upon a plan.
Old Master Lai dressed up in the costume of a young child at the circus, or imitate the walk and manner of a mischievous boy at play. He would paint on comic opera make-up and carry a flower drum, horse-playing and cutting comic antics in front of his delighted parents' eyes. To tickle their funny-bone he would take a toy in hand and mimic a child's nonsense prattle, singing and dancing, and falling in a heap. Sometimes he would carry a pole into the sitting room that balanced two full buckets of water. Singing a silly tune he would trip up on purpose, sending water showering over the floor and soaking his foolish-looking wig and face-powder. His ridiculous show never failed to send the old folks into gales of laughter. Playing the fool always dispelled his elders' Periods of melancholy, and made them happy for days. Even though he was not a youngster, he was able to dutifully care for the physical health and mental well-being of his seniors. This was his first priority in life.
Lao Laizi's filial devotion impressed all who heard of it, and he received unreserved praise as an unusual example of perfect respect and proper affection.
A verse in his honor says,
He cut a comic caper, and played the merry fool, The Spring breeze fluttered his flower-drum gown. The old folks laughed with toothless glee; The sounds of their delight filled the air with joy.
The next story: Leave Better Food for Mother