Traditional Chinese Culture (Part 3 of Filial Obedience): Coat Made of Reed Grass
Like many students of Confucius, Min Shun - also known as Ziqian - grew up in the Kingdom of Lu. His mother died when he was very young, and his father later remarried, with his stepmother soon giving birth to two boys.
She treated her two boys very well. For enduring the harsh winter months, she fashioned their coats stuffed with silk wadding, a good insulator that kept the cold at bay, even when playing outdoors for long periods of time. Yet Min Shun was given a coat stuffed with fluffy reed feather grass. This was not a good insulator, and during the harsh winters he was often frozen to the point where his face would turn blue. Yet he never complained.
One day Min Shun's father needed to go out, and asked him to drive the wagon. It was bitterly cold that day, the temperature very low, and Min Shun's coat provided little protection. His hands were frozen and numb, and his lips turned blue. As a strong gust of wind kicked up, the cold caused Min Shun's body to shake and tremble out of control. He was unable to hold the reins, and lost control of the wagon.
Knowing Min Shun was always a good driver, the father was startled by what happened and reacted harshly, whipping the boy out of anger. His blows caused Min Shun's frozen coat to break apart, with reed grass flying everywhere. As his father saw this, his face turned pale as he realized what had happened, and that his son was suffering badly from the cold.
Shocked by this realization, Min Shun's father felt deep regret, knowing it was his own fault for not taking good care of his son. Thinking his second wife was cruel in mistreating Min Shun, when they returned home he decided to divorce her, and drove her out.
Upon hearing his father's decision, Min Shun knelt down in front of his father, tears in his eyes, and begged him, saying: “With this mother, one child feels the cold; yet without this mother, all three children are orphans.” Touched by his son's words, the father changed his mind, and kept his wife.
Having experienced this and seeing Min Shun's sincere heart harboring no resentment, the stepmother deeply regretted her actions, and treated Min Shun well from that day forward.