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The Book of Filial Duty, by Ivan Chen, [1908], at


Gnawing her Finger pained his Heart

During the Chou dynasty there lived a lad named Tsêng Ts‘an, a disciple of Confucius, who served

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his mother very dutifully. Tsêng was in the habit of going to the hills to collect faggots; and once, while he was thus absent, many guests came to his house, towards whom his mother was at a loss to know how to act. She, while expecting her son, who delayed his return, began to gnaw her fingers. Tsêng suddenly felt a pain in his heart, and took up his bundle of faggots in order to return home; and when he saw his mother, he kneeled and begged to know what was the cause of her anxiety. She replied: "There have been some guests here who came from a great distance, and I bit my finger in order to arouse you to return to me."

The faculties of mind and body in both mother and son sprang originally from the same source, and are alike; but in common men this connection is broken and interrupted, and they are dull and stupid. Those sages whose nature is heavenly differ from the rest of mankind; and virtue, as in a breath, permeates their whole souls. At a certain time, when Tsêng was absent to collect faggots, visitors came and knocked at his door in great haste; and as there was no man at home ready to receive them, his mother was much grieved. He had entered the dense fog on the hills and did not know where he was, when his mother leaned against the door-post and gnawed her fingers as if she would go in quest of him. Her son in the hills is suddenly

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seized with a pain in his heart, and quickly takes up his bundle of faggots to return; although distant, he sympathises with his mother's grief and complaint. The hearts of mother and son are mutually affected, one influencing the other, in the same manner as the amber draws small straws and the loadstone attracts the slender needle. From the remotest period sages have been able to control their dispositions, and in the deepest silence have revolved their actions as in a breath. The moving influence that such minds have on each other the generality of men cannot understand. The devotedness with which they serve their parents and the respect with which they cherish them—who can comprehend.

Next: No. IV: Clad in a Single Garment, he was obedient to his Mother