Description The "Book of Filial Piety" is one of the ethical and moral texts associated with the Chinese sage Confucius (6th-5th century BC). "Truly if one is filial at home," wrote a 10th-century Korean king, "he will certainly be a loyal official for the state." A supplementary text describing twenty-four historical figures who honored their parents or elders in extraordinary ways later became popular in both China and Korea. This screen depicts seven of these twenty-four paragons and three others: 1. Lao Laizi playing young bird (to entertain his parents) wearing colorfully patched clothes; 2. Zi Lu (one of Confucius's students) carrying rice on his back; 3. King Wen (of the Zhou Dynasty) visited and comforted his parent's illness; 4. Madame Tang breast-fed her Aunt, Madame Changsun; 5. Huang Xiang fanned the pillow to cool it down (before his father went to bed); 6. Xue Bao swept the Court; 7. Wang Lian saluted his friend (?); 8. Lu Zi put oranges aside to bring them home (for his parents (mothers (?)); 9. Wang Jian prayed to shorten his life (for his father (?)); 10. Wang Xiang lay on frozen river to melt down the ice and catch fish for his father. More detailed descriptions: The gaudily dressed Lao Laizi (Lao Lai-tzu), who passed his 70th birthday and is nearly toothless, sits on the ground and holds up a young bird to entertain his even more aged mother and father. "Thus did he forget his age in order to gladden the hearts of his parents; and affection, harmony, and joy prevailed in the family." When he was young, Zi Lu (Chung Yu) (lower right) was very poor and traveled far to obtain rice to bring home to his father and mother. He later became rich and powerful, but his parents were no longer alive, and he was never again so happy as when he was ministering to his parents' needs. When he was still a prince, Emperor Wen faithfully attended to the need of his ailing mother for three years, tasting every dish she ate and handing it to her himself. So moved was the prince's father that he conferred the throne upon him. So attentive to her aged aunt was Lady T'ang (Tang) that she offered here her own breast. Huang Xiang (Huang Hsiang), left motherless at nine, was so ardently devoted to his father that he fanned his pillow in the summer to cool it down, and in winter he crawled into his father's bed to warm it up. Xue Bao (Hsueh Pao) sweeps the court. The story of Wang Lian (Wang Lien). When some of the oranges a celebrated general had given to the six-year-old Lu Zi (Lu Chi) fell to the ground, the boy had to explain himself. He had put them in his sleeve, he said, to take home to his mother. The general was astonished and touched. Wang Jian (Wang Chien) prays that his life be shortened. In the depth of winter, the young boy Wang Xiang (Wang Hsiang) was able to acquire the fresh fish his mother enjoyed by lying upon the river ice until it melted.
Provenance Beverly Becker [date and mode of acquisition unknown]; Walters Art Museum, 1994, by gift.
Credit Gift of Beverly Becker in memory of General and Mrs. Carter B. Magruder, 1994
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