posted 18 Mar 2013, 09:26 by Jim Sheng
[3rd and 4th centuries B.C. ]


WHEN Tzu-shang's mother died, he would not attend her funeral. A disciple asked his father, Tzu-ssu (grandson of Confucius), saying, "Did not your father attend his divorced mother's funeral? " "He did," replied Tzu-ssu. "Then why cannot you make Tzu-shang do likewise?" rejoined the disciple. "My grandfather," said Tzu-ssu, "was a man of complete virtue. With him, whatever was, was right. I cannot aspire to his level. As long as the deceased was my wife, she was my son's mother. When she ceased to be my wife, she ceased also to be his mother." 

From that time forth, it became a rule among the descendants of Confucius not to attend the funeral of a divorced mother. 


A certain man travelled from afar to witness the funeral obsequies of Confucius. He stayed at the house of Tzu-hsia, who observed, "A sage conducting a funeral is one thing: a sage's funeral is another thing. What did you expect to see? Do you not remember that our Master once said, 'Some persons pile up earth into square, others into long-shaped tumuli. Some build spacious mausolea, others content themselves with small axe-shaped heaps. I prefer the heaps.' He meant what we call horse-neck heaps. So we have given him only a few handfuls of earth, and he is buried. Is not this as he would have wished it himself?" 


One day Yu-tzu and Tzu-yu saw a child weeping for the loss of its parents. Thereupon, the former observed, "I never could understand why mourners should necessarily jump about to show their grief, and would long ago have got rid of the custom. Now here you have an honest expression of feeling, and that is all there should ever be." 

"My friend," replied Tzu-yu, "the mourning ceremonial, with all its material accompaniments, is at once a check upon undue emotion and a guarantee against any lack of proper respect. Simply to give vent to the feelings is the way of barbarians. That is not our way. 

"Consider. A man who is pleased will show it in his face. He will sing. He will get excited. He will dance. So, too, a man who is vexed will look sad. He will sigh. He will beat his breast. He will jump about. The due regulation of these emotions is the function of a set ceremonial. 

"Further. A man dies and becomes an object of loathing. A dead body is shunned. Therefore, a shroud is prepared, and other paraphernalia of burial, in order that the survivors may cease to loathe. At death, there is a sacrifice of wine and meat; when the funeral cortege is about to start, there is another; and after burial there is yet another. Yet no one ever saw the spirit of the departed come to taste of the food. 

"These have been our customs from remote antiquity. They have not been discarded, because, in consequence, men no more shun the dead. What you may censure in those who perform the ceremonial is no blemish in the ceremonial itself." 


When Tzu-chü died, his wife and secretary took counsel together as to who should be interred with him. All was settled before the arrival of his brother, Tzu-k'ang; and then they informed him, saying, "The deceased requires some one to attend upon him in the nether world. We must ask you to go down with his body into the grave." "Burial of the living with the dead," replied Tzu-heng, " is not in accordance with established rites. Still, as you say some one is wanted to attend upon the deceased, who better fitted than his wife and secretary? If this contingency can be avoided altogether, I am willing; if not, then the duty will devolve upon you two." 

From that time forth the custom fell into desuetude. 


When Confucius was crossing the T'ai mountain, he overheard a woman weeping and wailing beside a grave. He thereupon sent one of his disciples to ask what was the matter; and the latter addressed the woman, saying, "Some great sorrow must have come upon you that you give way to grief like this?" "Indeed it is so," replied she. "My father-in-law was killed here by a tiger; after that, my husband; and now my son has perished by the same death." "But why, then," enquired Confucius, "do you not go away?" "The government is not harsh," answered the woman. "There!" cried the Master, turning to his disciples; "remember that. Bad government is worse than a tiger." 


When Chao Wu had completed his palace, all the great nobles went to offer their congratulations. One of them said, "How beautiful! how grand! how spacious! Here you will sing: there you will weep: and here the clans will gather together." 

"Ah!" replied Chao Wu; "may it indeed come to pass that I shall sing here, and weep there, and that here the clans will gather together; for thus I should go down to the grave of my forefathers with my head safely on my shoulders." So saying, he bowed twice towards the north, striking his brow upon the ground. 

"Well-timed," exclaims the superior man, "was the panegyric; and well-timed also was the prayer." 


An old friend of Confucius having lost his mother, the Master went to assist in varnishing the coffin. "Ai-ya!" exclaimed the friend as he brought the coffin in, "It is long since I have had any music." Thereupon he began to sing 

Striped like the wild cat's head. 

Smooth as a maiden's hand Ai-yah ! Ai-yah ! 

Confucius pretended not to hear, and moved away; but one of his disciples cried out, "Master, should you not have done with a fellow like this?" 

"It is not right," replied Confucius, to disregard the duties we owe to our parents; neither is it right to disregard the duties we owe to our friends."