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Mother and Son: alienation and reconciliation

Duke Wu of Zheng married a woman of the house of Shen, called Wu Jiang, who bore two sons, duke Zhuang and his brother Duan of Gong. Duke Zhuang was born as she was waking from sleep, which frightened the lady so that she named him Wu Sheng [born in waking]. She hated him, while she loved Duan and wished him to be declared his father’s heir. Often did she ask this of duke Wu, but he refused it.
When duke Zhuang came to the earldom, she begged him to confer on Duan the city of Zhi. "It is too dangerous a place," was the reply. "The younger of Guo died there, but in regard to any other place, you may command me." She then requested Jing, and there Duan took up his residence and came to be styled Tai Shu [the Great Younger] of Jing city.

Zhong of Ji said to the duke, "Any metropolitan city, whose wall is more than 3,000 cubits round, is dangerous to the state. According to the regulations of the former kings, such a city of the first order can have its wall only a third as long as that of the capital; one of the second order, only a fifth as long; and one of the least order, only a ninth. Now Jing is not in accordance with these measures and regulations. As ruler, you will not be able to endure Duan in such a place." The duke replied, "It was our mother's wish. How could I avoid the danger?" "The lady Jiang," returned the officer, "is not to be satisfied. You had better take the necessary precautions and not allow the danger to grow so great that it will be difficult to deal with it. Even grass, when it has grown and spread all about, cannot be removed. How much less the brother of yourself, and the favored brother as well!" The duke said, "By his many deeds of unrighteousness he will bring destruction on himself. Just wait a while."

After this Tai Shu ordered the places on the western and northern borders of the state to render to himself the same allegiance as they did to the earl. Then Gong Zi Lü said to the duke, "A state cannot sustain the burden of two services. What will you do now? If you wish to give Zheng to Tai Shu, allow me to serve him as a subject. If you do not mean to give it to him, allow me to put him out of the way, so that the minds of the people be not perplexed." "There is no need," the duke replied, "for such a step. His calamity will come of itself."

Tai Shu went on to take as his own the places from which he had required their divided contributions, as far as Lin Yan. Zi Feng [i.e., Gong Zi Lü] said, "Now is the time. With these enlarged resources, he will draw all the people to himself." The duke replied, "They will not cleave to him, so unrighteous as he is. Through his prosperity he will fall the more."

Tai Shu worked at his defences, gathered the people about him, put in order buff-coats and weapons, prepared footmen and chariots, intending to surprise Zheng, while his mother was to open to him from within. The duke heard the time agreed on between them and said, "Now we can act." So he ordered Zi Feng, with 200 chariots to attack Jing. Jing revolted from Tai Shu, who then entered Yan, which the duke himself proceeded to attack. In the fifth month, on the day Xin Chou, Tai Shu fled from it to Gong.
In the words of the text [of the Chun Qiu]: "The earl of Zheng overcame Duan in Yan," Duan is not called the earl’s younger brother, because he did not show himself to be such. They were as two hostile princes, and therefore we have the word "overcame." The duke is styled the earl of Zheng simply to condemn him for his failure to instruct his brother properly. Duan’s flight is not mentioned, because it was difficult to do so, having in mind Zheng’s wish [that Duan might be killed].

Immediately after these events, Duke Zhuang placed his mother Jiang in Xing Ying and swore an oath, saying, "I will not see you again, till I have reached the yellow spring [i.e., till I am dead, and under the yellow earth]." But he repented of this. Some time later Ying Kao Shu, the border-warden of the valley of Ying, heard of it and presented an offering to the duke, who caused food to be placed before him. Kao Shu put a piece of meat on one side, and when the duke asked the reason, he said, "I have a mother who always shares in what I eat. But she has not eaten of this meat which you, my ruler, have given, and I beg to be allowed to leave this piece for her." The duke said, "You have a mother to give it to. Alas! I alone have none." Kao Shu asked what the duke meant, who then told him all the circumstances, and how he repented of his oath. "Why should you be distressed about that?" said the officer. "If you dig into the earth to the yellow springs and then make a subterranean passage where you can meet each other, who can say that your oath is not fulfilled?" The duke followed this suggestion, and as he entered the passage, he sang:

This great tunnel, within,
With joy doth run.
When his mother came out, she sang: This great tunnel, without,
The joy flies about.
After this they were mother and son as before.

A superior man may say, "Ying Kao Shu was filial indeed. His love for his mother passed over to and affected Duke Zhuang. Was there not here an illustration of what is said in the Book of Poetry:


A filial son of piety unfailing
There shall for ever be conferred blessing on you.

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