Zengzi on filial piety

曾子曰:「吾聞諸夫子:『人未有自致者也,必也親喪乎!』
Zengzi said: “I heard this from the Master: If a man ever reveals his true nature, it’s when he mourns his parents.”

曾子曰:「吾聞諸夫子:『孟莊子之孝也,其他可能也,其不改父之臣與父之政,是難能也。」
Zengzi said: “I heard this from the Master: The one facet of Meng Zhuangzi’s filial piety that others couldn’t match was that he retained his father’s officials and continued his father’s policies.”

Zengzi is reiterating Confucius’s comments in Chapter XI of Book 1 and Chapter XX of Book 4 of the Analects that the true test of a son’s filial piety is whether he observes the three-year mourning period after the death of his parents:

子曰:「父在觀其志,父沒觀其行,三年無改於父之道,可謂孝矣。」
Confucius said: “When the father is alive, observe his son’s intentions. When the father is dead, watch his son’s conduct. If after three years he has not deviated from his father’s path, then he may be called a dutiful son.”

子曰:「三年無改於父之道,可謂孝矣。」
Confucius said: “If for three years after his death the son does not alter his father’s ways, he is a good son indeed.”

As I’ve argued before, this was more than likely honored more in breech than practice.

Meng Zhuangzi was the head of the second most powerful warlord clan in Confucius’s home state Lu. The most powerful clan was the Ji family.

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