When the head of the Ji family sent an invitation to Min Ziqian to become governor of the town of Bi, he replied to the messenger: “Please convey my regrets. If anyone comes with a second invitation, I will be obliged to go and live on the other side of the River Wen.”
As much as Confucius criticized the Ji family for what he saw as their usurpation of the rightful authority of the Duke of Lu, he still maintained a relationship with them, offering them advice when they asked for it and recommending various disciples for jobs with them or the state government.
His disciple Min Ziqian, on the other hand, was made of much sterner stuff. Not only does he turn down this offer of a senior position from the family, but he also makes it clear that he does not wish to have any further contact with them by threatening to move to the other bank of the River Wen, which marked the border between the states of Lu and Qin.
Min Ziqian was a traditionalist who was best known for the filial piety he was said to have shown during his miserable childhood. According to one legend, after the untimely death of his own mother, he suffered terrible abuse from his father’s second wife, almost dying of cold on one occasion after she had lined his clothes with weeds rather than warm cotton.
But when his father threatened to throw his stepmother out of the house after discovering this, Min interceded on her behalf, telling him that if he did that three of his sons would suffer while if she stayed on only one would go cold. Naturally, Min’s stepmother was so touched by his kindness that she never treated him badly afterwards.
Another variation of this tale is that his father found Min wearing thin unlined gloves while driving with him on a chariot on one freezing winter’s day. When they returned home, he discovered the hands of his second wife and her two sons clad in fur-lined mittens and threatened to cast them out of his home until Min interceded on their behalf.