The Good Son (Annotated)

“My mom would tell me this story, she said it was an old Chinese story, but I’m not sure, about a little boy who would get in his mother’s bed every night before she did, and he would make it warm for her and that made him the best son in the world”

Informant Analysis: “I think my mom just told me this so I would do the same for her, she was always cold and I was always warm, so after she told me this story I would get in her bed to warm it up for her. But I think she just made it up.”

Analysis: I was actually interested if this story existed, because the informant seemed to adamant that her mother had completely made it up, so I did some research and her mom’s version is actually based on a real Chinese story, almost proverbs in themselves, one of the “24 Paragons of Filial Piety” written by Yuan Dynasty scholar Guo Jujing. The story itself is called “He Fanned the Pillows and Warmed the Sheets: Huang Xiang” in which a young boy, after the death of his mother, serves his father by fanning the pillows in the hot summer and warming the bed in the winter. After being such a good son, he is recognized and a verse is written in his honor:

In winter months he warmed the sheets just right;
And fanned the pillows on hot summer nights.
In knowing how to be a filial son,
In all these years, Huang Xiang’s still number one.

So I think in this case the informant’s mother’s only crime was changing the father’s role to the mother, possibly to make it more applicable. I told the informant all this, she was completely surprised! This story, along with the many others featured in the collection, make it clear that in order to be a good Chinese son or daughter, one has to take care of one’s parents and serve them well.