Zengzi keeps his promise to his little son

Updated: 2015-11-17 13:18


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Editor's note: As cases of dishonesty rise, it seems the world's second-largest economy is facing a moral decline. But as a civilization with more than 3,000 years of history, honesty runs deep in the Chinese blood. We will carry a series of stories in the coming weeks on how honesty shaped ancient China. This is Part 6.

Zengzi keeps his promise to his little son

Zengzi, or Master Zeng, an influential Chinese philosopher and disciple of Confucius who lived from 505 BC to 432 BC, is known for his characteristic honesty.

One day, Zengzi's wife was about to head to the market but her little son kept crying and pestered her to go with her. To comfort her son, Zeng's wife said, "Stay at home with your father and behave. When I return, we will slaughter the swine for dinner."

Her son stopped crying and agreed with his mother.

Later, when Zeng's wife came back from the market, she was surprised to find her husband sharpening the knife and preparing to slaughter the swine, something usually done for festivals.

She hurriedly stopped her husband and said, "I was only jesting with the boy."

"A child cannot be jested with," said Zengzi. "A child knows no better. He learns from the parents. He listens to what the parents teach. Lying to him is to teach him to lie to others. When the mother lies to the son, the son will no longer trust in the mother. How then could she educate him?"

Then Zengzi slaughtered the swine and prepared a feast for the evening to keep the promise his wife made to his son.