Twenty-four Chinese Paragons of Filial Piety

(Morokoshi nijűshi-kô, 唐廿四孝)

Publisher: Izumi-ya Ichibei



The book entitled “The Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety” was written by the Chinese scholar Guo Jujing during the Yuan Dynasty.  His pen-name was Yizi, and he is known in Japan as Kaku Kyokei.  The book recounts the self-sacrificing behavior of twenty-four sons and daughters who go to extreme lengths to honor their parents, stepparents, grandparents and in-laws.  This series is unusual in that the shape of the title cartouche varies from print to print.  Robinson lists only six prints in this series, and the total number is unknown.  These prints are each about 10 by 14 inches (25 by 36 centimeters), a size known as ôban.

Japanese name: Teiran

Chinese name: Ting Lan

Legend: Teiran carved wooden images of his parents to which he regularly paid his respects.  Returning home one day he found a frown on the face of the statue of his mother and learned that his wife had insulted his mother’s memory.  He apologized to the wooden image and severely scolded his wife.  Here he is upbraiding two visitors who failed to show proper respect to his parents’ statues.

Robinson: S79.1

Japanese name: Ôshô

Chinese name: Wang Hsiang

Legend: When his stepmother wanted to eat fresh fish in mid-winter, Ôshô went to a frozen pond and lay naked on the ice until it melted, in order to catch fish for her

Robinson: S79.2

Japanese name: Tôei (董永)

Chinese name: Tung Yung or Dong Yong

Legend: Tôei indentured himself to a weaver in order to raise money for his father's burial.  One day he met a woman who, in the first hour after their marriage, wove enough silk to fulfill the terms of his contract and then revealed herself to be the Heavenly Weaver (Shokujo) before ascending to heaven.  Here Tôei meets the Heavenly Weaver on the shore.

Robinson: S79.3

Japanese name: Kwakkyo

Chinese name: Kuo Chü

Legend: Kwakkyo, lamenting the fact that his aged mother was going hungry because food was being eaten by his infant son, prepared to kill the baby.  While digging the grave he discovered a pot of gold with an attached note (or inscription) that the treasure was meant for him.  Here Kwakkyo and his wife discover the pot of gold buried outside their home.

Robinson: S79.4


Image courtesy of Gary D. Gross

Japanese name: Kôkaku (江革)

Chinese name: Chiang Ko or Jiang Ge

Legend: Kôkaku pleading with three armed robbers for the life of his mother who is kneeling in the roadway

Robinson: S79.5

Another state of the above design with the light blue sky reaching the ground on the left

Japanese name: Enshi

Chinese name: Yen Tzu

Legend: Enshi disguised himself in a deer skin in order to capture a doe, which he could milk in order to cure his parents’ eye disease.  Hidden in the deer herd, he was mistaken for a deer by hunters who roundly scolded him.  However, when they heard his explanation the hunters had only praise.  Here Eenshi is being shot at from a wooded hill by a hunter of markedly European appearance.

Robinson: S79.6


NOTE: This print has the same title (二十四孝童子鑑) and general format and as the 1840 series, Mirror of the Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety.  However, it is dated 8th month of 1853, and Robinson lists it as part of the above series.  I am grateful to Dom Gilormini for this image.

Japanese name: Kyôshi (姜詩)

Chinese name: Chiang Shih (Jiang Shi)

Description: Kyôshi’s wife carrying a bucket of water in the rain for her aged mother-in-law

Robinson: Unlisted

Japanese name: Chôkô (張孝) and Chôrei ()

Chinese name: Chang Hsiao and Chang Li

Description: Chôkô and Chôrei were brothers who, to support their 80 year old mother, gathered berries in the forest.  One day on his way home Chôkô was attacked by robbers.  As he had no money, the robbers wanted to kill him, but Chôkô begged that he might first deliver the food.  Just then Chôrei appeared and offered his own life in place of his brother’s.  So impressed were the robbers that they set both brothers free and gave them salt and rice.  Here Chôrei is offering his own life in place of his brother’s.

Robinson: Unlisted


NOTE: This and the next image are key block prints.  They are impressions pulled from the first woodblock made by a carver from the artist’s original drawing.  The artist would write instructions for each color on a separate key block print, and the woodblock for each color was cut using one of these as a guide.  In addition to being a guide for carving the color woodblocks, the key blocks were also used to apply black ink (usually) in the printing process.

Japanese name: Shujushô (朱壽昌)

Chinese name: Chu Shou-ch’ang

Description: Shujushô was separated from his mother at age seven and later became a high government official.  At age 55 he retired from office and began to search for his mother.  After much prayer and writing a sutra with his own blood he found his mother.  Here Shujushô is searching for his mother.

Robinson: Unlisted

“Robinson” refers to listing in Kuniyoshi: The Warrior-Prints by Basil William Robinson (Cornell University Press, Ithaca, NY, 1982) and its privately published supplement.