Untitled series of paragons of filial piety

c. 1848


This untitled series uses the same designs as The Twenty-four Chinese Paragons of Filial Piety (唐土廾四孝).  Since these prints are smaller, they could not have been printed from the same woodblocks.  The prints in this series bear no series title or publisher’s seals, but are numbered in either the right lower corner or the left lower corner.  They are each about 5 7/8 x 4 1/8 inches (14.9 x 10.5 cm.), a size known as hagakiban (葉書版).  I am grateful to Robert Pryor for locating this series.



Number: One ()

Japanese name: Kwakkyo (郭巨)

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.


NOTE: In this series, the numbers one and two are written as and, respectively, instead of as the more usual and .

Number: Two ()

Japanese name: Yukinrô (庾黔婁)

Chinese name: Ch’ien-lou

Legend: Yukinrô was a provincial governor who one day felt a pain in his chest and had a premonition that his aged father was ill.  Upon making the long journey home, Yukinrô found his father on his death bed and was told by a doctor that someone must taste the excrement of the sick man to determine if he would live or die.  Yukinrô performed the unpleasant task, and when he learned of his father’s impending demise, prayed all night that he might die in his father’s place.  Here Yukinrô is rushing home to be at his father’s bedside.

Number: Three ()

Japanese name: Chôkô (張孝) and Chôrei (張禮)

Chinese name: Chang Hsiao and Chang Li

Legend: 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. 


Number: Four ()

Japanese nameTô-fujin (唐夫人)

Chinese nameT’ang Fu-jên

LegendTô-fujin (also known as wife Tang) suckled her toothless grandmother at her breasts.


Number: Five ()

Japanese name: Shujushô (朱壽昌)

Chinese name: Chu Shou-ch’ang

Legend: 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 resting under a tree.


Number: Six ()

Japanese name: Kôkyô (黄香)

Chinese name: Huang Hsiang

Legend: Kôkyô fanned his widowed father to cool him in the summer and warmed his father’s bed with his own body in the winter.  Here Kôkyô is preparing his father’s bed.


Number: Seven ()

Japanese name: Gomô (呉猛)

Chinese name: Wu Mêng

Legend: Eight-year-old Gomô would let himself be bitten by mosquitoes so as to spare his sleeping parents.  Here he is fanning mosquitoes away from his sleeping father.


Number: Eight ()

Japanese nameYôkyô (揚香)

Chinese name: Yang Hsiang

LegendYôkyô at 14 years of age was accompanying his father into the mountains when a hungry tiger leapt out at them.  Without thinking of his own life, Yôkyô protectively jumped in front of his father and thus scared off the tiger with his show of determined will.


N umber: Nine ()

Japanese name: Kôteiken (黄廷堅)

Chinese name: Huang T’ing-chien

Legend: Kôteiken was a famous Northern Song calligrapher and poet who was so devoted to his mother that he emptied her chamber pot himself.


Number: Ten ()

Japanese nameTaishun (大舜)

Chinese nameT’a Shun

Legend: Despite a neglectful father who favored his cruel stepmother and her son, Taishun cultivated land for his parents on Mount Li, where an elephant and a bird helped him with the difficult task.  According to legend, Taishun eventually became emperor of China. 


Number: Eleven (十一) or twelve (十二)

Japanese name: Ôhô (王裒)

Chinese name: Wang P’ou

Legend: Ôhô would rush to his mother’s grave during thunder storms to comfort her spirit, because she had feared lightning while alive.



Number: Thirteen (十三)

Japanese name: Rikuseki (陸績)

Chinese name: Lu Chi

Legend: When Rikuseki was six years old he was invited to the home of a wealthy neighbor where he was given some persimmons, which he slipped into his robes.  Upon leaving, the fruit fell out of his robes, and Rikuseki explained that he intended to take them home for his mother.  Here Rikuseki is being commended by the wealthy neighbor.



“Robinson” refers to listing of the series in Kuniyoshi by Basil William Robinson (Victoria and Albert Museum, London, 1961).