An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Xiaozizhuan 孝子傳

Oct 19, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Xiaozizhuan 孝子傳 "Biographies of Filial Persons" is the name of several collections of biographies of persons meeting the Confucian virtue of filial piety (xiao 孝).

The most interesting of these collections was written by an unknown author in the 10th century. It is included in the collection Dunhuang bianwen ji 敦煌變文集 because it has survived as a 5-juan long manuscript among the documents discovered in Dunhuang 敦煌, Gansu. Unfortunately the document has been divided by the history of the Western expeditions into Central Asia and western China. Three juan are now owned by the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris, and two by the British Museum in London. Both parts are not complete.

The stories belong to the genre of openly narrated stories of a proto-theatric character (the so-called huaben 話本 "spoken editions [of stories]") or to the "transformation texts" (bianwen 變文) that were very popular during the later half of the Tang period 唐 (618-907) and were prose parts in a vernacular languange mixed with very simple poetic parts. The French collections includes 23 stories, for example, of Shun 舜, Jiang Shi 姜詩, Cai Shun 蔡順, Laolaizi 老萊子, Wang Xun 王循, Wu Meng 吳猛, Dong Yong 董永 and Guo Ju 郭巨.

Another important collection is Xiao Guangji's 蕭廣濟 Xiaozizhuan (therefore also called Xiao Guangji Xiaozizhuan 蕭廣濟孝子傳) from the Jin period 晉 (265-420). It is listed in the imperial bibliography Jingjizhi 經籍志 in the official dynastic history Suishu 隋書. The original book with a length of 15 juan is lost, but one fragment (the story Mei jian chi 眉間尺) survives as quoted in the book Leilin 類林 or Jiaoshi leilin 焦氏類林, a compilation of Jiao Hong 焦竑 (1540-1620). It is quite similar to stories of strange events found in collections as Lieyizhuan 列異傳 or Soushenji 搜神記.

Another Xiaozizhuan collection that has partially survived (biographies of Yu-Shun 虞舜, Guo Ju 郭巨 and Dong Yong 董永) is attributed to the Han-period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) bibliographer Liu Xiang 劉向 (79-8 or 77-6 BCE, Liu Xiang Xiaozizhuan 劉向孝子傳). The bibliography in the Suishu lists a lot of Xiaozizhuan texts, but not that of Liu Xiang.

The Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Mao Panlin 茆泮林 (d. 1845) collected all surviving fragments of Xiaozizhuan texts. He published these under the title Gu xiaozi zhuan 古孝子傳, a book that is included in the collections Shi zhong guyi shu 十種古逸書 and Congchu jicheng 叢書集成. His collection includes fragments of the texts of Liu Xiang, Xiao Guangji, Wang Xin 王歆, Wang Shaozhi 王韶之 (380-435, called Xiaozi zhuan zan 孝子傳讚), Zhou Jingshi 周景式, Shi Jueshou 師覺授 (Liu-Song period 劉宋, 420-479), Song Gong 宋躬, Yu Panyou 虞盤佑, Zheng Jizhi 鄭緝之 (Liu-Song period), and two anonymous fragments, probably from the anonymous Xiaozi zhuan lüe 孝子傳略.

Jiaoyu da cidian bianzuan weiyuanhui 教育大辭典編纂委員會, ed. (1991). Jiaoyu da cidian 教育大辭典, Part 8, Zhongguo gudai jiaoyu shi 中國古代教育史 (Shanghai: Shanghai jiaoyu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 239.
Zheng Yunbo 鄭雲波, ed. (1992). Zhongguo gudai xiaoshuo cidian 中國古代小說辭典 (Nanjing: Nanjing daxue chubanshe), 277.
Li Shuihai 李水海, ed. (1994). Zhongguo xiaoshuo da cidian 中國小說大辭典, Xian-Qin zhi Nanbeichao 先秦至南北朝 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin chubanshe), 527.