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Another model son

我至今還記得,一個躺在父母跟前的老頭子,一個抱在母親手上的小孩子,是怎樣地使我發生不同的感想呵。 他們一手都拿著“搖咕咚”。這玩意兒確是可愛的,北京稱為小鼓,蓋即鼗也,朱熹曰,“鼗,小鼓,兩旁有耳;持其柄而搖之,則旁耳還自擊,”咕咚咕咚地響起來 。 然而這東西是不該拿在老萊子手裏的,他應該扶一支拐杖。 現在這模樣,簡直是裝佯,侮辱了孩子。 我沒有再看第二回,一到這一葉,便急速地翻過去了。

I still remember my feelings prompted by the old man lying in front of his parents and the little child in his mother’s arms. They each have a “Shaking gudong[1] in their hand. This is a lovely thing indeed, known as a “little drum” in Beijing. It is probably the same as a tao. Zhu Xi [1130-1200] said that “a tao is a small drum with ears on each side. [When one] holds its handle and shakes it, its side ears hit the drum itself,” making rattling sounds. However, such a thing is not supposed to be held in the hands of Laolaizi[2], who should really hold a walking stick. Now he looks more than affected [in the image] and constitutes an insult to children. I never looked at this again, quickly flipping over that page every time.

那時的《二十四孝圖》,早已不知去向了,目下所有的只是一本日本小田海僊所畫的本子,敘老萊子事云:“行年七十,言不稱老,常著五色斑斕之衣,為嬰兒戲於親側。又常取水上堂,詐跌仆地,作嬰兒啼,以娛親意。”大約舊本也差不多,而招我反感的便是“詐跌”。無論忤逆,無論孝順,小孩多不願意“詐”作,聽故事也不喜歡是謠言,這是凡有稍稍留心兒童心理的都知道的。

The copy of the Illustrations of the Twenty-four Filial Exemplars back then has long gone. I only have at hand a copy illustrated by the Japanese artist Oda Kaisen [1785-1862]. The text on Laolaizi reads: “He was about seventy years old, but he never said he was old. He often dressed in colourful clothes and played like a baby next to his parents. He often delivered water to the hall and pretended to fall on the ground, crying like a baby, to entertain his parents.” Older versions of this probably tell the same story. What seemed repulsive to me was the “pretended to fall” part. Regardless of disobedience or filial piety, most children do not like anything “pretended”. They would not even like the stories they have heard to be rumours. Anyone who has ever paid the slightest attention to children’s psychology would have known that.

然而在較古的書上一查,卻還不至於如此虛偽。 師覺授《孝子傳》云,“老萊子……常著斑斕之衣,為親取飲,上堂腳跌,恐傷父母之心,僵仆為嬰兒啼。”(《太平御覽》四百十三引)較之今說,似稍近於人情。 不知怎地,後之君子卻一定要改得他“詐”起來,心裏才能舒服。 鄧伯道棄子救侄,想來也不過“棄”而已矣,昏妄人也必須說他將兒子綁在樹上,使他追不上來才肯歇手。正如將“肉麻當作有趣”一般,以不情為倫紀,誣衊了古人,教壞了後人。老萊子即是一例,道學先生以為他白璧無瑕時,他卻已在孩子的心中死掉了。

However, when I checked the story in more ancient texts, it did not go so far in affectation. The Biographies of Filial Exemplars by Shi Jueshou [fl. 5th century] reads: “Laolaizi ... often dressed in colourful clothes. Fetching water for his parents, he slipped over in the hall. He did not want his parents to get worried, so he lay flat, crying like a baby.” (Quoted in Scroll 413 of the Taiping yulan)[3] Compared to today’s version, this seems to be slightly more understandable. For some reason, later gentlemen felt such an irresistible urge to modify the story and make Laolaizi “pretend”. As for the story about Deng Bodao [fl. 4th century] abandoning his son to save his nephew, he presumably just “abandoned” his son, but the confused men would not rest until they claimed that Deng Bodao tied his son to a tree so that he could not catch up [with his father]. Just like considering the cloying as fun, this is to turn the unreasonable into moral norms, slandering the ancients while misleading the descendants. Laolaizi is an illustrative case. Where those Paragons-of-Virtue consider Laolaizi a perfect son, in a child’s heart he is already dead.


* From Lu Xun, Zhaohua xishi 朝花夕拾 (in Lu Xun quanji 魯迅全集 vol. 2, Beijing: Renmin wenxue chubanshe, 2005), 261-2.


[1] A pellet drum or a rattle drum.

[2] See the tale quoted below.

[3] A tenth-century leishu 類書 (“category book”, similar to a commonplace book) that preserves numerous fragments of ancient texts which are otherwise lost.


Image of Laolaizi from the Japanese edition of Illustrations of the Twenty-four Filial Exemplars cited by Lu Xun

Image credit: 教育学研究科・教育学部図書室 Graduate School of Education / Faculty of Education Library in the University of Tokyo, JAPAN


 

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