There were many virtuous mothers in ancient China who paid special attention to the development of their children's character and morality. The following are inspirational stories of two mothers who taught their children, who were government officials, to be just and honest.
Tian Ji's Mother Refused to Accept a Bribe of Gold
During the Warring States Period (453 – 221 BC), Tian Ji was the prime minister of the Qi State and he was very diligent and just at work.
One day, one of Tian's subordinates presented him with a gift of 100 taels of gold. [the Chinese tael refers to a unit of measure in the ancient Chinese system of weights and currency. One tael of silver weighed about 40 grams]. Tian refused the gift repeatedly, but eventually he accepted to be diplomatic. He returned home and forwarded the gift to his mother. Tian’s mother was outraged and scolded him, "The gold is more than your salary for the past three years you have been working as a prime minister. Have you robbed the gold from the civilians or have you accepted a bribe?"
Tian Ji lowered his head and told his mother what had happened. His mother told him solemnly, "I heard that a learned man must govern his behaviors vigilantly, cherish his good name and will never take anything that does not belong to him. A learned man should not have anything to hide because he will not cheat or take advantage of other people. A learned man will repel bad thoughts and reject bribes. You carry the responsibility of the state's administration, so you are supposed to set a good example. But now you have taken a bribe from one of your subordinates. You have cheated the king and failed the people. You are really breaking my heart! You must return the gold right away and ask the king for punishment!"
Tian Ji was terribly ashamed of himself after hearing his mother's admonishment. He returned the gold first. Then he went to the royal court to confess to the King of Qi State and beg him to accept his resignation. King Xuan of Qi (350 – 301 BC) praised his mother highly for her moral values. He told the entire court of officials, "A virtuous mother raises virtuous sons! Now that I know you have a virtuous mother, I no longer need to worry about corruption in my state. I shall pardon you for your misdemeanor."
The king issued an imperial edict to order all of the people in the State of Qi to learn from Tian Ji's mother in terms of her lofty character and virtuous education. From then on, Tian Ji governed his behaviors with an even higher standard. He later became a prime minister widely known throughout history for his virtue.
Cui Xuanhui's Mother Taught Him to be Loyal and Uncorrupted
Cui Xuanhu was a high-level government official in the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). His mother once told him earnestly, "I have heard that when one's child becomes a government official, you can tell that he is a good official if he leads a simple, frugal life; that he must be a bad official if he is frivolous with money and leads a life of luxury. I cannot agree more. I have noticed that many of our relatives who are also officials provided their parents with lots of money, but their parents have never asked them where the money came from. It would be good if the money came from their salaries. Otherwise, they were no better than bandits. Even if these people did not commit worse crimes, I wonder how they can sleep at night. You are taking a salary from the government. If you are not loyal, clean and honest, how can you face Heaven?"
Cui Xuanhui followed his mother's teaching and was an honest and clean official. He was a loyal subject and looked after the people. He was later known for being a clean and honest official.
It is a traditional Chinese virtue to be an honest and clean person and to be diligent, honest and uncorrupted if you are a public servant. Parents should set a good example for their children by governing their own speech and conduct and by guarding their own morality. It will be good in the long run to inculcate children with moral values. By doing so, one will be truly loving of and responsible for one's children and will help them to be someone without any secret to hide.