Bao Xuan came from an impoverished family during the Western Han Dynasty, 2,000 years ago. His mentor appreciated his high morals and let his daughter Shaojun marry Bao, endowing them with a gorgeous dowry.
An Excellent Wife
Bao said to his bride: “You were born into a wealthy family and are used to luxurious ornaments. But I am poor, I could not accept such rich gifts.”
His bride answered: “My father saw that you paid attention to cultivating good conduct and virtue, leading a simple, thrifty life, thus he let me marry you so that I could serve you. As I’m your wife now, I will obey you.”
Bao Xuan laughed happily: “If you could think this way that is my wish.”
Shaojun put away all her luxurious dresses and ornaments and switched to simple attire, riding back to the village with Bao in a carriage drawn by deer.
After greeting her mother-in-law, Shaojun immediately started household chores, carrying out the duty of a daughter-in-law. As an excellent wife, together with her husband, Shaojun’s name was also recorded in the history book of the Han Dynasty.
People nowadays in China describe a united young couple who live happily even in poverty with the term “riding together in a carriage driven by deer”.
A Magical Encounter
Bao Xuan was later recommended to become a government officer.
Once on his way to the capital, Bao met a scholar who was hurrying alone on the road. The scholar suddenly had a heart attack. Bao tried to help him but could not save the man who died quickly.
Bao did not know the name of the scholar but saw that he carried a book of scrolls made of white silk together with ten pieces of silver. Bao used one piece of silver to arrange the burial of the scholar, placed the rest of the silver underneath his head, and the book of silk scrolls on his belly.
After saying prayers, Bao Xuan spoke into the scholar’s tomb: “If your soul can still work, you should let your family know that you are buried here. I now have other duties to attend to, I cannot stay here longer.” He bade farewell and carried on with his journey.
Upon arriving at the capital, Bao Xuan noticed a white horse following him. The horse would not allow anybody but Bao get close to it. It would not let anyone else feed it. So Bao adopted the horse.
After Bao completed his mission in the capital, he rode this white horse home but got lost on the way. He saw the residence of a marquis. As it was getting dark, he went forward to ask for lodging. He presented his name card to the master of the family.
The servant who saw the horse with Bao at the door reported to the Marquis: “This guest stole our horse”.
The Marquis said: “Bao Xuan is a man of good reputation. There must be reason for this. Do not say unfounded things.”
The Marquis asked Bao: “How did you get this horse? He used to be ours and we do not know why he disappeared.”
Bao told in detail his experience with the scholar and his heart attack. The Marquis was shocked: “That scholar, it was my son!”
The Marquis retrieved the coffin of his son. When he opened it, he saw the silver and the white silk scroll, all laying there as Bao described.
Sources: “Biographies of Exemplary Women” in “Book of the Later Han” or “History of the Later Han” a Chinese court document covering the years from 6 to 189 A.D.
“Lie Yi Zhuan,” a novel written by Cao Pi, the Emperor of Cao Wei.
Edited by Damian Robin