Zhong You, also known as Zilu, was a student of Confucius, well known for his filial obedience.
Growing up in a poor family, Zhong You lived a frugal life, his diet consisting mostly of wild plants and herbs. While able to survive on this, he feared his parents would suffer from malnutrition, should they be required to subsist on the same diet.
Zhong You’s family did not produce their own rice, and he could not afford to buy it locally. His only choice was to walk 100 li (about 30 miles) to purchase the rice, then carry it the same distance back to his home. This was quite a long trip, as one-way travel took several days. But he did it happily, year-round, to feed his family.
During the winter months, it was bitterly cold, and Zhong You had to tread through snow, and cross an icy river, as part of the long journey. Often his feet and hands would freeze and become numb, forcing him to stop and warm them up before continuing.
Summers were just the opposite, hot and sultry under a burning sun. When it rained, Zhong You would cover the rice with his clothing to keep it from getting wet.
Through it all, he never slowed down or took his time, as he was determined to return home as soon as possible to cook for his parents. For many years Zhong You made these journeys, demonstrating his sincere care for, and responsibility to, his parents.
The story of Zhong You’s great filial obedience spread throughout the region. When his parents passed away, he traveled to the Kingdom of Chu, where the king appointed him as a high-ranking officer. As such, he was without want, with the finest, most delicious foods available to him every day, and dozens of staff serving and accompanying him as he traveled about. Yet Zhong You found little delight in his newly-acquired wealth and luxuries; his heart was unfulfilled. For his true wish was to have his parents, who died early in life, share such a good life with him.
Zhong You’s story tells us that filial obedience is not measured by accumulation of wealth and riches, but by the sincerity found in one’s heart. Seeing how his hard work brought benefit to his parents, Zhong You never once saw his efforts as hardship.