Zeng Shen, also known as Ziyu, was from the Kingdom of Lu. He and his father, Zeng Dian, were established students of the great teacher, Confucius.
Young Zeng Shen was obedient and respectful to his parents and tended to their needs. While taking meals, he would closely observe their appetites and preferences, learning what they liked best to prepare delicious foods for them.
Always mindful, Zeng Shen paid attention to other aspects of their daily lives, memorizing habits and anticipating their needs so expectations would be met without being spoken.
Guided by traditional values, the father Zeng Dian gave alms and often did good deeds by helping poor families in the community. Such character set a strong example for his son. Each day, when meals were finished, Zeng Shen would politely ask his father which family he should bring leftover food to.
Demonstrating filial piety, Zeng Shen was mindful of how he conducted himself in daily life, in both his words and deeds. He avoided improper conduct that might reflect back on his parents, as he did not wish to sully their name, nor harm their reputation.
Confucius noticed Zeng Shen’s filial obedience and decided to teach him more on the subject. He wrote the work Xiao Jing (or The Book of Filial Obedience) and explained it thoroughly, and completely. Confucius reminded Zeng Shen that with such lived and learned understanding, he had an obligation to pass it on to others for future posterity.
Zeng Shen took Confucius’s words to heart and devoted himself to filial obedience and piety. Throughout his life, he demonstrated that one should respect one’s parents, listen to elder siblings, and respect one’s ancestors. And he taught this to his students.
Confucius’s classic Xiao Jing was passed down from generation to generation.