Qing-era drawing of Tiying
Chunyu Tiying (Chinese: 淳于緹縈; fl. c. 174 BCE) was a woman known for persuading the Emperor Wen of Han to abolish the “Five Punishments”, as told in the Western Han folktale, “Tiying Saves Her Father” (Chinese: 缇萦救父).
Chunyu Tiying (淳于緹縈)
Linyi, Western Han
Traditional Chinese 淳于緹縈
Simplified Chinese 淳于缇萦
Hanyu Pinyin Chúnyú Tíyíng
Tiying was the youngest of Chunyu Yi’s five daughters. Her father was originally a low ranking official, but after studying with a famous doctor, he was promoted to high rank. Tiying grew up to be very humble and generous thanks to her father’s example, treating everyone equally, regardless of whether the person was of common birth or of the nobility. However, after her father couldn’t save the life of a noblewoman, the devastated husband claimed that it was Chunyu Yi’s treatment that caused the death of his wife. As this nobleman was very influential at that time, Chunyu Yi was taken away without a proper investigation.
When Chunyu Yi was taken away, he knew he would be subjected to one of the Five Punishments. Knowing that he had no one who could appeal for him, he looked at his daughters and said “I will be sent to the capital for punishment where no woman can follow and I have five daughters. If only I had a son!” In the pre-modern China, women did not have a say in the court nor in society, unless they had some sort of special status. After hearing what her father said, Tiying made up her mind and followed her father on a journey to the capital. On the journey there she endured pain and hunger. Once she arrived at the capital, she made an appeal on behalf of her father to Emperor Wen himself instead of going to any of the officials. She made the appeal despite knowing that, as a young girl, her appeal would likely be treated with derision and even seen as improper conduct. She also took a novel approach in her appeal. Instead of her writing about her father’s good nature and accomplishments to show he deserved leniency, as might have been expected, she instead wrote about the legal tradition of Five Punishments, showing how cruel and unethical they were.
After hearing that a young girl had written a letter of grievance to him, the Emperor was eager to read what the letter was about. In her letter, she wrote, “’Once a man is executed, he cannot come back to life. Once a man is mutilated, even if he proved to be innocent later, he would be disabled for life, and there is no way to reverse the suffering he experiences. Even if he wishes to start anew, he will be unable to do so. I have heard stories of how a son can redeem a father’s guilt,’ she continued. ’As a daughter, I am willing to redeem my father’s sin by being your slave for the rest of my life. I beg you to spare him from this punishment, and thus he will have an opportunity to make a fresh start.’” Emperor Wen was deeply moved by Tiying’s letter. Not only was it well written, it also pointed out the cruelty and injustice of the Five Punishments and how it did not give the convicted a chance to defend themselves. This letter also impressed many officials in the court. Many praised the way in which she endured hardships along with her father and was willing to become a slave in exchange for her father’s life.
After reading this letter, Emperor Wen pardoned Tiying’s father and declined her offer to become a slave and he also abolished the cruel Five Punishments standard. Soon the story of Tiying’s bravery was spread around the country and many wished to have a daughter like her.
Dans la philosophie confucéenne, la piété filiale (chinois : 孝, xiào) est une vertu de respect pour ses propres parents et ancêtres. Confucius lui-même affirme que la piété filiale et le respect des ainés sont les racines mêmes de l’humanité.
Classique de la piété filiale
Le Classique de la piété filiale ou Xiao Jing (ch. trad. : 孝經 ; ch. simp. : 孝经 ; py : Xìaojīng) est un des classiques chinois. Il a probablement été rédigé au IIIe siècle avant l’ère commune, à l’époque des Royaumes Combattants et est attribué à Zengzi (曾子, 505 à 436 avant l’ère commune), disciple de Confucius. Au début de l’ère commune (dynastie Han), l’empereur Wang Mang voulut en faire l’ouvrage de base pour la formation des fonctionnaires. Il a été traduit en français pour la première fois en 1779 par Pierre-Martial Cibot, jésuite.