A Faithful Stepmother

In the times of Qi Xuan-King (齐宣王), the king of Qi (齐) State who was on the throne from 319 BC to 301 BC, there was such a story about a woman of iron will, two loyal brothers, conscientious officials and the judiciary of presumption of innocence. This story was really the excellent qualities’ embodiment of a great people of the far times.

One day, there was a dead man on a street, and two young brothers stood beside his body. The local judicial official found that the dead man’s body had only one wound, so he thought the man was killed by one of the two young men. When he asked the two brothers, the older brother said, “I killed him.” But the younger brother said, “No! The man was killed by me.” Because of lacking evidence, the official actually couldn’t judge who the murderer is. The inquiry of the criminal case spent a year, but no result. The local judicial official had no idea, and he had to report the case to the prime minister of the Qi State. The prime minister was not able to judge, too. So the prime minister had to report the case to the king. Qi Xuan-King said to the prime minister, “If both of the brothers are pardoned, the actual guilty person will be unscrupulous. But if both of them are put to death, the actual innocent person will be killed. I think their mother understand her sons. You can ask their mother, and let their mother choose one as her will.”

The prime minister found the mother of the two brothers and said to her, “One of your sons killed a man. Each of the brothers insists that he is the murderer and wants to let the other live. The local official can’t judge, so he reports to our king. The king is kindhearted, and let you choose one as your will.” The mother wept and said, “Kill the younger one.” The prime minister felt very surprised, and asked her, “A mother generally loves her younger child, but you actually want your younger son to be killed. Why?”

The mother sighed and said, “The younger son is my own son and the older son is the son of the former wife of my husband. In the last moment of my husband, he entrusted the son of his former wife to me and desired me to treat the child well. I promised him. I can’t forget my promise, I can’t break faith, and I can’t betray the dead. A faithful person doesn’t replace common morality with personal love. If I am not a faithful woman, how can I live in the world? I cherish my own son, but how can I face the faith!” Tears rolled down her face.

The prime minister reported her words to the king. Qi Xuan-King was much touched, and he deeply admired the faithful mother. The king said, “I believe, the sons of an excellent mother won’t be bad men.” He pardoned both of the brothers, and gave a respected title “Faithful Stepmother” to the mother of the two brothers.

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