Friends Who can Die for Each Other

In the long history of China, there were many very touching stories between friends. The story of Fan Shi (范式) and Zhang Shao (张劭) was one of them.

Fan Shi and Zhang Shao lived in the Eastern Han Dynasty. The Zi (字) (In ancient China, Zi was another name of a grown-up person. A person called himself as his formal name for humility, and called others as their Zi for respect.) of Fan Shi was Juqing (巨卿), and he was from the Shanyang Jun (山阳郡) where was in modern-day Shandong Province. The Zi of Zhang Shao was Yuanbo (元伯), and he was from the Runan Jun (汝南郡) where was in modern-days Henan Province. Both of them went to the Luoyang (洛阳) City which was the capital of the Eastern Han Empire and studied in the Taixue (太学) which was the highest seat of learning in ancient China. Because they were congenial and had the same ideals, they became bosom friends. When they were going to return home, Fan Shi said to Zhang Shao, “After two years I will come to Luoyang again. I will go to the Runan Jun and express my respects to your mother and see you.” They promised a date and returned to their hometown.

Two years later, the promissory day was coming, Zhang Shao told the promise to his mother, and wanted to prepare delicious food for Fan Shi. His mother said with a smile, “My child, you and your friend had been apart for two years, and our hometown is very distant from his city. Why do you really believe the promise?” Zhang Shao said, “Juqing is a faithful man, so I believe he won’t abandon the promise.” His mother said, “Such being the case, I will brew rice wine at once for you.” Later, Fan Shi came as expected. They made an obeisance (拜) to each other, and banqueted very happily.

Several years later, Zhang Shao was very seriously ill. His two friends Zhi Junzhang (郅君章) and Yin Zizheng (殷子徵) took care of him every day. When Zhang Shao was in his last hours, he sighed sadly and said, “I have an eternal sadness that I can’t see my friend who can die for each other with me.” Yin Zizheng said, “Junzhang and I attend wholeheartedly on you. If we are not your friends who can die for each other, who do you want to see?” Zhang Shao said, “You are my friends who can live for each other. But Fan Junqing who lives in the Shanyang Jun is a friend who can die for each other with me.” Later, Zhang Shao died.

On the same day when Zhang Shao died, Fan Shi suddenly dreamed about Zhang Shao. In the strange dream, Zhang Shao wore a black cap and the cap ribbons weren’t tied, and he slippered and called Fan Shi, “Juqing! I have been dead. I will be buried and be in the nether world forever. You don’t forget me, but can you be in time for my funeral?” Fan Shi woke up with a start. He felt very anxious and wept sadly.

The next morning, Fan Shi dressed in mourning apparel which was for the funeral of a friend, and hurried to the Runan Jun by a carriage. But when he arrived at the home of Zhang Shao, the funeral procession had been on the way to bury Zhang Shao. When the procession arrived at the grave and they were preparing to bury the coffin, the coffin suddenly became very heavy and they were not able to put it into the grave. Zhang Shao’s mother stroked the coffin and said, “Yuanbo, do you have any desire?” And then she told others not to bury the coffin for a while.

After a while, a white carriage which were drawn by white horses came and a man who was in the carriage was wailing. Zhang Shao’s mother saw him and said, “He must be Fan Juqing.” When Fan Shi arrived, he knelt and did an obeisance (顿首) to the coffin, and then said his lament, “Please go with a relieved heart, Yuanbo! The dead and the alive will be in two different worlds, and take the last farewell!” In the funeral procession there were about one thousand people, and they all wept for the last farewell. Fan Shi drew the cord (绋) guiding the coffin, and the coffin could be moved. After the funeral, Fan Shi planted trees for the tomb, and then he left…

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