Soul of China

A scholar’s commitment to his blind lady

Liu Ting Shi (劉庭式) passed the imperial examination jinshi (進士) during the reign of Song Ren Zong (宋仁宗, 1022-1063) and joined the state bureaucracy.
Before all this, he had agreed to marry a lady of his hometown. Unlike most other couples at the time, though, they did not get formally engaged. However, when Liu obtained his jinshi, sickness turned his bride-to-be blind. Her family were poor peasants and couldn’t afford to have her treated.
Somebody then advised Liu to just marry the lady’s younger sister. Now that Liu is an accomplished scholar, even the lady’s family felt ashamed to burden him with a disabled wife. Liu refused to renege on his promise.
He said, “My heart has been committed. How can I retract my original commitment?”
Liu honored his word, married the blind lady and gave her a happy life. She gave birth to several children, including two sons, but she soon passed away because of illness. Liu was inconsolable. His fidelity to his wife would remain years after her death. He refused to remarry.
Xu Shi (蘇軾), a famous scholar and a colleague of Liu’s, could not understand his decision and told him: “Beauty and sex produce love and the loss of love produce sadness. Your wife was disabled, she was not pretty and she passed away. Where is your love and thus your sadness coming from?”
Liu let out a deep sigh and replied, “What I mourn for was my wife who had passed away, not someone who was blind. What I lost and mourn for was someone who had been with me through joy and sadness, helping me to carry my burdens. If as you said that love originates from beauty and sex and sadness comes from love, then since my wife was dead, my sadness would eventually end? Therefore, do you mean that any beautiful yet frivolous lady out in the city who displays herself and try to seduce me can be my wife?”
Xu Shi was embarrassed and extremely moved by what Liu said. Liu’s two sons also enjoyed great success and became jinshi. That was because Liu’s wife took great care of her husband and children to express her sense of gratitude for her husband’s love and care.