The Epitaph at Shuang-gang City 1
Ou-yang, Xiu (1007 A.D.-1072 A.D.)
I was unable to honor my late father, Duke of the State of Chong
with an epitaph until sixty years after he was buried at Shuang-gang City. The
delay was not because I dared to slow the progress, but because I desired to
wait for the appropriate opportunity.
I was unfortunate. My father died when I was four years old and my mother
pledged to remain unmarried. She was poor, but she earned money for food and
clothing so that she could raise and teach me until I grew up. My mother told
me, “When your father worked for the government, he was a truly honest official
and loved to entertain guests and give his money away to help others. Although
his salary was low, he often discouraged me to have savings. He said to me,
'Don't burden me with money.' Consequently, when he died, I had neither one
shingle to build a roof for shelter nor a row of rice plants as a means for
survival. Then you may wonder where I found faith to remain unmarried. I
understood your father a little and admired his character a great deal. Because
you are his son, my faith came from the great expectations I had for you. Since
marrying, I have had no opportunity to serve my mother-in-law. However, I know
that your father would have taken good care of his mother. Your father died when
you were still a child. I was not sure that you would succeed, but I was certain
that some of his descendents would. When I married, your father had just removed
his mourning clothes after a year of mourning. When honoring his parents at
annual festivals, he would weep and say, 'Abundant offerings after the death of
one's parents are not as good as being able to serve them a little during life.'
When he took wine and food occasionally, he would weep again and say, 'When my
mother was alive, we often did not have enough food to eat. Although we have
extra food now, it is too late to serve my mother.' The first couple of times I
saw this behavior, I thought it was appropriate for a man whose mother died
recently to act in this manner. However, afterwards, I discovered that he always
acted the same way. In fact, until he died, your father never behaved otherwise.
Therefore, I knew that he would have served his mother well although I did not
have the opportunity to do so.
"When your father was an official, he often brought his work home and studied
criminal cases by candlelight in the evening. Very often he stopped reading and
sighed. When I asked why, he would explain, 'The suspect was sentenced to death.
I cannot find a way to save his life.' I asked, 'Are you certain that you
cannot?' He said, 'After I have tried every way to save his life, both the
suspect and I will not have regrets. Sometimes, lives can be saved. In that
case, the suspect would feel mistreated if the judge were to mistakenly
pronounce a death sentence. Even when one strives to save lives, there is still
a possibility that innocent people will be executed. Nonetheless, many judges in
this world often try to sentence a suspect to death.' As he was talking, he
turned back and saw a nurse maid standing by and clutching you under her arm as
if she had been carrying a sword. He pointed at you and said, 'An astrologer
told me that I will die when Jupiter reaches the assumed location by 1010 A.D.
3 If what he said is true, I will not be able to see my son grow up.
You should relate my words to him.' When your father taught students on a
regular basis, he also frequently related his cautious approach to the death
sentence. My ears were so familiar with the story that I can still remember the
details. I did not know how he behaved in his office, but I knew that he was
never conceited or hypocritical at home. His humble and honest behavior came
naturally from his kind heart. Oh! His heart was kinder than that of a
benevolent gentleman. Thereby, I knew your father would have good descendents. I
encourage you to follow in his steps. It is important to show filial obedience
although it is unnecessary to provide one's parents with luxuries. It is
important to be kind although one may not do favors to all living beings. I do
not know how to teach you, but kindness was your father's aspiration." I wept as
I kept my mother's words in mind. I did not dare to forget them.
My grandfather died when my father was still a child. My father studied hard
and passed the Advanced Exam in 1000 A.D. He was appointed to be the judge of
Dao-zhou City 4, then later Si-zhou City
5, Mian-zhou City
6, and Tai-zhou City 7. He died at the age of 59 and was
buried at Shuang-gang City by the Sha-xi 8 Creek .
My mother was of the Zheng family, a reputable family from the area south of
the Yangtze River. She was respectful, thrifty, virtuous, kind, and courteous.
When I moved around to assume appointments as mayor, my mother traveled with me.
She was first given the title "Mother of Fu-chang-xian City
9 ", then
later "Mother of Le-an-jun County, An-kang-jun County, and Peng-cheng-jun County
10 ". Early in my life after our family became poor, my mother
started to manage our home finances frugally. Even after our family's financial
situation improved she would not allow expenses to exceed the thrifty standard.
She said, "My son should not spend money as his peers do. Frugality is the key
to surviving difficult times.” Later, I was demoted to Mayor of Yi-ling City. My
mother took it well and said, "Your family has been poor before, so I am used to
difficulties. If you are content, so am I."
Twenty years after my father died, I became a judge and started to earn a
salary. After another twelve years, I was offered an official post in the
emperor's court. My parents were then able to be honored by the emperor. Two
years later, I was appointed as a Scholar of the House of the Dragon Pictures
and then the Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Civil Service. When I was an
official in Nan-jing City 11, my mother died in the official mansion
at the age of seventy-two. After another eight years, I became the Vice
President of the Privy Council and then the Deputy Premier even though I lacked
talent. I retired from these responsibilities seven years later. Ever since I
was appointed to the Privy Council and the Premier’s Office, the generous
emperor has rewarded the three generations of my ancestors. Since 1050 A.D.,
whenever the imperial court has celebrated an important festival, my ancestors
have been honored. My great grandfather 12 was repeatedly given the
honorary titles, Great Officer of State Who Attaches the Premier's Gold Seal to
Himself with Purple Ribbons, Chief of Imperial Tutors, and Secretary to the
Throne. My great grandmother was repeatedly awarded the honorary title, Mother
of the State of Chu. Many times over, my grandfather 13 and my father
were given the honorary titles, Great Officer of State Who Attaches the
Premier's Gold Seal to Himself with Purple Ribbons, Chief of Imperial Tutors,
Secretary of State, and Secretary to the Throne. My grandmother was repeatedly
given the honorary title, Mother of the State of Wu. My mother was repeatedly
given the honorary title, Mother of the State of Yue. In November 1067 A.D.,
during the emperor’s ceremony for worshiping heaven, my late father was given
the title, Duke of the State of Chong; my mother was given the title, Mother of
the State of Wei.
Consequently, I wept and said, "Well, it is true that good deeds will be
rewarded sooner or later. My father and my grandfather gained virtue by
constantly performing good deeds. It is appropriate for them to be rewarded.
Although they could not see the rewards during their lifetime, the honors they
received from three emperors were glorious and praiseworthy. Their glory is
sufficient to bless their offspring and to be passed down to future generations."
With honor and reverence, I erected a tablet along the path to my father's
grave. My parents' teachings and expectations of me are inscribed on the tablet
along with the family genealogy of my ancestors. In this way, I let people know
there is a reason for the fact that I am still able to attain important
positions with good fortune, am lucky enough to be able to preserve integrity,
and am able to live up to my parents' expectations even though I lack virtue and
April 15, 1070
The Official Who Has Rendered Outstanding Services, Promoted Honesty and
Integrity, as well as Praised and Supported the Emperor 14
Scholar of Guan-wen Palace 15
Minister of Defense
Mayor of Qing-zhou City 16
The Most Distinguished Official
The Founding Father of Le-a-jun County
Feudal Lord of 4,300 Houses in Name
Feudal Lord of 1,200 Houses in Fact
Shuang-gang City ("gang" means "hill" in Chinese), a town between Feng-huang (phoenix) Mountain and the Sha-xi Creek, is located south of present
day Yong-feng-xin City in Jiangxi Province.
Guan and Zhong-bin were the first names of Xiu Ou-yang's father. He was
given the title, Duke of the State of Chong, during Emperor Shen-zong’s reign in
the Song dynasty.
The planet Jupiter orbits in twelve years. It turned out that Xiu Ou-yang's
father died in 1010 AD. just as the astrologer forecast.
Dao-zhou City is now called Dao-xian City which is located in Hunan
Si-zhou City is now called Si-xian City which is located in Anhui Province.
Mian-zhou City is now called Mian-yang-xian City which is located in
Tai-zhou City is now called Tai-xian City which is located in Jiangsu
In Chinese, "Sha" means "sand"; "xi" means "creek".
Fu-chang-xian City is now called Yi-yang-xian City which is located in
Henan Province. Based on the system of official titles during the Song dynasty,
the mother of a mayor or a senior secretary of a board was qualified to be given
the title "Mother of a City".
Le-an-jun County is now called Huo-shan-xian County which is located in
Anhui Province. An-kang-jun County is now called Han-yin-xian County which is
located in Shaanxi Province. Peng-cheng-jun County is now called Tong-shan-xian
County which is located in Jiangsu Province. Based on the system of official
titles during the Song dynasty, the mother of a fourth rank official such as an
advisor, a supervising censor, a vice president of a board, or a member of the
Royal Academy was qualified to be given the title "Mother of a County".
Nan-jing City is now called Shang-qiu-xian City which is located in He-nan
Bin was the first name of Xiu Ou-yang's great grandfather.
Yan was the first name of Xiu Ou-yang's grandfather.
Xiu Ou-yang was given this title by the emperor during the Song dynasty.
This honorary title was only awarded to scholars who had experience in a
position on the imperial cabinet.
In 1068, Xiu Ou-yang was transferred from Mayor of Bo-zhou City to Mayor
of Qing-zhou City.