The Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety were enumerated in a Yuan-dynasty text by Guo Jijing, but they derive from much older biographies of virtuous men and women written and pictorialized as early as Han times. The Confucian theme entered Japanese folk literature and was pictorialized in so-called Nara e-hon (picture books). Some of the twenty-four scenes pictured here are as follows:
First panel from the right, top: Sosan (Zeng Can, b. 506 BCE) was a disciple of Confucius. As a boy, when he was away from home gathering firewood in the hills, his mother suddenly required his presence. Unable to make him hear her call, she bit her finger, whereupon a telepathic twinge of pain was transmitted to the boy, who hurried home. Second panel top: Teiran (Tang Furen)--the lone woman in this group of paragons--nourishes her toothless old mother-in-law with milk from her own breast. Fourth panel top: Toei (Dong Yong), said to have lived around 200CE, was from a poor family and had to sell himself into slavery to pay for his father's funeral. He was rewarded for his piety by the Weaving Maiden, who helped him repay his debt by weaving for his creditor. The immortal is shown here returning to heaven. Fourth panel bottom: Taishun (2317-2208 BCE) has a father and stepmother so cruel they tried to put him to death. He occupied himself nonetheless by plowing on Mount Li. The hard labor was made easier by elephants that spontaneously came to help him carry out this filial chore.
First panel, top: Osho (Wang Xiang) was a public official who lived in the third century. One winter day his stepmother expressed a desire for fresh fish, even though all the rivers were frozen. Osho lay down on the surface of the ice until the warmth of his body caused it to melt, enabling him to catch several fish. Moso (Meng Zong), at the top of the second panel, was another third-century official. When his mother wanted to eat bamboo shoots during winter, out of season, he went to the woods, and as a reward for his good intentions, the bamboo around him began to put forth their sprouts. Just below Moso is Yoko ((Yang Xiang), of the Han dynasty, who placed himself in the path of a huge tiger to enable his father to escape. Fourth panel, top: Oho (Wang Bao) of the Wei dynasty went to the tomb of his mother to screen it (and her spirit) from the elements whenever there was a storm. Sixth panel, top: Enshi (Yanzi), said to have lived during the Zhou dynasty, is disguised as a deer. His aged parents requested the milk of a doe. He disguised himself in a deer skin and waited in the forest until he was able to mingle with a herd of deer and obtain the milk. A party of hunters was angered at first, but pardoned him when they heard the story.