Episode 113: Braying At A Funeral

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People always plan their weddings. But have you thought about what kind of funeral you want ? Today we will tell a short story about a funeral.

It is from the book A New Account of the Tales of the World 世说 新语, a book complied and edited during the Liu Song dynasty 刘宋 around the year 420 to 479. The book contains more than 1000 historical anecdotes of more than 600 people who lived in the Han dynasty and Wei-Jin 魏晋 periods. It is one of my favorite books and we have talked about some stories from it so far.


I especially like the stories about the scholars from the Wei-Jin period around the year 220 to 589. It was a time with messy economics and politics however art and philosophy were extremely popular since people were questioning Confucianism and instead, they pursued spiritual and physical freedom. In the book A New Account of the Tales of the World , there is even a whole chapter about those handsome and cool gentlemen during the time. We will definitely talk about them in the future.

Today’s story is about a man’s funeral. He is called Wang ZhongXuan 王仲宣 from the year 177 to 217, an official , scholar and poet during the late Eastern Han dynasty 东汉. He made a great contribution to the establishment of laws.


It says, Wang ZhongXuan had a hobby which was he liked donkeys’ braying- hee-haw. After his death, CaoPi 曹丕, King of Wei attended his funeral and told everyone, “Mr. Wang liked the braying of donkeys. We should do braying as the last farewell to him.” So at the funeral of one of the most important people of the region, everyone presented did a “ hee-haw.”


I don’t know if Wang ZhongXuan was happy or not if he knew that. I hope he liked it. I remembered when I read this story as a kid, I was thinking what a cheesy and inappropriate joke. Maybe because funerals for me and most Chinese people were a serious and heavy topic. Now I have a different thought. I feel touched by how other people respected the dead and would do the braying. Like the Mexicans say, life is a game. So why not have some fun at the funeral?


世说新语 A New Account of the Tales of the World


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