When I first read the story in the elementary school, I was quite puzzled why the rude young man was chosen as the son-in-law. The strange story becomes more meaningful as I grew up.
What are the modern standards of ideal son-in-laws? According to the recent Chinese Courtship and Marriage Survey of 1,550,000 people by two Chinese matchmaker websites, material wealth has become a decisive factor for marriage stability. Usually the criteria of choosing one's spouse include financial status, family background, personalities and physical appearance. Which criteria did the prime minister used to pick his son-in-law?
这个故事发生在公元五世纪的中国。那时有个宰相，他有个漂亮的女儿，到了结婚的年纪。 有一天，宰相叫他的手下给朝廷的学校*1送一封信， 请校长帮他选一个女婿。
宰相听了就说： “这个人好！” 于是， 他去看那个年轻人, 后来把女儿嫁*2给了他。那个年轻人的名字叫王羲之。 他后来成为中国最有名的书法家。 现在中国人把女婿也叫做“东床”， 就是从这个故事来的。
zhe4ge4 gu4shi4 fa1sheng1 zai4 gong1yuan2 wu5shi4ji4 de zhong1guo2. na4shi2 you3ge4 zai3xiang4, ta4you3 ge4 piao4liang de nv3er, dao4le jie1hun1de nian2ji4. you3yi4tian1, zai3xiang4 jiao4 ta1de shou3xia4 gei3 chao2ting2de xue2xiao4 *1 song4 yi4feng1xin4, qing3 xiao4zhang3 bang1 ta1 xuan3 yi2ge4 nv3xu4.
xiao4zhang3 shuo1: "wo3 you3 hen3duo1 xue2sheng1 zhu4zai4 pang2bian1de fang2zi li3, ni3 zi4ji3 qu4 xuan3 ba." zai3xiang4de shou3xia4 qu4 pang2bian1de fang2zi kan4le hui2lai2 bao4gao4 zai3xiang4 shuo1: "xiao4zhang3de xue2sheng1 dou1 bu2cuo4, ting1shuo1 wo3 lai2 gei3 nin2 xuan3 nv3xu4, ge4ge4 dou1 hen3 ke4qi4, zhan4qi3lai2 da3zhao1hu, zhi2you3 yi2ge xue2sheng4 tang3zai4 dong1bian1de yi4zhang1chuang1 shang4, hao3xiang4 mei2 kan4jian4 wo3."
zai3xiang4 ting1le jiu4shuo1: "zhe4ge4ren2 hao3!" yu2shi4, ta1 qu4 kan4 na4ge4 nian2qing1ren2. hou4lai2 ba3 nv3er jia4 *2 gei3le ta1. na4ge4 nian2qing1ren2de ming2zi4 jiao4 wang2xi1zhi1. ta1 hou4lai2 cheng2wei4 zhong1guo2 zui4you3ming2de shu1fa3jia1. xian4zai4 zhong1guo2ren2 ba3 nv3xu4 ye3 jiao4zuo4 "dong1chuang2", jiu4shi4 cong2 zhe4ge4 gu4shi4 lai2de.
*1 The special academy at the Chinese court was considered the highest and most prestigious educational institution in the country. But in contrast to Harvard or Yale, it was the only state-run school in China at that time. All the rest schools in China were private at that time.
*2 For a woman to marry a man is called "jia4"(to add to); for a man to marry a woman is called "qu3"(to take).
The story took place in China in the 5th century when there was a prime minister. He had a beautiful daughter who had reached the age of getting married. One day, the prime minister dispatched one of his man to send a letter to the principal of the court academy, asking the principal to choose a son-in-law for him.
The principal said, " Many of my students live right next door. You can go and choose one by yourself." So the prime minister's man went to the house next to them to take a look. He reported to the prime minister when he returned: " All the principal's students are very nice. When they heard that I was there to choose a son-in-law for you, they were very good-mannered. They all stood up and greeted me. All but one student who (continued to) lay in the bed on the east side, as if he didn't see me."
One the prime minister heard this, he said: " This is the right man." Hence, he went along to see the young man, and later married his daughter to him. The young man is called Wang Xizhi. He later became the most famous calligrapher in the Chinese history. Now Chinese people also call "son-in-law" "the east side bed", and that's where it comes from.