Friday, August 5, 2011

怎样挑选女婿 How to Pick the Right Son-in-law

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。
校长说:“我有很多学生住在旁边的房子里,你自己去选吧。”宰相的手下去旁边的房子看了回来报告宰相说: “校长的学生都很不错,听说我来给您选女婿,个个都很客气,站起来打招呼,只有一个学生躺在东边的一张床上,好像没看见我。”
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.

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