The Grateful Yellow Sparrow

In the land of Hongnong, there lived a kind-hearted man named Yang Bao. At the age of nine, he ventured to Hua Yin Mountain. There, he witnessed a yellow sparrow being attacked by a chimera. Driven by compassion, he rescued the bird, which was covered in wounds from the encounter and later harassed by ants. Yang Bao, caring deeply, took the injured sparrow home and placed it on a beam. In the quiet of the night, he heard the bird’s sorrowful cries, discovering it was now preyed upon by mosquitoes. To alleviate its suffering, he moved the bird into a box, feeding it with yellow flowers. In just over ten days, the sparrow grew feathers, learning to fly. It would come and go, spending its nights in the box for many years.

The sparrow was suddenly joined by a group of birds, encircling Yang Bao’s residence, expressing sorrowful cries. They announced their departure that night. During this eventful evening, as Yang Bao read his books at the third watch, a yellow-robed youth appeared, claiming to be a messenger of the King Mother. He recounted the sparrow’s past plight, how it was attacked by a chimera on Penglai Island and, thanks to Yang Bao’s compassionate rescue, it was now to be rewarded with a place in the Southern Sea. As a token of appreciation, the messenger gifted four jade rings to Yang Bao, saying, “May your descendants be virtuous and pure, ascending to high positions as indicated by these rings.”

Yang Bao’s filial piety became renowned throughout the land, and his fame and position soared. His son, Yang Zhen, continued the virtuous legacy, followed by Yang Bing and then Yang Biao, all achieving the title of public officials. When Yang Zhen was laid to rest, a large bird descended, and the people believed it to be a manifestation of true filial piety. Cai Yong commented, “In ancient times, it was said that the yellow sparrow came to repay kindness and arrived.”

Original story in 《齊諧記》

弘農楊寶,性慈愛。年九歲,至華陰山,見一黃雀為鴟梟所搏,逐樹下,傷瘢甚多,宛轉復為螻蟻所困。寶懷之以歸,置諸梁上。夜聞啼聲甚切,親自照視,為蚊所嚙,乃移置巾箱中,啖以黃花。逮十餘曰,毛羽成,飛翔,朝去暮來,宿巾箱中,如此積年。忽與群雀俱來,哀鳴遶堂,數曰乃去。是夕,寶三更讀書,有黃衣童子曰:「我,王母使者。昔使蓬萊,為鴟梟所搏,蒙君之仁愛見救,今當受賜南海。」別以四玉環與之,曰:「令君子孫潔白,且從登三公,事如此環矣。」寶之孝大聞天下,名位曰隆。子震,震生秉,秉生彪,四世名公。及震葬時,有大鳥降,人皆謂真孝招也。蔡邕論云:「昔曰黃雀報恩而至。」

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