The following passage is translated from the chapter “Examining the Heart” (省心, Tỉnh tâm) of the Precious Mirror of the Enlightened Heart-Mind (明心寶鑑, Minh Tâm Bảo Giám) which has been introduced in a previous post.
王良曰：欲知其君, 先視其臣。欲知其人, 先知其友。欲知其父, 先知其子。君聖臣忠, 父慈子孝。家貧顯孝子, 世亂識忠臣。
Vương Lương viết: Dục tri kỳ quân, tiên thị kỳ thần. Dục tri kỳ nhân, tiên thị kỳ hữu. Dục tri kỳ phụ, tiên thị kỳ tử. Quân thánh thần trung, phụ từ tử hiếu. Gia bần hiển hiếu tử, thế loạn thức trung thần.
Wang Liang said: Desiring to know a ruler, first examine his subjects. Desiring to know a man, first examine his friends. Desiring to know a father, first examine his son. A sagacious ruler produces loyal subjects, a benevolent father, filial sons. When a family is in poverty, the filial piety of the son is made clear. When the realm is in chaos, loyal subjects are made known.
– The illustration is taken from a Nguyễn dynasty printing of the book The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars translated (二十四孝演音, Nhị thập tứ hiếu diễn âm). It is a translation and annotation of the popular Yuan dyansty (元朝, Nguyên triều, 1260–1368) work of disputed authorship. The contents include stories of twenty four paragons of filial piety and Confucian morality. It was a popular didactic text in Vietnam, especially under the Nguyễn dynasty (1802-1945). Editions of this work can still be found today, many of which are printed with illustrations or in comic book form for children.
– A variation of this quote was used in one episode of the 2010 television series Three Kingdoms (三國, Tam Quốc).