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Observing filial piety in China

By Zhang Shaowei | chinadaily.com.cn | Updated: 2013-09-05 13:32

Observing filial piety in China


Filial piety is a concept that has been passed down from generation to generation in China for thousands of years. Most Chinese people agree that children should show filial piety to parents and other family elders, such as grandparents.

In ancient times, those who didn't treat parents well were despised by society. If an official didn't show filial piety, he was not promoted. If a scholar didn't show filial piety, his ideas were not approved by others. If a shop owner didn't show filial piety, no one would buy anything from him. And if a woman didn't show filial piety, no one would marry her. In some dynasties, having a lack of filial piety was considered a crime.

Observing filial piety in China

A statue of Mencius [Photo/Asianewsphoto]

There are a lot of theories and stories that teach children how to be good to their parents. Chinese philosopher Mencius gave us three examples of what it means to lack filial piety. First, if a child doesn't tell or persuade his or her parents to change the things they are doing if they are wrong. Second, if a grown child doesn't go to work to support the family because the parents are poor and old. Third, if a grown child doesn't want to marry and have a baby, then they are not living up to their filial piety duties.

Furthermore, a book filled with 24 stories of children showing filial piety to their parents was published during the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) and was popular for several centuries.

In modern times, being filial to your parents carries different meanings. Most people still agree with the first two Mencius examples, but disagree with the third one. Last year, the China National Committee on Ageing released 24 new controversial standards on what it means to show filial piety.

Some of the standards include spending festivals with parents, celebrating their birthdays, cooking for them, calling them frequently if one lives in a different city, taking photos, talking to them, supporting their hobbies, and exercising and travelling with them.

At the end of last year, visiting ones parents' became law. Some people applauded the measure, while others doubted whether it could be properly enforced due to factors such as not having enough holidays and high transportation fees.

Anyway, there is nothing wrong in doing our best to help our parents have a happy life through filial piety.

The Mid-Autumn Festival is approaching and one of the most important themes during this time is getting together with the family. Are you thinking about giving presents to your parents? Traditional presents such as clothes or giving money directly to parents may be practical, but spending time by doing something on hand may make them happier, as most parents are richer than their kids. What parents really need is our care and love.

Here are some ideas to help you get the ball rolling.

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