The new 24 exemplars of filial piety

Alia | August 18th, 2012 - 5:32 am

Filial piety is possibly the most important and fundamental virtue that has been governing the Chinese society for thousands of years. The concept applies not only to family settings but also encompasses almost all aspects of social life in China. To put it in a simpler way, filial piety means a general obedience of authorities, may it be at home, at work or at a national level.  Sometimes, it’s even blind obedience, which is why the concept of filial piety explains so much about why China, both politically and socially, is what it is now.

As a  classic, filial piety has been studied for thousands of years and one of the most influential teachings is the Twenty-four Filial Exemplars written by Yuan Dynasty scholar Guo Jujing. Filial piety stories used to be the first things kids learn at school. But in modern China, a country that has been said to gradually lose all its virtues, filial piety has not been a word you hear very often now.At the same time, as China is aging at an unprecedented pace (26% of China’s total population will be over 65 by 2050) and as the care for the senior has increasingly become a social problem, there is definitely a need to revisit the concept of filial piety.

The Twenty-four Filial Exemplars

Old principles won’t work anymore. In a time when younger generations are born the only child of their families and raised as little emperors and empresses, it’s hard for parents to be seen as the absolute authorities in family. In a time when authorities (the government) lose its credibility and individualism is rocket high, obedience is the last thing young people would pick up. In a time when 4-2-1 family structure is the norm (four grandparents, two parents, one child), it’s hard to say how much support seniors can expect. And in a time when millions of workers look for opportunities in a handful of big cities and leave their parents in empty nests, it’s hard to practice filial piety exemplars.

In early August, China’s National Bureau of Senior Affairs (全国老龄办) released the New 24 Filial Exemplars. Some articles in the new exemplars are even included in the new draft of Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Seniors. The New 24 Filial Exempars not only shows how the dynamics of family and of the parent-child relationship have changed in China, but also subtly tells a story of modern China as it is today.

1.  Regularly bring spouse/significant other/partner and children home

2.  Spend holidays with parents as often as possible

3.  Hold birthday parties for parents

4.  Cook for parents

5.  Give a call to parents during weekends

6.  Pocket money to parents is never too much

7. Set up “care cards” for parents

8. Sincerely listen to parents’ life stories

9. Teach parents how to surf the Internet

10. Regularly take pictures of parents

11. Tell parents that you love them

12. Help parents to finish their unfinished dreams

13. Support parents’ hobbies

14. Support widowed parent to re-marry

15. Regularly take parents to physical checkups

16. Buy appropriate insurances for parents

17. Regularly communicate your thoughts with parents

18. Take parents to important events

19. Let parents visit where you work

20. Travel with parents

21. Do exercises with parents

22. Participate in parents’ social events

23. Accompany parents to visit old friends of theirs

24. Watch an old movie with parents

Are you a filial son according to these exemplars? Reactions to the new exemplars are mixed. Some call them filial piety 2.0 that does a good job of capturing the modern meaning of showing care for one’s parents. Some others, on the other hand, think the new exemplars should not be released as behavior guidance because filial piety is much larger than 24 suggestions.

[Background: Wikipedia has a very good summary of what being filial means: “In more general terms, filial piety means to be good to one's parents; to take care of one's parents; to engage in good conduct not just towards parents but also outside the home so as to bring a good name to one's parents and ancestors; to perform the duties of one's job well so as to obtain the material means to support parents as well as carry out sacrifices to the ancestors; not be rebellious; show love, respect and support; display courtesy; ensure male heirs, uphold fraternity among brothers; wisely advise one's parents, including dissuading them from moral unrighteousness; display sorrow for their sickness and death; and carry out sacrifices after their death.”]

The old Twenty-four Filial Exemplars:

  1. The Feeling of Filial Piety Moved Heaven (Xiào Găn Dòng Tiān 孝感動天)
  2. Her Son Tasted Soups and Medicine (Qīn Cháng Tāng Yào 親嘗湯藥)
  3. Zengzi‘s mother: She Bit Her Finger and Pained His Heart (Niè Zhĭ Xīn Tòng 嚙指心痛)
  4. He Obeyed His Mother in Simple Clothes (Dān Yī Shùn Mŭ 單衣順母)
  5. He Shouldered Rice To Nourish His Parents (Fù Mĭ Yàng Qīn 負米養親)
  6. He Sold Himself To Bury His Father (Mài Shēn Zàng Fù 賣身葬父)
  7. He Fed His Parents Doe’s Milk (Lù Rŭ Fèng Qīn 鹿乳奉親)
  8. He Hired Out To Support His Mother (Xíng Yōng Gòng Mŭ 行佣供母)
  9. He Concealed Oranges To Present To His Mother (Huái Jú Wèi Qīn 懷橘遺親)
  10. She Suckled Her Mother-In-Law (Rŭ Gū Bū Dài 乳姑不怠)
  11. He Let Mosquitoes Consume His Blood (Zì Wén Băo Xuĕ 恣蚊飽血)
  12. Wang Xiang Lay on Ice in Search of Carp (Wò Bīng Qiú Lĭ 臥冰求鯉)
  13. He Buried His Son for His Mother (Wèi Mŭ Mái Ér 為母埋兒)
  14. He Strangled A Tiger To Save His Father (È Hŭ Jiù Qīn 搤虎救父)
  15. He Abandoned His Post To Seek His Mother (Qì Guān Xún Mŭ 棄官尋母)
  16. He Tasted Dung With an Anxious Heart (Cháng Fèn Yōu Xīn 嘗糞憂心)
  17. He Amused His Parents With Play and Glad Clothes (Xì Căi Yú Qīn 戲彩娱親)
  18. He Picked Mulberries To Serve His Mother (Shí Shèn Gòng Mŭ 拾桑供母)
  19. He Fanned the Pillow and Warmed the Quilt (Shān Zhĕn Wēn Qín 扇枕温衾)
  20. The Fountain Bubbled and the Carps Leapt Out (Yŏng Quán Yuè Lĭ 涌泉躍鯉)
  21. He Heard Thunder and Wept at the Grave (Wén Léi Qì Mù 聞雷泣墓)
  22. He Carved Wood To Serve His Parents (Kē Mù Shì Qīn 刻木事親)
  23. He Wept Till the Bamboo Sprouted (Kū Zhú Shēng Sŭn 哭竹生筍)
  24. He Washed His Mother’s Bedpan (Dí Qīn Niào Qì 滌親溺器)

 

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5 Responses to “The new 24 exemplars of filial piety”

  1. [...] Canada, and might even appear comical to the Western observer. The first step was to publish “The New 24 Exemplars of Filial Piety” (I’m sorry I couldn’t find the full stories in English, only brief summaries). [...]

  2. [...] traditional value. Back in 2012, China’s National Bureau of Senior Affairs released a list of New 24 Filial Exemplars, giving the thousand-year old concept new applications in today’s [...]

  3. Alec says:

    “13. Support parents’ hobbits” Oh wow!

  4. [...] The new 24 exemplars of filial piety | Offbeat China In early August, China’s National Bureau of Senior Affairs (全国老龄办) released the New 24 Filial Exemplars. Some articles in the new exemplars are even included in the new draft of Law on the Protection of the Rights and Interests of Seniors. The New 24 Filial Exempars not only shows how the dynamics of family and of the parent-child relationship have changed in China, but also subtly tells a story of modern China as it is today. [...]

  5. Someone thinks this story is hao-tastic…

    This story was submitted to Hao Hao Report – a collection of China’s best stories and blog posts. If you like this story, be sure to go vote for it….

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