Many around the world are engaging in filial piety one way or another this festive period whether they subscribe to the Asian philosophical belief or not.

And why wouldn’t they? This is the season to gather with your loved ones, catch up with your elders and reminisce childhood memories with gratitude as while pondering over the lengths our parents went through to bring us up.

Those who can’t make it to family reunions may be catching up with their parents over calls or thinking of them as they buy presents. Meanwhile, those who have lost both their parents could be paying their graves a visit before the year ends.

While you may not be a firm believer of the Confucius concept of filial piety, many can agree that reciprocating our love and respect for our parents is simply human nature.

What is filial piety?

Filial piety is a teaching about parental devotion founded by the Chinese philosopher more than 3,000 years ago, when agriculture was the main source of economic around the world.

It is rooted in Chinese culture and continue to be practiced by many Buddhists and Taoists, among others, today, but interpretations of the concept have evolved over the years.

As mindsets change and the world modernizes, many do not subscribe to the concept as strictly as it was laid out in the 24 paragons of filial piety – some of which have come under criticism for seeming rather “foolish.”

Among the stories of parental loyalty written in the paragons include one of a man who tasted his father’s feces in order to diagnose his health, while another tells of a man who buried his own son so he could provide for his mother.

Today’s younger generation continue to practice filial piety — perhaps without the extreme measures such as those in the above stories.

Beyond providing material wealth, many these days give back to their parents within their means by taking their parents out on vacations or gathering with them over dinner. So long as it is within their means.

Filial piety in the west

Some aspects of Chinese filial piety continue to be argued by Westerners even till this day. These include that the concept places the elders in the highest regard and almost god-like, such that the Taoists, for example, would engage in ancestor worship.

There are those who also disagree with how the concepts gives parents free reign to hold their children indebted for the rest of their lives, causing the young to show a forced show of gratitude.

Others have argued that filial piety creates a hierarchical system within the family, something that goes against the West’s liberal views of individualism and democracy. Speaking of hierarchies, filial piety is also spelled out with the Chinese character 孝, or xiao, which shows the older person being supported or carried by the son.

Amid the conflicting views that many Westerners have when it comes to the Chinese concept of filial piety, respecting the elders is an indispensable part of their moral principles – one that is also ingrained in popular religious beliefs.

In Christianity, for example, honoring the father and mother is one of the 10 commandments believed to be laid out to Moses.

The fourth commandment “honor thy father and mother,” refers to the moral obligation to be faithful and show respect to the parents.

So, when was the last time you spoke to your parents?

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