Monday, May 4, 2015

Love your Parents, says the First Filial Piety Museum in China

Recently there was news that China has opened the world's first 'filial piety' museum. I was surprised and wondered why there was a need for a museum to tell people about 'filial piety'. For those who might not know, 'filial' means that which befits a son or a daughter. It is used to describe behavior that is expected from a child for his/her parent. In Chinese culture, the concept of filial piety dates back to Confucius who in his treatise Xiao Jing wrote that filial piety "commences with the service of parents; it proceeds to the service of the ruler; it is completed by the establishment of character." The virtue of respect for the parents incorporates a respect for the state at large and makes a person good in his conduct. The closest example of filial piety from Indian culture would be that of Shravan Kumar who carries his blind parents on his shoulders. He epitomizes complete devotion to parents. In China, there is an abundance of stories like these which are recorded in The Twenty Four Filial Exemplars. The collective consciousness of China is rooted in this concept which encourages respect and care of the elderly.

If this virtue is an inherent part of Chinese culture, then why all of a sudden do we need a 'museum' for displaying it. Museums are primarily institutions that play the role of introspection and critical inquiry on the part of the subject. By showcasing certain aspects of a socio-cultural nature, they inculcate a sense of curiosity as well as satiety. When a cardinal virtue of a culture is put on display, does it reflect its waning and a need to preserve it? In this case, maybe yes.

Economic pressures and migration in search of jobs has resulted in the youngsters moving away from their parental home. Add to it the one-child policy. The elderly parents are left on their own. There are cases when parents pass away without their kids being close to them. All this made the Chinese government enact a ruling that 'filial piety' is the 'law'. Kids are expected to visit their parents regularly in order to ensure their well-being and also to show their respect and love for those who brought them in the world. 

The museum that has opened in China cost more than a million dollars. It uses traditional Chinese architecture as a backdrop and showcases stories of filial piety by detailing narrative where children sacrificed their every thing to honor and respect their parents. An artifact at display is a cart wherein two sons carried their dying mother to more than 600 cities. The shoes that they wore on this journey are also put on display. There is another story of an eight year old girl who took constant care of her paralyzed mother. Examples like these are meant to give room to a self-questioning. This interrogation with one's own self will bring feeling of 'guilt' and will prompt the subject to take steps to assure the well-being of their parents.

Some people have criticized the Chinese government of shirking its responsibility for the elderly and rather putting the entire burden on the shoulders of the children. In a society that is fiercely competitive, it has been extremely difficult to see the enforcement of the 'law' of filial piety. Hence, the government has found a unique way to disseminate the ancient values of Confucianism. It hopes to elevate the levels of sensitivity and also strengthen the bond between the parent and the child.


Visitors file past exhibits at the Modern Filial Piety Culture Museum in Guyi, Sichuan province. Photo: AFP
The teachings of Confucius are important to assert filial piety in all subjects. Image Source here


Different cultures from around the world have shown in their own way how they treat the elderly. While China made it mandatory to visit parents, a similar law was passed in France as well in 2004 in the wake of increasing suicide rates among the elderly. Koreans celebrate their elderly by marking the 60th and 70th birthdays with celebrations. Age is often associated with wisdom in Roman culture. It is a sad reality in US that age brings with it loneliness. India, our country, has observed strong family ties since ages but the trend of shifting in search of better jobs has led to an increase in the population of elderly living alone. This in turn has led to an increase in the cases of depression as well.

We can never repay what our parents have given us. We owe our very existence to them. They in turn need our love and attention. It does not suffice that we celebrate their birthdays or shower them with gifts on mothers'/fathers'/grandparents' days. They need us. They need our love and attention. We ought to find out a way in which our dreams are fulfilled with the blessings of our parents. When we were little, they were their for all our needs. When we cried, they wiped our tears. When we stumbled, they lent their hands and egged us on. Today, they need us. Let us not make the world so heartless that museums are required to remind us of our duties towards them. Let us give them the love they deserve. Often parents are given advise to spend 'time' and not money on their children. The same applies to children as when the parents have aged and all they want is your time.


parents,children,inspirational quotes,thoughts
Image Source here


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16 comments:

  1. There's nothing more important in this world than our parents! Lovely read Sunaina :-)

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  2. Besides making it mandatory for children to take care of ageing parents, and a museum to reinforce the message presents the human aspect of the Chinese culture. Nice read Sunaina.

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    1. thanks Somali.....to be able to communicate to every human in a humane way is the hallmark is very important in today's world.....who knows this museum might do what the law was not able to do.....give a time to reflect on the choices we make.....

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  3. Beautifully expressed. Family, for me, is not only personally important but socially as well. Society and Economics will collapse with the breaking down of the family unit.

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    1. you are so right to point this out....families are structures on which the society depends as a whole.....

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  4. The attitude towards parents gets imbibed when children see how their parents behaved towards their grand parents. A great concept to be displayed in museum.

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    1. be the change you want to see happen around you....set examples for others to emulate....thanks for stopping by indrani....i thoroughly enjoy your 'wordless' posts.....

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  5. Sunaina, We set our priorities in our life. For some it is money,for some job and for some family ...But all are important and its quite difficult to balance life. I myself is a victim of this article staying away from my parents and working to make both ends meet. But still I regret when I feel that they are alone in our home. An article which is well expressed..Keep posting and make the readers think from their perspective... Good work dude..

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    1. You are right to point that out Sunil....some decisions in life are just meant to be taken. I myself am away from my roots for similar reasons and spend umpteen guilty moments brooding over this....I can totally understand your pain too.....Thanks for stopping by......

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  6. Sunaina, We set our priorities in our life. For some it is money,for some job and for some family ...But all are important and its quite difficult to balance life. I myself is a victim of this article staying away from my parents and working to make both ends meet. But still I regret when I feel that they are alone in our home. An article which is well expressed..Keep posting and make the readers think from their perspective... Good work dude..

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  7. It is said that there is an unknown power that protects us from the bad.. I think if one want to see what the power really looks like, they should look at their parents.

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    1. What beautiful words Manisha.....thanks for sharing them here....

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  8. Fantastic way of expressing it. Great post.. :)

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    1. thanks Uttpal K......welcome to my blog....

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  9. Great post! Parents are the most important people in our loves!!

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