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Out goes strangling tigers and selling yourself into slavery for the sake of your parents. In comes teaching them how to use the internet.Chinese authorities have updated an ancient morality text, as they seek to encourage a new generation to show suitable gratitude and respect to their mothers and fathers.
The original 24 Filial Exemplars date from around the 14th century, when Yuan dynasty scholar Guo Jujing collected the tales of obedient children. They were endlessly reprinted in the centuries that followed, until the Communist party banned them as it sought to eradicate backwards thinking.
The heroes of the work include the son who strangled a tiger to save his father and Dong Yong, a Han dynasty figure who sold himself to pay for his father’s funeral rites.
Another story, about Wang Xiang of the Jin dynasty, describes how he was mistreated by his stepmother. Undeterred in his filial duty, he lay naked on a frozen lake until the ice melted, so that she could eat carp as desired.
The new list, promoted by the All China Women’s Federation and the China National Committee on Ageing, appears rather more prosaic. It urges people to ensure their parents have sufficient health insurance, to take them for medical checks and to give them enough spending money.
It urges people to listen to their parents’ reminiscences and take them to see old movies, support their hobbies and call them at least once a week. They should not oppose the remarriage of divorced or widowed parents. It also suggests children can help to make their parents feel included by spending festivals with them, inviting them to visit workplaces and teaching them to use the internet.
Changing social mores, the embryonic state of the social safety net and the demographic “timebomb” of a fast-ageing population have made officials keener than ever to promote filial piety.
Wu Yushao, vice-president of the committee on ageing, told China Daily that it was not about blind obedience. “It is about showing respect and love to aged parents and seniors, as ageing is an accelerating trend in China,” he said. “We urge adult children to provide financial support and sufficient care to their old parents.”
An employee of the community care campaign which drew up the modern version, who would not give her name, told the Guardian: “The essence of the new guidance has not changed. The spirit of being filial is part of our culture. We’ve just added the features of modern society.”
• Additional research by Kathy Gao
This article originally appeared on guardian.co.uk
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