Change concept of filial piety

Updated: 2014-12-17 08:01

(China Daily)

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Fulfilling filial responsibilities is easier said than done. And meeting all the requirements of filial piety has become all the more difficult in these postmodern times, because many people still stick to age-old beliefs that are no longer applicable or practical, says an article in Qianjiang Evening News. Excerpts:

Zhou Songying, who is just about 50, has had to shift residence three times in six years, moving to her latest house in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, early this month. She has had to do so to escape from some people who accused her of "not respecting or taking good care of her parents". Her father died in 2006 and mother in 2008.

Following her parents' wishes, Zhou donated their bodies for medical research. Many of her neighbors and relatives believe that she shouldn't have done so, because according to traditional Chinese culture landing up on the dissecting table is one of the worst endings a person can have. Some even alleged that Zhou sold her parents' bodies for money, while others insisted she get the bodies back and gave her parents a traditional burial.

Zhou's parents signed the declaration to donate their bodies in 2002, becoming the first couple to take such a step in Suzhou, one of the most developed cities in China with a population of about 10 million.

Following parents' wishes is the primary requirement of filial piety. If Zhou had not donated her parents' bodies, she would have violated the spirit of filial piety. But by fulfilling her parents' wishes, she fell foul of her relatives and neighbors. She was in a typical damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you don't situation.

That, however, was not the end of Zhou's predicament. When her parents signed the declaration to donate their bodies in 2002, the then 37-year-old Zhou too signed the declaration to donate her body. This infuriated her detractors who said she should not have taken such a decision while her parents are alive, because a deep-rooted concept originating from Confucius is that a child's body and hair are given by parents and it should not destroy them without the parents' permission.

The modernization of a nation includes the development of its culture and values. Tradition, to begin with, is evolution of culture and civilization, rather than a static and rigid mindset. Chinese society should be more open to donation of bodies for medical research, which is essential for the advancement of science and public good.

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