Confucianism versus Taoism
During the 18th century, China was influenced by various teachings of philosophers and beliefs that the society had placed emphasis on. Filial piety was a major practice around this period when it was strongly carried inside and outside the household. Filial piety is not only the guiding principle of Chinese ethics but it also played an affirmative role in determining the Chinese lifestyle; it was practiced daily in the family and in other areas such as education, religion and government. Many philosophers and rulers, such as Mencius and Chu His, also focused on filial piety, applying the virtue to marital life, family, death, and politics. Filial piety was demonstrate in various literatures such as “Dream of the Red Chamber”, “Six Records of a Floating Life”, and “The Classic of Filial Piety” which demonstrated the roles of individuals in Chinese society including politics. It was the central root of Chinese morals and the society was constructed upon the principles of Xiao, which certainly became the premises of Chinese culture and the society. In Confucianism, the approach of respect, fidelity, and care toward one’s parents and elder family members is the origin of individual ethical behavior and social agreement. One must put the needs of parents and family elders over self, spouse, and children. Filial piety is as closely associated with Confucius teaching as it is one of the virtues of Confucianism. Confucius once said, “Among human practices, none is greater than Xiao”. There is no doubt that filial piety remained the important aspect of Chinese society, where as the philosophers such as Confucius strongly pushed forward the idea of filial piety. A response of Confucius to a student regarding filial piety was, “Nowadays a filial son is just a man who keeps his parents in food. But even dogs or horses are given food. If there is no feeling of reverence, wherein lies the difference?” The quotation by Confucius defines the practice of filial piety by contrasting humans with animals, and stating that by providing food or necessities to the parents is not enough, but that there are responsibilities beyond providing necessities. For Confucius, a child giving respect to his parents while they are alive could be done by animals as well, however to be a filial child, one must show respect for their parent even after their death. Even as far as the Han dynasty, in which Confucianism was recognized as a state orthodoxy , it was also regarded as an administrator endorsement of filial piety; thoroughly constructing unfilial behavior as a punishable crime and rewarding acts of filial piety. Han emperors took on Xiao as part of their title and filial piety entered more and more regularly into the dynastic histories and other historical works. Filial piety was practiced all the way through the dynasties and especially in this century where many philosophers, including Confucius, focused on bringing this practice into society for better development of the families and society as a whole.
Similar to Confucius, Chu Hsi also emphasized filial piety in his proclamations. Chu Hsi became a successful administrative and supporter of education as a local official. After getting the credit for saving more than two hundred thousand people from starvation in Nan-K’ang, he was asked to help with disasters in Chekiang. Published proclamations played an important role in his success. He did not only take advantage of the public medium for spreading laws and policies to achieve administrative purposes, but brought an educational aspect to political life. Chu Hsi’s proclamations were distributed and gained a stable place in the Neo-Confucian tradition. Chu His, in his proclamations, addressed the mourning rites in detail. Since the child was under the care of his parents, therefore, after their parent’s death it is necessary for the children to follow this ritual in order to be a filial son. He stated that, “The...
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