Sunday, August 31, 2008

Filial Piety - Xiao Tao

I came across this interesting article in yesterday's The Star Weekender - Between Superstition and Symbolism. After reading Lisa See's "Peony in Love", i thought Chinese celebrates this Hungry Ghost Festival to appease the literally Hungry Ghosts because in that novel, it says that people who died tragically or those whose family didn't perform burial rituals or forgot to offer offerings to them, they will become restless, roam the world - hungry - hence, the hungry ghosts they are called. After reading the article, i had a 270 degree change in view of this ritual, which ended recently.

"The need for such ritual started "to resolve a social concern that was then plaguing a particular era", where there was a sharp spike in deaths and fatal illnesses resulted from shortage of food and sub-zero temperature, that they burn joss stick to provide some relief from the freezing cold and to get rid of flies and diseases that were spreading.

This festival was made official in the Zhou Dynasty, when a Record of Rites was compiled by a Confucianist student who thought it was a fundamental doctrine for every human being. It tells you to pay respect to those before you and to thank them for their sacrifices they have made. After all, without them, we wouldn't be here and the world wouldnt be as it is. Hence, this is the most basic concept of filial piety - xiao tao.

There is a story about Confucius asking his students in a class on the definition of xiao tao. One student answered that it means providing your parents with shelter and food and taking care of them if they are ill.

Confucius roared with laughter and commented that the studnt has not learned anything from his classes because the student speaks of his parents as if they are on equal footing with the chickens and pigs frmo the farm. He, then said, that filial piety goes beyond obligations. Two main elements of filial piety is respect and deep honour as they are the roots of all virtues.

Both parents and children are shaped by others especially their families and that is why they should always show their appreciation by respecting the elders and caring for the youngs. Confucius believes that by doing this could help to cultivate your heart and soul".

How true! They are times when i called my friend S (a chinese) upnorth and he told me that he's preparing for prayers. Most of the time, i thought he was bullshitting me because i dont see other chinese doing the same. To say that im proud of him of his family rituals is understatement, i should now proudly say that he is a filial son to his family, who thought of others before his interest, who suffers in silence so that his parents are happy. As they say, all cures are bitter but they do good to you.

So, filial piety is not about money or is the thoughts and actions that count. So, when was the last time to talk to your parents?

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