Sensible advice on filial piety

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子曰:「父母在,不遠遊,遊必有方。」
Confucius said: “While your parents are alive, do not travel far. If you do have to travel, you must keep to a fixed itinerary.”

子曰:「三年無改於父之道,可謂孝矣。」
Confucius said: “If for three years after his death the son does not alter his father’s ways, he is a good son indeed.”

子曰:「父母之年,不可不知也:一則以喜,一則以。」
Confucius said: “Always keep the age of your parents in mind. Let this knowledge be both a source of joy and dread.”

There’s nothing exceptional in the advice Confucius gives here on filial piety: don’t travel too far away from your parents unless you really have to; observe the traditional three years of mourning after your father’s death (a custom that was already long-established in Confucius’s time); and celebrate your parents’ advancing years while being mindful of the small amount of time that they still have left.

It wasn’t until 350 years after his death when the Han Dynasty started to promote Confucianism in order to assert its legitimacy that filial piety mutated into a more extreme doctrine based on unquestioning obedience to parents.

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