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Filial Piety Revisited

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Postby JR8 » Wed, 26 Jan 2011 1:50 pm

Chinese culture? Follow the money!

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Postby tyianchang » Wed, 26 Jan 2011 3:29 pm

[quote="Mary Hatch Bailey.[/quote]

No, your insistance that it is a Chinese or Western issue is though. As far as 'laddish' goes, well, you're on your own there. :roll:

Have yourself a good night tyianchang/anneteoh.[/quote]


-- People I've chatted with just call me anneteoh. I don't have to insist on anything . Filial piety is a phrase taken out of a Confucian text and as far as my description of it goes in this thread, it's practised by the S'poreans I've met. So it's neither antiquated nor strereotyped .
I find nothing negative about children caring for their parents so much.

Having reread your text again, I don't think you're easily led into the kind of witchhunt - as they did in Salem if you've read Arthur Miller, that seems to be popping its ugly head in few postsa
Basically, this is , one thinks, an age of enlightenment, gained from people crossing borders and cultures. Any form of stereotyping, racism, prejudice, sucking up or simply ignorance shows its own cracks and reflect on their own shortfalls.

What I said about FP being a Chinese practice is so evident in JRB's response regarding can'tpay, won't pay, embarrassment etc testified to my original statement about the different attitude FP might draw from people in the West where attention is more given to birthdays, Christmas, parents' days etc. Judging from the reaction gauged here, there is room for proper discussion rather than reactions immediately Asian or Western differences or similarities are drawn out.

A discussion is not based on the premise of winning, or even worse, dirty winning and unashamed bigotry. That kind of approach rather smudge the good name of this forum. Anyone supporting witch hunting or racism is a disappointment - to me, that won't be just about the forum but for SG as well. I expect a really world class forum as some of the senior members have rasied it. In the end it's not about one's own stupid blightedness , self-embarrassment or attitude but the depth and breath of one's knowledge, integrity and wit.

I don't bother to reply to such self acclaimed crassness from a few posts - this last paragraph is a general statement and does not refer to you.
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Postby tyianchang » Wed, 26 Jan 2011 4:07 pm

k1w1 wrote:Damn, my post disappeared too!

I find these discussions of filial peity amusing. It is almost always a "See what we do in Asia because we love our families?" and "See how selfish Westerners are that they leave their old people to rot in retirement homes?" comparison.

As MHB said, it is not usually acceptable in many Western cultures to discuss money. I don't even know what my brothers earn, and would be told where to go if I asked someone in my parents' generation something like that!

In all seriousness, there is a heavy burden on the shoulders of many in Singapore. It is just not realistic to expect someone to pay for their parents, pay for their children, and somehow support themselves - all in a time when the cost of living goes far beyond the average person's salary.

I can only hope the OP does not have children. The part about expecting a return from your children is abhorrent to me. Talk about a burden - and just for being born.


--- I really didn't mean it that way, though I had an intuition some people might jump the gun. There is an undeniable difference alright, but that doesn't lead to any judgemental summary of good evrsus bad. There's always good and bad everywhere in every culture. What I was talking about is a way of practice in FP which, as you said above, is not acceptable by most people in the West.

I hate generalisations, but, it's amusing when you substantiated MHB's point that it's generally not acceptable for people to discuss money matters in the West. From my very own personal experience, when I first lived in the UK, there was so much open talk about moeny that I cringed, having come from Malaysia where polite people don't discuss money matters. Well, perhaps it's the social catchment domain we've touched on. However, I find most Americans I met talking about money and insurance claims most naturally and without any ceemony.

Regarding your concerns for the people in SG, I learnt about their FP practice from a group of those highly qualified and paid. But within their own families there are brothers and sisters who are less qualified and less paid and they give their parents less or occasionally. It's not a rigid cut off point for everyone but a flexible Do what you can fr your parents thing. What impressed me is the thought and giving-ness for their parents.

Your last paragraph points to the different perceptions between East and West in this area of cultural norm. I do have a daughter who's half English and brought up in the uk with the English side of the family all round. She knows the difference and the general notion of FP and joked about giving me money every month like her cousin in SG but we never really got that going. The situation is she is married and have two kids so her needs are greater than mine and it's that I give them a lot more, includig holidays etc but it's about family balances.

I don't envy my sister in SG as everyone's different. She's a millionaire housewife while I'm a contented intellectual with altrusitic goals, some rather deluded of course. That's the difference and to me, it's a big one. St

The reason I talked about FP is that it has relevance because it's a good practice carried on by the people I know in SG. If some Chinese were to discuss this, they might compare and argue to what extent FP should be practised. It's a fitting topic for CNY, I mean FP, not the materialistic part of it only.
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Postby ksl » Wed, 26 Jan 2011 11:39 pm

Filial Piety
This expression is not commonly used in the west for obvious reasons it's mostly Asian...To say westerners do not look after their parents is quite wrong. Even the lowest paid westerners will endeavor to help their parents if needed. Though parents very often are too proud to ask for help, many are even too proud to request welfare help.

I get the impression that Anneteoh is feeling rather nostalgic, it's an age think. Most Singaporeans over the age of 40 will no doubt look after their parents in accordance with what they can afford. Though lets be realsitic many Singaporeans are exploited due to a lack of education and are subsidized by government accordingly, this group will certainly have difficulty looking after anyone but themselves, its called survival.

Filial piety is a good thing, it goes on the world over, not just Asian, though the expression is well meant. I have seen with my own eyes, the jealousy and upheavil fighting over wealth in Asia, after parents have passed on... so the Filial Peity is also measured in financial terms at the end of the yard stick. For the hard working parents that went to the grave, it would be a shock, how families are split over inheritance, the same as any where else in the world. :roll:

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Postby JR8 » Thu, 27 Jan 2011 12:04 am

I think western people can 'respect' their elders quite well enough without it involving counting out the bank-notes on the table each week, and then announcing the fact to everybody.

One might wonder why the OP posted such a divisive and one sided post.

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Postby Mary Hatch Bailey » Thu, 27 Jan 2011 8:32 am

# 1 Rule When Finding Yourself in a Hole:

STOP DIGGING

tianchang wrote:But FP is unheard of in the West where the individual reigns supreme, even within the family structure. With the current crisis on pensions, annuities and other financial shortfalls faced by the retireds, FP might be a jolly good idea


Without a full-throated denouncement of this close-minded, outdated and false assumption, your subsequent posts are ultimately meaningless.
Last edited by Mary Hatch Bailey on Thu, 27 Jan 2011 1:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Postby earthfriendly » Thu, 27 Jan 2011 10:54 am

"The definition includes the responsibility of each person to respect their parents, obey them, take care of them as they age, advise parents, and of course to love them. Loving one’s parents and offering them respect is the spring from which other forms of filial piety flows. A relationship with parents must be centered on love and respect. This does not mean that children always obey. In fact some schools of Confucian and Buddhist thought feel the adult child must point out the parent’s mistakes and help to teach them. Confucius often emphasized the circuitous relationship of life. When the child is young, the parent is strong, preeminent and due all respect. When the child is an adult he or she must take the place of the parent and lead the family."

This post pricked my interest and I googled Confucianism and filial piety. I also read the wikipedia page. Apparently Confucianism placed a big emphasis on filial piety and it took such a strong hold on the Chinese psyche to honor the family across the generations hence giving rise to the concept of lineage, continueing family line and hence a preference for sons so as to preserve the surname of the family and honoring one's ancestors resulting in the ancestor worship we know today.

Confucianism is about each person fulfilling his social responsibility (not about social status) within the unit,family, prefecture and ultimately at the country level. It is about cultivating mind and character and in his classroom, the rich learn alongside poor students. One just needs to have the desire to learn. No mention of $$$$. So filial piety is not about unquestioning obedience or getting $$$ return out of your kids. Many people have evoke the name of Confucianism to justify their personal objectives. Multi level marketers also use confucianism to justify their existence. Yes confucianism endorses a hierarchy structure but it is a heirarchy of social responsibilities, not an instrument for the person on top to extract revenue out of their downline.

Japan is much more confucianistic than Singapore and yet the elderly are quite independent of their kids. Just like there are people who use Islam for good and those who committ terror in its name. Confucianism is open to interpretation and practised differently in different countries. The west may not have a formal name like FP but the concept of love and respect for parents is a universal one. Each culture/family shows their love and respect differently based on their personal situation.

Being financially independent is a personal responsibility and one should not shift it to another party pinning hopes on govt pension (which is failing) and your kids. When I become old and frail, I hope my kids will come tend to me. And they do it because they want to spend time with me and not because Confucius says so.

And I hope I will not be too proud to ask for financial help from my kids if I need it. You don't know how long you will live and it is hard to make financial plan with a big unknown. And rising health care cost can make a big dent. It is possible to run out of $$ despite good planning. It is not unreasonable to request for help from your kids at this point. After all, that's what family is for right? Helping each other out in times of need.

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Postby tyianchang » Fri, 28 Jan 2011 3:25 pm

ksl wrote:Filial Piety
This expression is not commonly used in the west for obvious reasons it's mostly Asian...To say westerners do not look after their parents is quite wrong. Even the lowest paid westerners will endeavor to help their parents if needed. Though parents very often are too proud to ask for help, many are even too proud to request welfare help.

I get the impression that Anneteoh is feeling rather nostalgic, it's an age think. Most Singaporeans over the age of 40 will no doubt look after their parents in accordance with what they can afford. Though lets be realsitic many Singaporeans are exploited due to a lack of education and are subsidized by government accordingly, this group will certainly have difficulty looking after anyone but themselves, its called survival.

Filial piety is a good thing, it goes on the world over, not just Asian, though the expression is well meant. I have seen with my own eyes, the jealousy and upheavil fighting over wealth in Asia, after parents have passed on... so the Filial Peity is also measured in financial terms at the end of the yard stick. For the hard working parents that went to the grave, it would be a shock, how families are split over inheritance, the same as any where else in the world. :roll:


Hi KSL, yes the post was well meant but the reactions are revealing. No, I'm not nostalgic as I have too much to do and time flies too quickly.
FP is a concept as Earth Friendly has supported with the much considered research, and which was what we happened to discuss much of when I was on the tour.

Indeed, there are many examples of selfless devotion people in the UK give to their sick parents or disabled children though their duties are less onerous since the social welfare help out and support them . This is a perfect practice but now there are threatned cuts to every social amenity around. These are beautiful people but they do good for the sake of it and not because they are expected to be filial Equally, there are those who leave their parents alone and only see them when they're in need themselves. Most of us have a general idea about the minority-majority ratio for this difference.

FP is a Chinese practice as much as politeness is English, political correctness American etc... err, you know what I mean.

I drew out a very specific example of a very special type of FP where children go to the extent of giving their parents monthly sums, weekend dinners and holidays. Obviously money is not the main objective of FP and if we look at literature, and life in general, there are far more testing ways to prove the great honourbale love between parents and their children. I some cases, there are tragic and uresolvable conflicts.

I regard the giving of monthly allowances as a very committed example of FP practice though the mention of money can bring up hypocritical sneerings and other social attitudes concerning pride, ego, selfishness, disgust etc.

But money is about payment, or as in this context , a repayment and hence an expression of gratitude and caring for life. Some of our friends continue to get allowances from their family but it's usually from parents.
It's rare that children give their parents monthly allowances, even when FP is practised in various ways in families though most children will help out their parents when they're in need.

As for taking parents on holidays with spending money too - that is, to me such FP. Most 20-30 somethings in the West (and East) would cringe if their parents went along with them on holidays though many would include their parents when they have families of their own.

But those who bring their aged parents of 70+ on holidays regularly have indeed, great fp. And it's not just the ticket but the care and administration of their needs at every stage.

I think EF will agree that this amounts to FP in the Confucian sense of the norm.
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Postby tyianchang » Fri, 28 Jan 2011 4:13 pm

earthfriendly wrote:"The definition includes the responsibility of each person to respect their parents, obey them, take care of them as they age, advise parents, and of course to love them. Loving one’s parents and offering them respect is the spring from which other forms of filial piety flows. A relationship with parents must be centered on love and respect. This does not mean that children always obey. In fact some schools of Confucian and Buddhist thought feel the adult child must point out the parent’s mistakes and help to teach them. Confucius often emphasized the circuitous relationship of life. When the child is young, the parent is strong, preeminent and due all respect. When the child is an adult he or she must take the place of the parent and lead the family."

This post pricked my interest and I googled Confucianism and filial piety. I also read the wikipedia page. Apparently Confucianism placed a big emphasis on filial piety and it took such a strong hold on the Chinese psyche to honor the family across the generations hence giving rise to the concept of lineage, continueing family line and hence a preference for sons so as to preserve the surname of the family and honoring one's ancestors resulting in the ancestor worship we know today.

Confucianism is about each person fulfilling his social responsibility (not about social status) within the unit,family, prefecture and ultimately at the country level. It is about cultivating mind and character and in his classroom, the rich learn alongside poor students. One just needs to have the desire to learn. No mention of $$$$. So filial piety is not about unquestioning obedience or getting $$$ return out of your kids. Many people have evoke the name of Confucianism to justify their personal objectives. Multi level marketers also use confucianism to justify their existence. Yes confucianism endorses a hierarchy structure but it is a heirarchy of social responsibilities, not an instrument for the person on top to extract revenue out of their downline.

Japan is much more confucianistic than Singapore and yet the elderly are quite independent of their kids. Just like there are people who use Islam for good and those who committ terror in its name. Confucianism is open to interpretation and practised differently in different countries. The west may not have a formal name like FP but the concept of love and respect for parents is a universal one. Each culture/family shows their love and respect differently based on their personal situation.

Being financially independent is a personal responsibility and one should not shift it to another party pinning hopes on govt pension (which is failing) and your kids. When I become old and frail, I hope my kids will come tend to me. And they do it because they want to spend time with me and not because Confucius says so.

And I hope I will not be too proud to ask for financial help from my kids if I need it. You don't know how long you will live and it is hard to make financial plan with a big unknown. And rising health care cost can make a big dent. It is possible to run out of $$ despite good planning. It is not unreasonable to request for help from your kids at this point. After all, that's what family is for right? Helping each other out in times of need.


You're most welome Earth Friendly. I retain the quotation so that I can flick back to your excellent research and make reference to some of the observations you've made. Seems like you're an Asia hand, like there're China hands in the days of MaCarthyism.

The cultivation of mind and character are the pillars of most Chinese thinkers, including Daoism. Chinese spiritualism embraces the body, mind and spirit - such as is practised in traditional medicine and accupuncture.

Buddhism is a quintessentially beautiful religion but it's slightly different from Confucianism and Daoism in the main precept that one must leave all else to gain enlightenment. Of course, there are other schools of thoughts too, in their variable folk and official practices. The doing of one's duty, esp to the family are strictly adhered to in C and D; in fact, a true Daotist, as different from charlatans, only seeks the path to enlightenemnt after his fulfillment of family duties. Buddhism, as you know, comes from India to become Chan Buddhism (spiritual discourses at the metaphysical level)and then Zen in Japan.

You're right. Confucianisn is etched into the Chinese and other SE Asian countries, notably HK, SG, Japan, Taiwan and Koreas (as was the Chinese language ). No gross money matters was mentioned of course but the word 'provision for the elderly' is a substitute by implication, err, indirectly.

The point you raised (I made a premature submission to avoid losing the post ) regarding how Confucianisn is utilised by some parents to justify their exploitation of their children on gender, race or class biases issuing from their own greed and ignorance. The oppression of children by parents asserting their Confucian hierachy abound in Chinese literature of pre Mao times. As a matter of interest, my mainland Chinese friends at one stage were all Marxists and relegated the overseas Chinese to being more Confucian than themselves. But new ideas cannot replace what is basically a sound universal teaching.

'Being financially independent' is to be expected of as that entails duty to oneslef and others; but there are implications when parents are not well educated, if at all, or have long illnesses. The examples I saw were from healthy, employable and failry rich parents with no need of contributiions from their children. These children give out of FP ; and when they're in need, their parents help them out too.

I would extend FP in families to good friends, or friend in need and even the odd stranger hapless on the road by the way of the good Samartan. The reason I brought out this topic is to garner a discussion on FP and to expand its limitations to family ( that was one of the downfalls of China - family to the exclusion of all others ) and to broaden out to include other equally positive social norms, that of the good Samaritan.

Granted that charity begins at home, thank you EF, for the substantial contribution. Wishing you and everyone happy CNY.
Last edited by tyianchang on Fri, 28 Jan 2011 4:57 pm, edited 8 times in total.
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Postby JR8 » Fri, 28 Jan 2011 4:21 pm

Is she selling something? :???:

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Postby sundaymorningstaple » Fri, 28 Jan 2011 5:25 pm

No, but if one gets beyond her style of writing (which would put any Indian graduate's Shakespearean era prose to shame) and distills it down to my level of understanding (that of a peon or farmer), she has her points that are, at times, hard to refute. Unfortunately, due to her long and winding missives, some get tired or just plain aggravated and that's when the sniping starts from the rest of you lot.

Of course, anne, you need to not be too thin-skinned as well. Most here don't mean any harm and as I pointed out to you some time ago, some just like to bait you because they know you will take the bait. That or they don't have the patience to do the necessary research to debate your statements.

And that, folks, is why I let these discourses continue as I find both sides, on occasion, rising to the bait. But it's all in fun. Nobody's called anybody "derogatory" names, or made "racist" comments.

And, as long as that doesn't start happening, I'm okay.

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Postby beppi » Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:45 pm

If Filial Piety means loving and respecting one's parents, I don't see more or less of it in Singapore than in the West.
If Filial Piety means supporting parents in difficult times (financial or otherwise), I also believe it exists in the West as much as here.
The difference is financial support in times that are not difficult but normal. This is common here but rare in the West. And there is a reason for it:
In the Western, more individualistic and freedom-oriented cultures, being independent and able to care for yourself is an important value. Even the suggestion of everyday support (financial or otherwise) to a typical Western parent is seen as demeaning, as it implies they aren't able to take care of themselves, and will most likely be rejected. Nobody wants to be demeaning to their parents, so this is reserved for real emergencies - and most Westerners (and Asians alike) will do and offer whatever it takes if such an emergency really occurs.
We can continue forever searching for reasons to claim one culture superior to another, but to me it's just another example of different, not worse.
What is really lacking (on any side of this debate) is not Filial Piety, but understanding, open-mindedness and tolerance!
Can we continue the discussion in this spirit?

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Postby Brah » Sat, 29 Jan 2011 11:56 pm

You mean you actually read all that text? You've got a lot more initiative than me.

With posts like that I'm like the Far Side dog where the Master is talking English to the dog, and all the dog hears is "<dog> wah wah wah wah...." like Charlie Brown's teacher's voice.

I got some opinionated pontification "...Western...is...Eastern....is...."... and before I changed channels.

Mary Hatch Bailey wrote:I guess I just see no value in perpetualizing antiquated stereotypes and pitting East vs. West on an expat forum.

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Postby JR8 » Sun, 30 Jan 2011 12:15 am

beppi wrote:We can continue forever searching for reasons to claim one culture superior to another, but to me it's just another example of different, not worse.

Suggesting that you think of all cultures, none are 'worse' than another? They're all of completely equal worth? Hmm!


What is really lacking (on any side of this debate) is not Filial Piety, but understanding, open-mindedness and tolerance!

Er, but this is a cross-cultural discussion forum on the web. In fact probably one of the more mature and tolerant fora I've ever encountered.


Can we continue the discussion in this spirit?

What are we meant to do, hold hands, close our eyes and empathise with each other? :wink:


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Postby JR8 » Sun, 30 Jan 2011 12:39 am

Which I'll elaborate on before SMS puts the 10kV zapper on my ar$e...


If you have a forum for expats based in Singapore, you should not be surprised to come here and find expats in this place who sometimes want to bitch about some aspects of living in Singapore. Surely that is part of the point, you learn and grow by talking and discussing, not by just bottling up stuff and agreeing it's 'different not worse'.
Therefore if you are a Singaporean it is a little illogical to visit this site and try and demand that such occasional after work 'bitching-in-the-virtual-pub' must not take place, how offended you are by it and so on.

I think you misjudge two things. One that forums are for debate, and it will often be robust and yet still generally polite. People will position themselves for dramatic effect, that does not necessarily mean they're being aggressive, it is more simply a part of the game. When it is not the Mods will rein it in. Two, fora where people 'just show tolerance to each other' do - in my experience - not exist.

So I rather think you're not only trying to turn a pub into a kopitiam, but also the web into a place where everybody holds hands and sings kumbaya.


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