2020年 第一期
How Strong is Your Love for Your Parents? Childlike Mindset and the Confucian View of Filial Piety

Liang Cai

饒宗頤國學院院刊, 7 (2020), pp. 225-254.

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  • 摘要

In the West, it is debatable whether children, adult or dependent, have filial obligations to their parents. By contrast, filial piety serves as one of the essential virtues in the Confucian tradition, which had not only dominated premodern East Asian societies but is recently promoted by 21st century Chinese government. Loving one's parents, in turn, is said to be the most fundamental and strongest human emotion praised by Confucians. This paper is not to provide justifications for treating filial piety as a virtue. But using a temporal framework, it offers a more complicated reading of the affection for parents presented in the Analects and the Mencius. While young children have strong emotional attachment to parents, adults' love to their parents is sporadic and inconsistent. To address the deficit of emotions in adults' interaction with their parents, Confucians use young children’s mindset—strong affection to parents—to both justify and motivate filial actions. This paper criticizes the view that simply equalizes consanguineous affection to xiao (filial piety). It contends that xiao, as a virtue, cannot be automatically generated by original family affection. Instead, filial-oriented rituals, as Confucians advocate, is supposed to foster an affectionate relation between parent and child.