The Classic of Filial Piety

According to Chinese tradition, filial piety (Hsiao) was the primary duty of all Chinese. In the Hsiao-king (Classics of Filial Piety), Confucius is recorded as saying: "Filial piety is the root of all virtue."--"Of all the actions of man there are none greater than those of filial piety."

The term filial piety refers to the extreme respect that Chinese children are supposed to show their parents. It involves many different things including taking care of the parents, burying them properly after death, bringing honor to the family, and having a male heir to carry on the family name. Practicing these ideals is a very important part of Chinese culture. Therefore, one would expect that filial piety would be incorporated into the major religions of China as it has been.

Stories about exemplary filial conduct abound in Chinese history. The Confucius Twenty-Four Examples of Filial Piety were chosen and compiled by Kuo Chü-ching during the Yuan Dynasty (1280-1368 CE) while he was mourning the death of his father. Other collections followed. Even today, these stories form an important part of Chinese folklore. Here are two of the stories which are felt so familiar by the Chinese from generation to generation.

Bringing Deers' Milk To His Ailing Parents: Young Master Tan

A Filial Son, called Yong Master Tan, is told that his blind parents need deer milk in order to cure. He goes to the deers in deer-skin everyday to milk mother-deers. One day, a hunter mistakes him as a real deer & wants to shoot him. After the hunter knows about the case, the hunter gives him 1 mother deer to take home for his everyday milking.

Tears That Brought Bamboo Shoots From The Frozen Earth: Meng Sung

During the era of the Three Kingdoms (3rd Century CE) there lived a man named Meng Sung. He had lost his father during his childhood. When his mother was old and sick she craved fresh bamboo-shoots even though it was winter. Sung had no idea how he could get them. In desperation, he went into a bamboo grove, clasped a bamboo stem and broke into tears. His filial devotion moved heaven and earth and they forced the earth to crack open. Numerous shoots of bamboo came out. Meng Sung carried them home and made them into a soup for his mother.