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Father’s Day and Filial Piety

June 15, 2016 2 min read

Scene from the Song Dynasty Illustrations of the Classic of Filial Piety (detail), depicting a son kneeling before his parents. (Wikipedia)

Throughout its five thousand years of civilization China has had a diversity of teachings, but filial piety, or respect for one’s parents, elders, and ancestors, has been common to almost all of them. Historically, the Confucian classic Xiao Jing has been the authoritative source on “xiao” or filial piety. Here, respect for one’s parents encompasses: being good to one’s parents, taking care of one’s parents, conducting oneself well to bring a good name to one’s parents, doing well at work so one can financially support one’s parents, upholding good feelings among siblings, wisely advising one’s parents, and showing sorrow and grief at one’s parents sickness and death. All of these are values that we still aspire to today, especially on Father’s Day!

Celebrating Father’s Day

Yun Boutique would like to celebrate this special day with a poem from more than 3,000 years ago, a classic poem from ancient China. “Liao E” forms part of the collection Shijing or Classic of Poetry, which itself forms part of the Five Classics, texts which were studied and memorized by scholars in China for over 2000 years. The poem is written by a son who lost his parents and regrets not treating them well enough whilst they are still alive. As people always say, we only truly cherish something when it is lost.

Let’s not have that feeling of regret towards any of our beloved ones. Express your love to your father with a gift and a hug saying “Happy Father’s Day”. 

E, the object plant of the poem Liao E, has another name "holding mother Hao". (Image from Ancient Paintings of Famous Items in Classic of Poetry by Japanese scholars in Edo period.)

Note: E is a plant which grows abundantly around the same root, like children around their parents; on the other hand, hao and wei grow alone.

Liao E

Long and large grows the e ,
It is not the e but the (lonely) hao .
Alas ! alas ! my parents ,
With what toil ye gave me birth !
Long and large grows the e ,
It is not the e but the (lonely) wei .
Alas ! alas ! my parents ,
With what toil and suffering ye gave me birth !
When the pitcher is exhausted ,
It is the shame of the jar .
Than to live an orphan ,
It would be better to have been long dead .
Fatherless , who is there to rely on ?
Motherless , who is there to depend on ?
When I go abroad , I carry my grief with me ;
When I come home , I have no one to go to .
O my father , who begat me !
O my mother , who nourished me !
Ye indulged me , ye fed me ,
Ye held me up , ye supported me ,
Ye looked after me , ye never left me ,
Out and in ye bore me in your arms .
If I would return your kindness ,
It is like great Heaven , illimitable ,
Cold and bleak is the Southern hill ;
The rushing wind is very fierce .
People all are happy ; --
Why am I alone thus miserable ?
The Southern hill is very steep ;
The rushing wind is blustering .
People all are happy ; --
I alone have been unable to finish [my duty] .

Translation credit: University of Virginia Library. 

Researched by Ariel Tian.

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