Filial piety

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  • Japanese/Chinese: 孝 (kô, kyô / xiào)

Filial piety is a key element in East Asian values & morality, and is particularly promoted and esteemed in Confucianism.

While individuality and individual desire surely has a place in every culture, the Chinese and those within the sphere of Chinese cultural influence place particular priority on valuing filial piety, and the needs and interests of the family, rather than the individual. Where to a considerable extent in modern Western culture, priority is placed on parents guiding and supporting their children in becoming successfully independent adults, Chinese, Japanese, and Koreans traditionally place greater priority on preparing sons (and in different ways, daughters) to be able to care for the parents in their old age, and to be able to successfully perpetuate the family line. The fulfillment of filial piety includes not only respecting, obeying, and caring for parents in life, but also an obligation to perform memorial rites after the parent's death, and an obligation to honor one's ancestors by putting the maintenance of the family's reputation and well-being, ahead of individual personal desires or pursuits, so as to pass on the household (its wealth, reputation, etc.) to future generations.


  • Lloyd Eastman, Family, Fields, and Ancestors: Constancy and Change in China's Social and Economic History, 1550-1949, Oxford University Press (1988), 15-16.