Ways to Show Filial Piety to Your Parents

posted in: Culture Stress | 4

Tomorrow, the ninth day of the ninth lunar month, is Respect Elders Festival in China.  It is also known as Double Nine Festival, which is an ancient festival from Chinese traditional religion.  In 1989 it was also designated as Respect Elders (or Senior Citizens) Festival.  This is not a huge festival, but my church is really emphasizing it.  On Sunday, the theme of the service was about respecting elders (text from the 10 commandments and a verse in Leviticus).  Today, one of the articles they posted to WeChat (the alternative to Facebook in China) is a list of 28 ways to show filial piety to your parents.  I can understand most of them, so here is a rough translation of a selection of the 28 suggestions.


My Last Photo With My Parents

1. Remember parents’ birthday: give them a birthday gift or personally say I love you, I miss you. If conditions permit, give them a birthday party.

2. Return home frequently to see them.  If you can’t, then twice a week or more call them.

3. Every year or every two years take your parents for a physical examination.

4. Often give them photos, especially when you have a girlfriend or baby.

5. Earnestly return their text messages, so you don’t cause their phone to be troubled or anxious.

6. Take your parents travelling.

7. Help your single father or mother to find a husband/wife.

8. Frequently have heart-to-heart talks with your parents, talk about your work, and new boyfriend.

13. Every year, help your parents one time wash their feet, or one time beat (thump?) their back, one time comb their hair, one time cut their nails, ponder the things our parents have done for us.

14. Know the foods they like to eat, and personally make them for your parents.

15. Solve your parents most basic clothing, food, living problems.  If conditions permit, give your parents enough pocket money.  Every year, personally help them choose one or two new outfits of clothes, allow them to not worry about what they will wear.

17. If your parents get sick, it should be understood that family things come first, work things come second.  In times of illness, everything should be done by oneself, devote all your attention to caring for them, all cannot bear a loathing heart.  If an epidemic disease, take care, for children, all will not worry. [This is a rough translation…don’t ask exactly what that last sentence means.  I suspect there is an implied connection or two that I haven’t figured out yet]

23. Buy appropriate insurance for your parents.

24. Help them complete the dreams your parents didn’t complete when they were young, for instance to fly in an airplane, see the ocean, climb the Great Wall.

25. Talk a walk, chat, exercise with your parents.

26. Take your parents to see a movie, to do karaoke, or to a modern, high technology physical exam.

27. Unconditionally support your parents’ free-time hobbies, respect your parents’ choices and decisions.

Note: the posting I translated this from noted the original source as “the internet” with no link, and I can’t figure out how to link to what I saw posted in WeChat (求道以恒 account on 20 October 2015).  I’m sorry this is the worst attribution ever.


Family relationships in contemporary China are fascinating to me.  I was going to add some observations to this list, but then I realized this post would end up being twice as long as it probably should be.  So I’m saving those for another post.  I will say that should either of my parents ever be in the position of desiring a new husband/wife (a really, really long time from now), they are on their own.  I will respect and support their decisions (as long as they aren’t totally unwise), but I’m not matchmaking.  Sorry, Mom and Dad.

4 Responses

  1. Knoughvah

    So funny! I figured that anything entitled “filial piety” had to be good.

    • Ruth

      I know. That is the translation of the Chinese term, but it isn’t really a term we use in English….

  2. Kathy DeMey

    When my mother became very old, I would wash her feet and comb her hair and cut her nails on a regular basis. 🙂 She was always so appreciative of that. My parents are both gone from this world and into the next. I read this list, and although some of the requirements are hilarious, I wish they were still around so I could “earnestly” text them! Very clear that that Chinese put family before work, eh? Not so much in the U.S. But maybe Chinese young people are moving away from this mindset.

    • Ruth

      The family structure has changed dramatically in the last 30-50 years, so families are trying to deal with the mobility and pressure of modern society. There are also more older people than younger, because of the one-child policy. So a typical couple has 4 parents to care for, with no siblings to help them, and often high pressure jobs. It is not easy to be Chinese today.

Leave a Reply