Filial Piety in Chinese Religion
Filial piety was an integral part of Chinese culture and therefore was embraced by three of China's main religions: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. Among the three, Confucianism, with its well documented social hierarchy, supported the ideals of filial piety the most. Buddhism and Daoism also supported filial piety in some of their texts, but had monastic systems that prevented monks and nuns from being filial children.
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 (Brians 1). 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.
The ideal of respecting and behaving properly towards one's parents fits perfectly with Confucianism's ideal of respecting and behaving properly towards all elders. Confucius himself addressed the subject in the Analects:
When your father is alive observe his intentions. When he is deceased, model yourself on the memory of his behavior. If in three years after his death you have not deviated from your father's ways, then you may be considered a filial child. ("Confucian Teachings" 20).
According to Confucius, respect to one's father while he is alive is a given -- something that even animals do. But, to be a filial child, one must respect his parents even after their death. Confucius goes on to cite further specific examples of what a filial son should do for his parents. Among them, children should never offend their parents, never speak badly of them, not travel far away without purpose, always be conscious of their parents age, and protect them whenever necessary (21). These things were not all that was required of a filial child. Rather, they were an just a few rules that Confucius' disciples felt were important enough to be included in the Analects.
The concept of filial piety was exhibited in other Confucian texts as well, such as the Book of Rewards and Punishments. Although this text was technically a popular religious text, rather than a Confucian one, it highlighted many Confucian ideals, such as filial piety. It describes good, virtuous people seeking immortality as those who "exhibit loyalty to their ruler, filial piety to their parents, true friendship to their older brothers" (143). Contrarily, those who are evil "insult their ruler and their parents behind their backs" (143). According to this text, it is impossible...