Column: Mother’s Day and Chinese family values

Family is valued differently in the U.S. than in China.

Since Mother’s Day is coming up, I would like to talk to you all about the importance of family in Chinese culture. Although it is something that almost all Chinese can relate to, not enough people all around the world understand it.

Filial piety, known as Xiao Shun in Chinese, is the respect for one’s parents and ancestors; it is a concept that has existed for centuries. It is one of the most important values and ideologies that can shape a person’s life. My grandmother has been living with my family under the same roof for years — even before I was born. My parents knew that my grandmother would be living all alone once all four of her children got married. So when that happened, my parents asked my grandmother to live with us. Neither my parents nor any of our family members have complained about my grandmother living with us. In fact, she has become one of our closest family members.

What I have learned from when I first came to the United States is that Americans tend to spend their entire childhood anticipating the moment when they can grow up and leave their parents to live on their own. The U.S. has always embraced the idea of being independent and prized individuality. However, Americans need to be more exposed to filial piety and the importance of showing gratitude for the love and care given by the parents.

Another thing I have noticed since coming to the U.S. is the visibility of divorce. Back in Hong Kong (where I am from), the word "divorce" does not usually come up. It is an unusual and unfortunate thing to happen to a married couple. Not that married couples in Hong Kong do not encounter problems or rough patches, but whenever these appear, they work through it instead of quitting. This is also because of filial piety — family comes first in Chinese traditions.

Always be grateful to the ones who gave — it is an ideology that the Chinese live by. The parents who gave you life and looked after you from the beginning of your life deserve only the utmost, greatest love and respect from you, as parents certainly mean only the best for their children.

I remember a Chinese saying that asks: If one does not have piety toward one’s own parents, how can one be loyal toward friends, country or any other? Filial piety is such an important ideology in the Chinese culture, that it is the foundation for all other attitudes. It is one of the first things that were taught in elementary school that emphasizes the importance of family being.

I believe that life is a cycle. The way you are treating your parents will eventually become the way your children treat you in the future. The U.S. has not picked up filial piety, which as such an assimilating value that promotes the ideas of loving one's parents — being respectful, polite, considerate, loyal, helpful, dutiful, and obedient. So think about what it truly means on Mother’s Day, just a gift will not settle it, but also the true appreciation from you toward your parent.

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