Filial Piety Culture

Xiaogan, Hubei Province was named after the story of Dong Yong who moved the God with filial piety. It is the only city throughout the country named after filial piety and famous for filial piety.

Among twenty-four dutiful sons in ancient China, three of them were from Xiaogan, namely Dong Yong who “sold himself to bury his father” and Huang Xiang who “cooled pillow and warmed the quilt for his father” in Han Dynasty and Meng Zong who “cried in bamboo forest for bamboo shoot” during the Three Kingdoms Period. Xiaogan, can be described as “Gathering Place of Dutiful Sons”.    

Tales of Romance: Meeting with the Fairy on the Way

The character “Xiao (filial piety)” originated from oracle bone script of ancient China and has a history of more than 4000 years. Original meaning of the character is “serving the ancestor as well as cherishing filial piety”. For Confucian orthodoxy, “filial piety” triumphs over all other good deeds and it has been written down in The Analects of Confucius that “Filial piety shall be the basis of benevolence!”

In Xiaogan, when asked about the origin of name of “Xiaogan” for the place, everyone can tell the story in a vivid way, no matter an old man of eighty years old or an ingenuous schoolboy. Story goes like this “In ancient time, there have been some men who have shown great filial obedience and compassion for their parents that their behavior even move the God and the place is named “Xiaogan” in praise of this spiritual beauty.

The city was named after “Xiaochang”, with the meaning of “more dutiful sons”, in 1500 years ago when the original county was built; and then renamed as “Xiaogan” by taking the meaning from the story of Dong Yong who moved the God with filial piety.

‘Borrowing money to bury his father, meeting with the fair lady on the way; weaving silk fabrics to repay the creditor, filial piety finally moves the God”. This is description for Dong Yong recorded in 24 Stories of Filial Piety and also a piece of ancient prose for tales of legend of “Dong Yong and seven fairy ladies” which is handed down ceaselessly for thousands of years.

Based on this beautiful legend, people have created Chu opera of A predestined Relationship lasting for 100 days and Huangmei opera Marriage of the Fairy Princess; “a couple went home together” is the classic main arias sung among folks.

For Li Shouyi, Chairman of Association of Folk Literature and Art in Xiaogan, instead of saying that the filial conduct of Dong Yong moved the fairy to descend to the world, it would be better to say that is the ancient folk of Xiaogan have been moved and beatified the village girl encountered with Dong Yong on the way into a fairy lady. In this fairy tale, what is reflected is the great praise for goodness of filial conduct and the passion for beautiful life coming from people in Xiaogan.

Historical preservation: with magnanimous mind witnessed by sun and moon

Wandering along streets of Xiaogan, crossing Huaiyin Road and passing by Fairy Road, you will find yourself at People’s Square of Xiaogan and appreciate the 8 large relief carvings themed by “filial piety” with an oncoming of the atmosphere of regional culture which is uniquely possessed by the village of dutiful sons.

Tomb of Dong Yong, Tomb of Huang Xiang and the place where Meng Zong cried for bamboo shoot…time has passed and some of those historical sites has disappeared. In 1984, a pseudo-classic style architecture has been built by people in Xiaogan in the place where Dong Yong sold himself according to legend-----Park of Dong Yong. Scenery of Heavenly Wonderland, ancient trees in Huaiyin, Bridge for Silk arrangement as well as Stage for becoming Deity and Ancestral Temple of Dutiful Sons and other sceneries, bringing back the spirituality of caring for the aged and being industrious and simple embodied by Dong Yong.

In 1996, in order to further excavate and carry forward filial piety culture, waxen images of ‘twenty-four dutiful sons” was made in ‘Ancestral Temple of Dutiful Sons’ in Dong Yong Park, making people immersed in unsophiscated ancient customs of filial piety and morality as well as making filial piety of Xiaogan timeless.

Ancient customs in new look: alter ordinary filial piety into great one

Xiaogan is famous for filial piety. As recorded in County Annals of Xiaogan in Ming and Qing dynasty, there are 493 persons leaving a good reputation as being a dutiful son and the ancient customs of filial piety has never declined.

For ancient filial piety culture, “sublation” is necessarily required. ‘Benevolent father, filial son’, ‘respect the aged and care for children’, ‘abide by courtesy and honesty’ ‘with good intentions towards others’ and other concepts, they possess eternal value. Liu Qingzhi, once elected to be ‘Ten Dutiful Sons of Xiaogan’ in Xiaogan, ‘supports four families as well as eight old people’ all by himself; Yu Hanjiang, showing filial obedience to aged family members and respecting the aged, has donation amounting to 5 million yuan for 7 years and has been elected as ‘Ten Models for Showing Filial Obedience to Aged Family Members and Respecting the Aged within the Nation’ on January 8 this year, enjoying good reputation in China.

Chinese filial piety culture is the gift to Xiaogan from history. In recent years, research for filial piety culture in all sectors of Xiaogan society is growing vigorously and in October 2003, Xiaogan album of painting of Village of Dutiful Sons was published and issued; Research of Xiaogan Culture, Filial Piety Culture of Xiaogan and Dutiful Sons of Xiaogan, serial essays in trilogy of filial piety culture of 990,000 words, all published in October last year; since July last year, Xiaogan Institute opened up the column Research of Chinese Filial Piety Culture in campus newspaper, making Xiaogan the second study base of Chinese filial piety culture after Jinan…

Recently, related departments in Xiaogan city hve set about preparing for declaration for United Nations ‘intangible cultural heritage” with ‘Dong Yong’ brand; rearrangement of Marriage of Fairy Princess in ballet is also under intense preparation.

People of Xiaogan have infused new times connotation into “filial piety”: ordinary filial piety is for parents and great filial piety is for people; alter ordinary filial piety into great one and display filial piety on behalf of all sons and daughters in the world!