Code of conduct just a reminder

Updated: 2012-08-17 08:11

By Zhu Yuan (China Daily)

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Code of conduct just a reminder

Despite the heated debate that has flared up about the new code of conduct for filial piety, which was released by the office of the national committee for senior citizen affairs and related departments on Monday, no one can deny that taking good care of one's parents is a tradition that should be carried on.

The new code of conduct has 24 articles, echoing The Twenty-four Paragons of Filial Piety, written by the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368) scholar Guo Jujing, which as its title suggests, provided 24 examples of children demonstrating their love and respect for their parents in an exemplary manner. For example, one of the stories tells of a son who lies down naked on a frozen river so the ice will melt and he can catch some fish for his father, who loves to eat fish.

The stories, which were denounced as feudalist ideas during the "cultural revolution" (1966-76), actually convey the idea that children owe their lives to their parents and therefore should unconditionally take good care of them and strive to make them happy.

The new code of conduct tries to convey the same principle in more mundane ways that suit the times. Thus it states children should often visit their parents, cook for them, hold birthday banquets for them, and they should phone their parents once a week. It also says children should teach their parents how to use the Internet and not stand in the way of single parent's marrying again.

Most people agree that these are things that children should do for their parents if they can. The debate is focused on how feasible the new code of conduct is and whether there should even be such a unified code of filial conduct in the first place.

Some people argue that everybody should show their filial piety in the ways that are best for them, and there is no need for the government to stipulate how often people should visit their parents and the ways in which they should express their love for them.

But people should bear in mind that the new code of conduct is not a law that people have to abide by. The code of conduct is simply meant to remind children that their parents need their care and attention.

I believe that children with a strong sense of responsibility toward their families will know how to fulfill their responsibilities to their parents. So what is really needed is education about filial piety in schools and parents instilling the notion of filial piety into their children at an early age.

I learned from my father what I must do to show respect to my parents: I have to let my parents know when I left home for somewhere else and present myself to them when I returned, and I must never touch any dishes at the dining table before my father did.

My father later told me when I grew up that one might not necessarily follow these rules, but these traditional rules were intended to cultivate filial piety in a person.

For decades my father never failed to give one third of his salary to my grandparents every month until they passed away, which was another example he set for me.

The new code of conduct released by the national committee for senior citizen affairs and other departments is too specific for many to follow. When a son works in another city far away from his parents, how can he come back frequently to cook for them? One of the codes even says people should express their love for their parents explicitly, but most Chinese are too reserved to do that.

So people should take them as a reminder and do whatever they can for their parents.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily. E-mail:

(China Daily 08/17/2012 page8)